2017 Year in Review: Subaru
FINISH: 3rd in Manufacturer points
2017 RESULTS: 5 podiums, 8 heat wins, 41 manufacturer points
2016 RESULTS: 13 manufacturer points
THE GOOD: By the end of 2017, Subaru Rally Team USA was the closest threat to Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross for race wins and podiums. Consider this: Chris Atkinson and Patrik Sandell were the only drivers all season to snap VARX’s dominance in qualifying, with each driver taking a pole at Evergreen Speedway and placing third at the end of their respective pole rounds.
The momentum started when Atkinson won his first career heat in Memphis, and snowballed when he gave the team a third place in its hometown event at New England. Then, in Atlantic City, Sandell almost did the improbable: he grabbed the lead on the first lap of Saturday’s final and almost held off Scott Speed for the race win. His runner-up finish was his first podium since joining the team, and one of three in the season’s final five races.
THE BAD: The climb to the top of a racing series is never easy, and there were still lessons to be learned even after Subaru’s rebuilding year of 2016. Mechanical gremlins and incidents marred the first two rounds of the season, with neither Atkinson nor Sandell able to complete the season-opening Memphis main event; contact ended Sandell’s day early in the first start of the final, electrical issues eliminated Atkinson after the restart.
Louisville, however, saw both drivers fail to grid in second-day action after more mechanical troubles in warmups. While the team worked diligently to get both Atkinson and Sandell on track, there wasn’t enough time to get them to the grid for the semifinals, eliminating them from eligibility for the main event. The weekend left both drivers in a major championship hole, but they fought back to seventh and eighth by year’s end—with Atkinson even closing in on a top five.
2018 PROGNOSIS: If Atkinson and Sandell can post a full season of performance comparable to what they did in the summer and fall, the sky is the limit for Subaru in 2018.
Photo credit: Louis Yio