Ken Block has ended his exclusive Ford partnership, and is now back in a Subaru. After debuting a Subaru WRX STI rally car, Block decided to compare the brand-new Subaru WRX STI VT20R race car to one of its ancestors, a 1997 Subaru Impreza GC8 STI rally car.
Subaru started rallying with the Legacy, but the first-generation Impreza built the company’s reputation, achieving World Rally Championship (WRC) success in the hands of drivers such as Colin McCrae, and laying the foundation for the first WRX road cars.
While it wears the iconic blue-and-yellow 555 livery, the 1997 Impreza featured here isn’t one of the original WRC cars. It’s a lower-class Group N car, but it was built by ProDrive, the United Kingdom-based company that built all of Subaru’s factory rally cars back in the day.
Ken Block’s Subaru WRX STI rally car
Group N cars were also closer to stock than the top-level WRC cars, with modifications limited to safety items and some suspension bits. The turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer-4 engine produces about 200 hp, routed to all four wheels through a dog-box 5-speed manual transmission.
In comparison, Block’s STI rally car is far from stock. Builder Vermont SportsCar starts with a bare body shell, adding a full cage and changing most of the body panels. This car still uses a 2.0-liter boxer-4 engine, which produces about 330 hp with the mandatory air restrictor. A 6-speed sequential gearbox replaces the stock 6-speed manual.
Block then drives both cars on the rally course at DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington. If first, is the 2021 WRX STI, which posts an average lap time of 1:45.7 over four laps. The 1997 Impreza GC8 is next, and while its straight pipes make plenty of noise, it’s average lap time is 1:57.8 That’s what modern technology and an extra 130 hp will do.
Watch the full video to see Block hooning both rally cars in the dirt.