Greece is a hell of a place to drive a new rally car for the first time. It’s a bit like taking on armbands at a Red Bull Cliff Diving event.
But that was the plan for Prodrive’s Subaru Legacy RS in 1990 (a Japanese-built Legacy had run in the Safari Rally earlier in 1990). The partnership between the Japanese manufacturer and David Richards’ Banbury prep firm was still in its infancy, but there was a feeling that the car was finished. Or as ready as it ever would be.
In any case, the driver was ready: Markku Alén started 32 years ago to drive the only Subaru in Greece.
Acropolis Rally Greece Unforgettable moments
And it couldn’t have started any better. A stage in and Alén led. Granted it was just the 4.50km Anavissos Super Special – and he might have shared the moment with joint leaders Mikael Ericsson (Toyota Celica GT4) and Kenneth Eriksson (Mitsubishi Galant VR-4) – but Prodrive Subaru led his official WRC debut.
Much later in the race there would be another best time and Alén was riding in the top 6 before the engine died with nine stages to go.
Review and speeches in David Williams’ book the rally imprezas, Then chief mechanic Nigel Riddle admitted that the Banbury squad may have underestimated the depth of water they jumped into.
“If we’re honest with ourselves,” he said, “we felt a bit overwhelmed at the time. The opponents were Lancia and Toyota. We were very ambitious to hire these guys.
“Everyone involved is still talking about that first Acropolis because it really was like a bloody battlefield! We led to the super special thinking, “This is a simple business…”
“Then it was three days of hell, absolute hell. I’ve probably never worked so hard in my life. We were zooming around in helicopters not knowing what was going to break next. But it was a lot of fun.”