Event-winning Subaru to return for 2016 Race to the Sky
Jun 16, 2015
All the Subaru fans who rejoiced to see the ex-Possum Bourne Subaru Impreza WRX win this year’s Race to the Sky, will be given the chance of a repeat in March 2016.
The event’s organisers, Highlands Motorsport Park, have confirmed the Cardrona Valley hillclimb will run again over the weekend of March 18 to 20. At the revived race in April, Australia-based Scotsman Alister McRae took a popular victory in the ex-World Rally Championship, Vantage-backed Subaru used by Kiwi rally legend Bourne to win the event back in 2001.
Former British Rally Champion and factory WRC driver McRae and Vantage Motorsport principal Craig Vincent, whose company purchased the car from Possum Bourne Motorsport after Bourne’s death have definitely got next year’s Race to the Sky date in their calendars.
“At this stage I believe we will return next year. The car and team have got such a following that it would be a shame to leave it in the garage. There is a whole lot of memory in it for us,” Vincent says.
Vincent was Bourne’s co-driver for five years between 1996 and 2001 and Vantage Motorsport has “continued to race it in memory of our great mate,” he says.
“It was fantastic to win this year, especially with this car which is still just a World Rally Car with a bit more horsepower; it’s not a special one-off,” Vincent says.
McRae certainly enjoyed the mighty Subaru machine.
“It was tremendous to get the opportunity to drive the Vantage Subaru, especially with its history. Being a WRC model that I had driven previously made things a bit more familiar but nothing prepares you for 750bhp on gravel. You have the power available to place the car where you want but the increased acceleration and speed means it all happens extremely quickly and certainly gets your attention,” McRae says.
Vincent says Vantage Motorsport would love to see him back in the Subaru to defend his victory and according to McRae there is still more speed to be found after recording a 8mins:17.6secs time.
“With a bit of development work in the suspension and looking at improving the aero package, without taking away from its WRC heritage, I believe the car will be competitive again. Plus having the experience of this year’s event, we could go quicker,” McRae says.
Vincent agreed and thinks that with “the right balance and depending on road conditions” the Subaru could once again top the podium. There is also an as-yet unbroken time to be conquered up the 14.5km course.
“The eight minute barrier sits in front of us and, with the good engine, we believe an 8.10 was possible this year. So can we find 10 seconds? That is a big ask but maybe,” Vincent says.
Challenging the Vantage Subaru team for the King of the Mountain trophy will be Monster Tajima, who says he’s keen to return, despite the major crash the eight-time Race to the Sky winner suffered at this year’s event.
Subaru driver Ben Hunt, who is currently leading the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, is also keen to make his debut in the Cardrona hillclimb.
“I would love to do such an iconic event and it would definitely have to be in a Subaru. We will be trying our best to get a package together to compete there in 2016,” Hunt says.
This year’s event was the first time in eight years that the hillclimb had ran since 2007 which was the last of ten events run by Race to the Sky founder Grant Aitken.
If you didn’t get to see the car in action at the Race to the Sky, the Vantage Subaru is currently the ‘Car of the Month’ on display long term at the Highlands Motorsport Park’s museum in Cromwell.
To find out more visit www.racetothesky.co.nz
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