On April 2, 1998, Subaru Corporation officially launched its new performance and motorsports division, Subaru Tecnica International. That makes today STI’s 30th anniversary, and in that time, it’s given Subaru three World Rally Championships, earned four class wins at the Nürburgring, and built some incredibly fun-to-drive road cars. In honor of three decades of STI, let’s take a quick look back through its history.
Even before STI was established, Subaru had already gotten involved in rally car racing. In 1972, Subaru entered a Leone (known as the GL in the U.S.) in Australia’s Southern Cross Rally. But it wasn’t until 1989 that Subaru raced its first car developed by STI: the 220-hp Legacy RS RA. As Subaru will proudly tell you, the STI-prepped Legacy Turbo also broke an FIA World Speed Endurance Record in January of that year, averaging 138 mph as it drove 62,000 miles over 20 days.
In 1993, Subaru’s World Rally Championship team signed Scottish racer Colin McRae. Later that year, McRae drove his Legacy to Subaru’s first WRC win at the New Zealand Rally. STI placed second overall in 1994 before taking home the title the next three years in a row. Currently, STI has 47 WRC wins, three championships, and has fielded several champions including Richard Burns, Peter Solberg, and Toshihiro Arai.
More recently, STI decided to compete in endurance racing. In 2008, it entered a WRX STI in Germany’s 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. Since then, it’s won the SPT3 class four times. In 2010, a race car driver Tommi Makinen set a new Nürburgring lap record for production sedans behind the wheel of Subaru WRX STI Spec C.
It didn’t take long for STI to start working on road cars, either. In 1992, it released the Legacy STI only in Japan. Two years later, it created the first WRX STI, as well as the Impreza WRX Type RA STI with an advanced Driver Controlled Center Differential. After winning its third rally championship in a row, STI built the limited-edition 1998 Impreza 22B STI. It wasn’t until 2004, though, that STI started exporting cars to the U.S.
After years of seeing Subaru sell STI-badged vehicles in other countries, Americans were understandably excited to finally be able to drive the 300-hp Impreza WRX STI. We even added one to our long-term fleet, and at the end of our loan, we declared, “When it comes to performance for the dollar without sacrificing comfort, plus the low cost of ownership and all-weather capabilities, we can’t name a better car than the Subaru Impreza WRX STi.”
Two generations later, the WRX STI has a lot more competition, but it’s still a handling bargain. We recently drove the 2018 WRX STI Type RA and had a blast driving it on the track. From the sound of things, we won’t see a new STI for another few years, but if the Viziv Performance STI Concept is any indication, it will be well worth the wait.