Ben Hunt powers into new season with new Subaru WRX
New Zealand Rally Championship winner Ben Hunt has become a local brand ambassador for Subaru and will be racing a specially-built WRX STi NR4 next season.
Hunt will receive the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX race-prepped, with a roll cage fitted, from STi Motorsport, with specifications accepted by the World Rally Championship.
Hunt, 27, will then have the 2-litre, flat four WRX prepared to his own specifications.
Hunt says he and his whole team are “super-excited” about the opportunity to drive and run the Subaru WRX STi NR4.
“There is a wealth of knowledge within the Ben Hunt Motorsport team and we will make sure the car is in championship-winning form come the first round at Otago in April next season,” he says.
“We are all passionate about building a superb car and looking forward to working with some top people during the process.” Hunt will again be joined by co-driver Tony Rawstorn.
“Working with Subaru of New Zealand is such a fantastic step forward for my rally career. We are really motivated about what next year brings, with the new car, and also around aligning ourselves with the new companies that have pledged support for our 2016 campaign,” says Hunt.
Over the past decade Subaru NZ has supported five-time national rally champion Richard Mason, one of the fastest female rally drivers in the world, Emma Gilmour and 2004 NZRC winner Chris West.
Subaru NZ managing director Wallis Dumper says Hunt was recognised as an emerging talent when he won the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship in 2009.
“Time and time again Subaru has been proven to be the best platform to construct a production-based rally car from,” says Dumper. “The mere fact that Ben’s 2015 national rally title was achieved in an older Subaru built from a standard road car, rather than a purpose-built race car, is a true testament to his driving capability and the technology available in Subaru vehicles.”
The Japanese car brand has a strong rally link in New Zealand with the connection dating back to Possum Bourne securing the Subaru team’s first top result in the 1987 Rally New Zealand, when he was third in the RX Turbo.
In 1990 the Subaru World Rally Team was started as a joint venture between Subaru and Prodrive. The first car to rally under this factory team banner was the Legacy RS, which made its WRC debut on the Safari Rally in 1990, finishing eighth overall. Its best place finish of the year came on Rally Australia when Bourne secured fourth overall.
The Legacy’s only WRC victory was in the hands of Scotsman Colin McRae in New Zealand in 1993, which was also the last time the Subaru World Rally Team fielded a Legacy on the WRC. After that Subaru became synonymous with rallying through its use of the WRX-based rally car.
During the Global Financial Crisis, Subaru Japan pulled out of top-tier rallying but, despite this, the marque was driven by New Zealand’s first world champion — Hayden Paddon. He won the Production World Rally Championship in 2011 in an STR11 Subaru Impreza N4 run by Belgian Team Symtech Racing.
Subaru NZ modified its sponsorship stance but continued to support top local championship contenders such as Gilmour and Mason and, more recently, Hunt.