Prodrive UK Factory Tour, Banbury UK, 1998

Last Updated on March 28 2017
So there I was, driving back home from work one evening, when the mobile phone beeps. Not a phone call, but an E-mail. Wonder who thats from? "Are you free next Thursday, we're going to Prodrive. Call me tonight, AndyH".

So, its December the 10th 1998, I'm now zooming along that most wonderful of A roads, between Daventry and Banbury, and all can think about is "Subaru's". 6500 rpm in every gear, and the Mondeo is really singing. Its wet, but I dont care. I'm going to Prodrive, the outfit that built Subaru in to the world beating rally team, and who in '99 will be preparing the Ford Mondeo's for the BTCC. What an opportunity. See how the pro's do it, learn a few hints and tips on car preparation, get some photos, and generally revel in the opportunity to see a first class outfit.

After arriving at the factory, we're shown a video on the history of the team, showing the Rothmans Porsches, and even ome footage of David Richards when he co-drove for Ari Vatanen. Then its Q&A time, and we hear that theres still no sponsor for 99, but Subaru insist that the cars remain Blue, as its now their trademark, and a Subaru WRC in any other colour just wouldn't do. Apparently, this is causing problems for sponsors. For example, Texaco would want the car black with orange decals, not blue. Though by losing the 555 tobacco sponsorship, there are now more companies that will sponsor the car, because many dont want their brands associated with a tobacco manufacturer.

A quick trip around the Drawing Office, and a glimpse of a new suspension component undergoing stress analysis, through some workshops and other offices, and we're finally on our way to the garages.

We're escorted across the very large industrial estate where Prodrive are based, and enter a huge building, which houses 'customer' cars.
A 22B road car, still in its wax coating, part way through its transformation to UK spec.The car park is lined with new 22B's, some ready for re-sale, and others awaiting their UK-spec transformation. Prodrive take the cars from Japan, and make subtle changes to make them meet with our tough vehicle laws. The wheels are changed for Goldline alloys, the seats are changed for Recaros, and various other tweaks to the electronics take place, as well as some cosmetic changes, in the form of Prodrive badges and stickers. Still exceptional value for £39,500.
Customer spec WRC ready for export to Japan. Inside the garage, there are dozens of silhouettes of cars, covered in grey dustcovers. Our guide lifts the cover off one of the customer spec rally cars. Its just finished being tweaked by the engineers, and is ready for collection by the customer. This ones going to a customer in the Far East.
Loads of pipes, wires, gadgets and gizmos. Hope my engine bay looks as impressive as this when its finished.
These should stop the car in a hurry. Now, the picture really doesn't do these disk brakes justice, they were 330mm in diameter (HUGE!!)
Very nice (if you can afford it) And on the way out of the garage, we spotted this beast lurking in the corner. I believe it was for use in Europe.
Juhha's car in the foreground, and Richards car at the rear Next, we moved on to the garage where the WRC's are prepared. This was back over in the main Prodrive factory, so a five minute walk across the industrial estate, and we entered Mecca. In the foreground is Juha Kankunnens WRC, with Richard Burns's car behind it. They are being built for the Monte Carlo rally (Jan 99) and this is how they arrive at Prodrive. Basically, all the prep work and spraying is done by subcontractors. Prodrive just bolt the bits together, which takes approximately two weeks. What an Airfix kit!
How much tubing? 45 Meters!! Closer examination of the cars shows the amount of strengthening that is required for safety, and of course to make the cars handle.
Yep, it really is carbon fibre. Is that really a carbon fibre handbrake?
Simplicity. This shot shows the front strut tops, which are fabricated to take the adjustable top mounts. An idea I considered.
The office The office, and a rather nice office at that!
If looks alone could kill And finally, in the corner was a brand new works WRC, for testing in Africa
And that was it. Time to go home. But what an opportunity, and not one thats repeated that often.