“That meant that the boxer configuration of the engine plays an important part. It’s a flat engine and it carries the weight low down.”
The estate body brings further advantages. “The aerodynamic numbers from Subaru are very strong,” he says, “and even though it might not look it, it is a small car. It is narrow. And you have to remember it is rear-wheel drive. When Honda did its Civic estate BTCC car, the Tourer, that was front-wheel drive. Carrying more weight over the rear of the car is actually going to be a benefit to us. We wouldn’t have tried this programme if it had been based on a front-wheel-drive car.”
There was one technical snag: the Levorg road car uses Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, outlawed by BTCC rules since the all-paw Audi A4 crushed all comers during the 1996 season.
“The touring cars rules as they were said cars had to use the driven axle as it was used by the manufacturer,” explains Faux. “We asked for a rule amendment that we could change that to two-wheel drive. That was agreed, and it was determined that if the engine was transverse, then it would be front-wheel drive, and if it was longitudinal [as it is in the Levorg] then it would be rear-wheel drive.”
Input on the car’s build has come from Subaru UK and Japan, but this isn’t a mega-bucks, full factory assault on the BTCC. “We have assisted with cars, spare parts and body panels and bought a supply of engines from Japan, because we don’t sell cars equipped with that specific engine over here,” says Tunnicliffe.
Putting together a project around a brand new car isn’t easy, and Faux says the team has been flat out in the build-up to the season “until the very last moment”. The turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder boxer engine supplied has been tweaked for competition by the tuning wizards at Mountune. “They have done what they do, but we have been involved with the design of things like the exhaust manifold and other areas,” says Faux. “It is a collaborative effort, and these things take time.”
While the engine won’t quite have the meaty burble that ensured rallying Imprezas could be heard before they were seen, it will still sound distinctive. “You will be able to sit there with your eyes closed and know it is one of our cars,” says Faux.
For Subaru, competing with a body-style that stands out from the pack is key. “It’s all about awareness,” says Tunnicliffe. “We’re a tiny brand compared with some of our rivals and we need to get on people’s radars. If someone buys a Forester instead of, say, a Honda CR-V off the back of seeing our cars involved in the BTCC, that’s a fantastic result. I’ve been delighted with the reaction since we announced the deal and everyone seems very excited about having the Levorg in the championship.”