The year was 1997, and the World Rally Championship had just changed its specifications to World Rally Car. These were the first WRC cars that had the name of the championship in their description, and they were more powerful and capable than the Group A cars that they replaced.
The World Rally Car specification lasted up until the 2010 season, when they were changed to be more restrictive, and so on, up until the 2021 season. In the last one mentioned, the link between a production vehicle and the top-tier rally car was dramatically reduced to a general shape as a baseline and having the same name.
Back in the Group A era, homologation specials were mandatory, with a minimum production value and a strict link between their specs and features and those of the racing car.
WRC car, such as four-wheel-drive, or the same displacement engines, turbocharging, and so on.
At the time, Subaru's World Rally Championship effort was managed with the help of Prodrive, and the team had built several units of the 1998 Subaru Impreza S5 WRC for the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally. One of them, called Chassis 3, was assigned to the late great Colin McRae, and it had the license plate P2 WRC.
The 1995 World Rally Champion was competing alongside Nicky Grist in the maiden round of the 1997 season, but a crash that involved sliding into a tree in an icy corner meant a DNF for that event. The vehicle was not totaled, but there was sufficient damage to the rear suspension, which led to the DNF mentioned earlier.
The crash meant that the "P2 WRC" license plate was mated to another chassis, which is Prodrive Chassis 21. From what we can gather, Colin McRae did not drive this one at all, as the registration was moved to it and then the vehicle was sold the next year.
Prodrive Chassis 21, which has a connection with Colin McRae, although it was not driven by the legend in its current form. The photo gallery also shows Chasis 03, which was also offered for sale at auction several years ago as P2 WRC.
This may be the explanation as to why the Colin McRae P2 WRC car was a left-hand-drive model, while this example is a right-hand drive one. In this part of the story, the vehicle is claimed to have been converted to left-hand drive and then back to right-hand drive by a specialist workshop – as the current vendor used it in the Irish championship, while we found that Chassis 03 was LHD, and Chassis 21 started life as RHD.
Regardless, this is a piece of racing history, and it has been campaigned privately in Europe ever since the 1998 season. The current owner has had it since 2004, used it for three seasons, and then placed it into storage. Since 2015, the vehicle has been used for various shows and events, and it is now available for sale at auction.
According to the owner, the car has all the parts needed to be converted to left-hand drive, if desired. It has a rebuilt engine and gearbox by an expert workshop called Autosportif. Mind you, the engine and gearbox of a rally car must be rebuilt at regular intervals, so this is a positive thing, not a negative element.
This particular version of the Impreza is based on the first generation of the Japanese car that was offered in both coupe, sedan, and estate forms.
From 1997, Subaru started making the GC8D Impreza, which debuted the coupe version, as well as the 22b STI. The latter was linked with this racing car, and it is the most desirable version of that generation Impreza.
Looking through its history, we can observe that P2 WRC has a total of 73 starts, and the first of them was with Colin McRae under the Chassis 03 - its original. This alone makes it more valuable than an equivalent car, even if the chassis (number 21, this time) is no longer the one driven by McRae.
It is important to note that the Chassis 03 car with the P2 WRC license plate and livery was previously for sale at auction back in 2016. Online records at ewrc-results show that the vehicle that was Chassis 21 continued to race, while Chassis 03, which was the one featured for sale in the old auction, did not.
We have added the photos featured in the old listing as well, and we notice a white engine compartment on the Chassis 21 car, as well as a white interior, along with the right-hand drive configuration, while the old listing had matching blue interior and engine compartment paint. As you can observe on the plaque shown on the old model, its serial number ends in 003, so these two listings do not show the same vehicle. Both were made by Prodrive, and both had the P2 WRC license plate, though.
Its racing history is not a dreadful thing, mind you, as it does confirm that the vehicle was used as intended, and not kept in a temperature-controlled garage as an investment opportunity. As we mentioned above, this is a highly desirable body style of a particularly appreciated racing car with links to a celebrated champion, which makes its value higher than usual.
We do know that insuring it might be pricey because of this, and that does not compare to how much one would shell out if the vehicle got crashed. So, whoever gets to drive it should be experienced and mind their way with it.
Auction experts estimate that this vehicle can fetch between GBP 340,000 and 380,000 (ca. $419,029 -468,327). It will be auctioned on February 25th, so those interested will have to wait a bit more before having a chance to bid.