For whatever reason, I’ve never actually sat down and watched rallying at any length. I really ought to though, because whenever I do watch a clip I’m reminded that it’s an absolutely mental form of motorsport.
As any enthusiast should, I’ve also got a serious appreciation for the caliber of cars rallying has brought to the street. Homologation – aka the obligation for a manufacturer to produce a set number of cars throughout a model range in order to be eligible for competition – gave birth to the legends of the Group A era. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lancia, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru and others all took up the practice of passing race cars off as street cars and putting them into catalogs or dealerships. Creative interpretations of rule books meant that many of these cars weren’t marketed to everyday consumers, making certain special trim models a bit of a rarity on the street. Capturing one in the wild is something I haven’t done a lot of.
Perhaps that’s why when I first saw this car cranking laps around Toronto Motorsport Park near Cayuga in Ontario, Canada, I initially thought it as nothing more than a clean GC8 (not that we have too many of those left either, mind you). It wasn’t until a friend pointed out the factory-fitted roof vent that I realized we were watching something pretty rare zip around the 3km-long road course.
Wandering over to the car later in the day to confirmed it to be a genuine Japan-imported 1995 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Type RA. Depending on who you ask, RA stands for ‘Race Altered’, ‘Rally Application, ‘Racing (Group) A’ or ‘Record Attempt’, among others. It appears as though the latter two have been officially used by Subaru over the years.
Subaru made these cars as race-capable as you possible could make a four-door while still feigning somewhat of an attempt to break even. As a JDM model primarily intended for competition purposes (read: rallying) street comforts fell by the wayside. The focus was on weight reduction, hence less sound deadening was used and the power windows were replaced with hand crank units. Air conditioning was also forgone.
Handling wise, the uprated springs of the normal STI variant were retained along with the larger sway bars and upgraded dampers. Without any sort of anti-lock braking system, the RA models also forced you to be a little more alert.
From the factory, these cars also came with a close-ratio 5-speed gearbox and a more racing-oriented 3.90 final drive. Inside, this one’s been upgraded with a Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel and some AEM Electronics gauges.
Under hood is a closed-deck 2.0-liter EJ20 that was treated to an additional 5th injector, and a water sprayer for the top-mount intercooler.
Does anyone else know of any other cars that shipped with a factory water sprayer? Asking for a friend.
Walking about the WRX, I noted that it was clean, but not spotless, which for a car like this is actually perfect. We can’t forget that it’s almost 25 years old either.
As cars that were meant to be competed in, many RAs were sacrificed in the hunt for speed. Others, remain more race car than street car, and I’m sure there are a sad few kept under lock and key in a climate-controlled garage as a rainy day sort of investment.
Seeing an example like this being driven hard on the track was great. Though I suppose some of you might argue that a more natural habitat would be an unsealed forest road, I’m choosing not to split hairs here.
Among a wide assortment of cars at the fairly busy Speed Academy lapping day, this was one of my personal favourites. Much respect to the owner of this car for enjoying it exactly the way it ought to be enjoyed.