KIWI RALLY LEGEND
A good part of the WRX’S success and desirability came from its motor sport roots. As Colin Mcrae took over the international scene with the forever-recognizable blue 555 rally cars — which make me feel like a cigarette just thinking about them — there was action from a gentleman of motor sport closer to home. Possum Bourne was one of New Zealand’s greatest motor sport talents. His relationship with Subaru began in 1983 when he drove a Subaru Leone RX in the WRC. For several years, Possum’s results could be best described as ‘good experience’, until 1988, when he placed third in the Asia-pacific Rally Championship. This was around the time that he cemented a career-lasting relationship with Subaru and ultimately put New Zealand on the map for rallying. We were no longer simply a stopover on the calendar of the WRC; we had a competitor to prove our worth. Possum’s ultimate success was across the Tasman, where he took out seven Australian Rally Championship titles behind the wheel of his WRX, perhaps making his indelible mark — alongside co-driver Kenneth Erikson, who had taken over from Dr Roger Freeth after his death in the car in 1993 — even more important with our Aussie mates. Unfortunately, the dream wasn’t to last. In 2003, Possum was tragically killed while undertaking a recce on the track to the Cardrona Proving Grounds, where he was taking part in one of his favourite events, the Race to the Sky. Fifteen years on from his untimely passing, Possum is still highly regarded among those who knew him — and those who didn’t. Subaru pulled the pin on its WRC operations in 2008, and, quite possibly, this marked the end of an era for the brand, as they began to compete for a younger, more lifestyle-focused buyer with the likes of the Outback and XV not-quite-suv, not-quite-car range. However, there is a lot of goodwill towards the brand among buyers and motor sport fans alike, with many of Subaru’s current offerings being very nice cars. Sometimes, you’ve got to go backwards to go forwards, so we look forward to the next generation of go-fast Subarus with the cheek of the original WRX and the ultimate cheeky Kiwi battler, Possum Bourne.