For years, Subaru has been a leader in the rally and rallycross scenes, thanks in large part not only to its fantastic vehicles but also to the lineup of amazing talent that Subaru Rally Team USA has been able to attract. These are some of the best rally drivers in the world, racking up countless wins in competitions all over the globe. While you’re not going to find the exact car they drive at your local Subaru dealer, they do start with a Subaru WRX STI and then make some changes to it – so you won’t be too far off.
Today, let’s take a look at the rally scene, the vehicles that the Subaru Rally Team USA uses, and some of the legendary drivers that have earned so many wins for this team. Whether you’ve been following rally racing for years, or you’re just starting to check it out, these are some of the names you should know. Whatever brand you’re passionate about, there’s no denying that Subaru vehicles are among the best in the world for conquering the road – and leaving the road behind. So let’s dig in and see what this compelling sport is all about.
What is Rally Racing?
Rally is a form of motorsport similar, in some ways, to other sorts of racing where the goal is to travel as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unlike a lot of other racing, however, rally isn’t held on a closed track or circuit but instead takes place on public or private roads. Rally uses a point-to-point format, so drivers start at one point and have to get to another point using a particular path instead of simply driving in a loop for hours on end.
A lot of rally driving takes place on dirt roads and similar paths that are not the kind of pristine blacktop courses that you’ll find in other races. For this reason, rally cars need to be in excellent condition and offer fantastic handling in the roughest of conditions. Because of the demands of back-road driving, you will see a lot of rugged all-wheel drive vehicles rather than low-slung sports cars. Rally teams use production vehicles and then modify them for handling the courses and trails that need to be driven for rally.
The Subaru Rally Team USA
Subaru Rally Team USA is one of the most popular and successful American teams in the rally scene, with a huge number of wins over decades of driving. First established in 2001, this team has a partnership with Subaru (as the name suggests), getting sponsorship from the manufacturer while using their vehicles. This works out well for Subaru since it’s a great showcase for the kind of handling and performance their vehicles have to offer.
Over the last 20 years, there have been a number of amazing drivers as part of the Subaru Rally Team USA, with some of the best in the world coming to the team. Originally, a British motorsport group called Prodrive built the cars used by the team, though this role was taken over in 2006 by Vermont SportsCar. The team had numerous championship wins from 2001 to 2009 and has been on a huge run with championship wins every year since 2011!
Legendary Drivers – Travis Pastrana
One of the legends of motorsports in general, Travis Pastrana has just about done it all: rally racing, motocross, and even NASCAR; he’s been a part of it. Pastrana has won numerous gold medals in the X Games along with his other motorsports pursuits and even replicated several jumps by legendary daredevil Evel Knievel. While driving for Subaru Rally Team USA, Pastrana took championship wins every year from 2006 to 2009. Since that time, Pastrana has perhaps been best known for his TV show Nitro Circus, which highlights stunt performances, BMX racing, and other activities.
Legendary Drivers – Bucky Lasek
Bucky Lasek is a famous figure not only in rally racing but also in the field of professional skateboarding, where he’s been a legend for decades. He started skateboarding at 12 years old in the early 1980s, and by 1990, he was skating professionally. With the boom in popularity for skateboarding, thanks in part to the X Games, Lasek became a major figure and appeared as a playable character in numerous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. He began driving with Subaru Rally Team USA in 2012 and placed in the top three numerous times in his career before leaving the team after finishing the 2016 season.
Legendary Drivers – Dave Mirra
One of the biggest names in the BMX community, Dave Mirra got his start when he joined the Haro Bikes BMX team in 1987 at only 13 years old. Mirra became a professional in 1992 and was one of the fastest people to earn 14 X Games medals, going on to earn 24 medals and become one of the most famous BMX athletes in the world. In 2008, he joined the Subaru Rally Team USA and drove with them until 2013. While his BMX career no-doubt overshadows his achievements in rally racing, he remains one of the biggest names in motorsports.
Legendary Drivers – Ken Block
Born in 1967, Ken Block started his career in rally racing in 2005 with the Vermont SportsCar team, driving in a Subaru WRX STI. The following year, he and his teammate Travis Pastrana signed a new sponsorship deal with Subaru and joined Subaru Rally Team USA. He continued racing with Subaru for several years, ending his deal with them in 2010 to join Ford instead. However, just a few months ago, Block announced that he has once again signed a deal to race with Subaru.
Legendary Drivers – David Higgins
While most of the big names in the Subaru Rally Team USA records are American drivers, David Higgins is a British rally driver who joined the team in 2011. Many of the drivers who have joined the Subaru team have a background in skateboarding, BMX, or other events, but Higgins is a legend in rally racing circles. Born in 1972, Higgins won his first rally title in 1993 and went on to win numerous British Rally championships in the years that followed. He joined the Subaru Rally Team USA in 2011, replacing Travis Pastrana, and won three out of six events in that first year. He went on to win six straight championships in a row through 2016, took 2017 off, then came back to win the championship again in 2018 and 2019.
What Vehicle does Subaru Rally Team USA Drive?
So what kind of vehicle does the team use to get all of these wins? Believe it or not, they start with a Subaru WRX STI, the exact same one that you can find at the showroom of a Subaru dealer. This is the heart of rally racing – the fact that they’re not driving some unbelievable supercar that you’ll never get to drive in your wildest dreams, but instead, they’re in something with its roots in the same vehicles you enjoy.
Now, to be fair, they’re not exactly driving a stock vehicle – there are numerous modifications and changes made to ensure they get the best performance and safety possible during a rally. But while the car features a full roll cage, carbon fiber aero, and a six-speed sequential transmission, it actually isn’t much more powerful than the STI you will find at your Subaru dealer. In fact, it has a smaller 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers about 330 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The Subaru symmetrical all-wheel drive system with a driver controlled center differential is also very similar to what the stock car features. So if you want to get a taste of what it feels like to be a rally legend, Subaru has the car for you.