Subaru Impreza S5 WRC - T291 BFCAdvert ID: 45472 POA
Subaru Impreza S5 WRC - T291 BFC 1998
● Built by Prodrive for its Allstars department
● Exclusively used by two-time World Production Champion Toshihiro Arai in his debut season
● FIA Gold Passport and detailed history present
T291 BFC was first registered on 11 March 1999 to Prodrive where it was built for the Allstars department. This was a unique program created to help narrow the gap needed to become a factory driver, something that is now common practice in motorsport. The Allstars program offered drivers a full Works Specification World Rally Car along with a professional team to showcase their talents in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Japanese star Toshihiro Arai joined the programme for 1999, with support from his backers: Subaru Technica International, and Endless brakes. Arai was allocated T291 BFC, a newly-built 1998 specification car for his campaign. Following its completion, T291 BFC was taken to the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) where it was successfully tested ahead of its WRC debut in Portugal.
Following the shakedown, T291 BFC was sent via truck to Porto, Portugal, in preparation for its first competitive outing - and the first for Arai in a top-tier car. On the eve of the rally, T291 BFC was issued its FIA Gold Passport, a document that validates a rally car to compete in the WRC. This Passport still accompanies the car today.
Arai was joined by former British Champion Co-Driver Roger Freeman, who brought invaluable experience into the car. The pair was seeded at Car 26 as they left the start ramp, and headed onto SS1 Baltar, a short three kilometre stage on the outskirts of Porto. The pair completed the stage in 3:19.6, the 17th fastest time, and only 7.1 seconds behind the fastest stage time. This was a solid start to Arai's debut Rally Portugal.
As the rally headed North to the Ponte de Lima region, Arai continued his top 20 form, completing the stage in 19th overall. This was to be his last high point of the rally. On the third stage, Arai left the road, ending his Rallye de Portugal debut.
T291 BFC returned to Prodrive where it was prepared for the next round, Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava.
With three World Championship rounds falling within only a couple of months, Prodrive and Arai had their work cut out. T291 BFC was prepared and converted to Tarmac specification before it made its way to the tough 400 kilometre special stage rally on the Lloret de Mar.
The fast, hot, dry nature of Rallye Catalunya presented a new challenge to Arai. As the crews left for the first loop of stages, Arai struggled against the lighter and higher- revving F2 Kit Cars, ending the first leg's stages in 26th overall.
However, as his confidence grew with the new tarmac surface, the stage times came through. By the end of the second leg, Arai was up to 20th overall. This was a remarkable achievement given that a number of top 15 stage times had been posted in a field that included more than 20 World Rally Cars, and a number of F2 Kit Cars.
On the last loop of stages of the rally, Arai moved up to 19th overall. Frustratingly, this was to be short-lived. He dropped to 22nd overall after encountering a number of mechanical issues, and then incurring a two-minute penalty on SS17. A slight improvement on the next stage saw him finish the rally in 21st overall. As a debut at a highly-specialised event, this was a great result for Arai. Now all eyes turned to the small island of Corsica for the next round.
With tarmac experience under their belts, Arai and Freeman contested the iconic Tour de Corse Rally in early May. Often referred to as the rally of the 1000 corners, Tour de Corse Rally presented a tight, twisty tarmac round. The event received a bumper entry, with 18 World Rally Cars, and a number of factory F2 Kit Cars from Citroen and Renault.
Arai departed Ajaccio seeded at Car 22, with the goal of building on his experience gained in Catalunya. With five stages to contest on the morning of 7 May, Arai slowly picked up the pace. A number of consistent stage times moved him from 26th to 22nd at the close of the first loop.
Any rally contested for the first time is difficult but the Tour de Corse is gruelling on both the body and the machine. However, as Arai's confidence grew, his stage times improved, and, by the end of the second day's stages, he had moved up to 19th overall.
He was on course for a career-best finish behind the wheel of a World Rally Car, with just five stages to go. In a field with so many Works and Privateer entries, simply getting to the end of the event would be an achievement for the young Japanese driver. The retirement of Bruno Thiry's Works Impreza, and electrical problems grounding Francois Delecour's 206 World Rally Car saw Arai arrive back to the finish ramp in Ajaccio in a respectable 16th place overall. It was also a top-five finish out of the non-factory cars.
With Arai's Allstars program consisting of only four rounds in 1999, his last outing would be the Acropolis Rally. Sponsorship from the new Playstation game "V-Rally 2" would see a change of livery from the White and Pink Subaru Technica International colours to promote the second release of the V-Rally series.
The rally opened with the Marlboro Super Stage on the coast of Athens before heading North West from the capital. Arai started off strongly, posting consistent times to place himself 16th overall after five stages. Disappointingly, on SS6 Thiva 1, he hit the front right corner of the car completely destroying the wheel, and the suspension assembly. The car limped out of the stage on only three wheels. As a result, Arai arrived at the time control late, occurring a total of 50 seconds in penalties. At the close of the day, he was lying in 19th overall.
The Prodrive mechanics worked flat out overnight to repair the damaged car. Their work was not in vain. On the second leg, Arai set a number of blistering stage times - of the eight stages only one of them was outside the top ten. A career-best stage time of 5th on SS16 Kineta II saw Arai rise rapidly through the ranks to finish 8th overall.
With Arai’s confidence sky high, the final leg started off well. A brilliant 3rd place on SS18 Pateras II pushed Arai up to sixth place. However, Arai’s good fortune started to turn. As he returned to Megara Circuit to end the rally he was placed 9th overall.
The Acropolis Rally proved frustrating for Arai, one of “what-ifs”. On a positive note, it was a career best of 9th for the young driver, and a sign of the great things to come from him.
Following T291 BFC's use in Prodrive's Allstars division, it was prepared and sold to Styllex Tuning Prosport in the Czech Republic. Here, the car was exclusively used by Tomas Hrdinka in the domestic championship where it finish 3rd overall in 2000. Outright victories came at the Rally Paramo Liberec and Rally Příbram, and also at a non-championship round of Pražský Rallysprint Benzina.
In 2001, Hrdinka drove T291 BFC for the first part of the Czech Republic championship until it was part-exchanged against a P2000 World Rally Car from Prodrive.
Rebuilt by Prodrive T291 BFC was sold to new owner Eian Pritchard. This was to prove a short-lived partnership; Pritchard returned to Prodrive to purchase a spares package for the car but ended up leaving with a later ’99 specification World Rally Car instead.
National and Scottish Rally Champion Brian Lyall was the next owner of T291 BFC. The car was delivered to Dom Buckley Motorsport in Kelso where it received its MSA Competition Car Logbook on 1 April 2003. Lyall only used the car on a couple of occasions before retiring from the sport.
Subsequently, T291 BFC was sold to Jose Barbara in France, where it was run by First Motorsport. Here, it was painted blue, and appeared on the 2005 Rally Monte Carlo. Barbara won a number of events in the car before selling it to Michael McCollum. T291 BFC was professionally converted to Right Hand Drive by McCollum who retained ownership of the car for 13 years until it was acquired by Rally Replay in 2021.
In keeping with its heritage, Rally Replay have returned the original livery from the 1999 Tour de Corse to T291 BFC. This was carried out by David Campbell, who exclusively designed and applied the liveries for Prodrive from 1995 to 2004. His team originally worked on T291 BFC in period.
The car is complete with its current V5C registration document, FIA Gold passport, MSA Passport, a Prodrive Movement Schedule from Portugal 1999, and a comprehensive history report prepared by Rally Replay. All documents accompany the car.
T291 BFC can be converted to Left Hand Drive for an additional cost. A small spares’ package is also available by separate negotiation. For further details, please contact us.
(Please note that whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the information contained within this entire document is correct to the best of our knowledge, Rally Replay gives no warranty either express or implied for any inaccuracies whatsoever should any or all the information contained herein be subsequently proven incorrect)
21 Jul 2019
Chichester, PO19 8ET
Phone: 44 (0)1243 933422