Subaru Rally Team Canada will no longer compete in the Canadian Rally Championship, according to a CRC press release posted on Facebook Tuesday.
The team has been a force to be reckoned with in the CRC, with multiple Open Class and Production Class titles. Subaru Canada has won the Marques Championship twelve times. The team’s driver, Antoine L’Estage, is a nine-time Canadian Drivers Champion (though only three times under Subaru Canada), and his co-driver, Alan Ockwell, is a four-time Canadian Co-Drivers Champion.
“This is far from the end of Subaru’s involvement in rally in Canada,” said Subaru Canada, Inc. President, Chairman and CEO Yasushi Enami. “With a record 13 Manufacturer’s championships, rally has really shown the strong attributes of the Subaru products under the most extreme conditions. We look forward to helping the sport continue to grow.”
While Subaru Canada has withdrawn from competition, it is redoubling its efforts to support all rally competitors who race a Subaru in Canada. Starting next year, any registered Subaru participants in a contingency program will be eligible for payouts for simply starting a national CRC event. Additional payouts will also be awarded for the top six Subaru finishers in every CRC event regardless of their overall finish, as well as every Subaru that finishes in the top six overall. Subaru Canada will also provide payouts at the conclusion of the 2018 CRC season for the top Subaru drivers. This program is open to all Subaru entries regardless of home country, so American competitors are welcome to enter Canadian events to earn a piece of the pie.
Additionally, Canadian residents holding valid CRC licenses may apply for up to a $10,000 rebate on a 2017 or newer Subaru to turn into a CRC rally car. Effective April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019, the rally purchase program is designed to bring even more competitors into Canadian rally competition.
At this point in the article, I am throwing my journalistic objectivity out the window. It’s sad to see Subaru not directly competing in Canada. I feel particularly sad to see Antoine L’Estage work so hard for so many years, both in Canada and in the U.S., to earn a factory drive, only to see his position eliminated after only three years. However, there is a wise old Vulcan saying: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. The money invested in backing a single factory car will help numerous competitors who drive Subarus at all levels of the CRC. Rather than watching the Subaru team win and everyone else racing for second place, it will be a true competition for the top spot. I love to watch Subaru compete, but I can’t ignore the fact that more people and teams will benefit from this new arrangement.
A similar situation exists in American rally that has applied in Canada up until now. And I’m not talking about Subaru’s Red Bull Global Rallycross effort, where Subaru Rally Team USA is gaining success but has not quite matched the juggernaut of the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Team. With the Great Schism in American stage rally between RallyAmerica, NASA Rally Sport, and the American Rally Association, SRT USA has focused on ARA, with a side trip to Mount Washington this past summer. Subaru already sponsors the ARA series, and the only question is whether David Higgins or Travis Pastrana will win, and then who might come nipping at their heels for third place (as Antoine L’Estage once did).
I’m a huge SRT USA fan, yet I have to wonder how many of my numerous friends who rally Subarus could be helped by a program like Subaru Canada is implementing. I have the utmost respect for Higgins and Pastrana, as well as the team that supports them. I realize they’d all be looking for new jobs without their current support from Subaru USA or Vermont SportsCar. But the Vulcan philosophy would suggest that many more competitors in Subarus could benefit from contingencies and rebates funded by the elimination of SRT USA’s stage rally program. Keep up the good work in Red Bull GRC and make those Volkswagens fight for their wins! But perhaps, rather than field two Subarus to dominate ARA stage rally, Subaru USA could support numerous competitors to success in all three series.