KIWI RALLY LEG­END

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature -

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.

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