Every year, Rod Millen opens his one-mile driveway to a selection of hand-picked racers who want to prove themselves in the eyes of the rally legend. Named the Leadfoot Festival, this event at Millen’s 150-acre estate in Hahei, New Zealand attracts some outrageous vehicles—some of which end up in the trees after their drivers bite off more than they can chew. Considering the narrowness of the course, its uneven surface, and the trees which line it, it’s not hard to imagine why.
Millen invites racing celebrities like Scott Dixon, grassroots racers of serious talent, and those in between to his prestigious event. One who fits into the last category is Alister McRae, brother of Colin and total ace in his own right. Few people can wrestle with an 880-horsepower Subaru Impreza like this man, who’s millimetres from a nasty accident several times on this spectacular sprint. As fast as it is spectacular, this run helped him win the event for the fourth time in a row.
The talent behind the wheel is just as impressive as the machinery involved. This 2,650-pound Impreza started off as a genuine WRC machine, but as it’s changed hands over the years, it’s been slowly modified; no longer having to adhere to stringent regulations of the series it was designed for.
The two-liter engine benefits from bigger heads, bigger valves, and a hefty Borg Warner twin-scroll turbo—either an EFR 8374 or a smaller EFR 7670 depending on the powerband desired. On E85 fuel, the flat-four revs to 9,000 rpm and makes 880 horsepower—most of which arrives in a surprisingly controllable fashion.
In fact, the power is savage but the drivetrain makes it manageable. The Prodrive-made Hewland six-speed H-pattern, hydraulic center and front differentials, and Hewland spool at the rear are the only diffs which aren’t destroyed by the power. With titanium swaybars and three-way Reiger Racing suspension to absorb bumps as best it can, it dances in McRae’s hands in a way that’s hard to fathom.
With body control that few racing cars enjoy, this Subaru can hop curbs and settle neatly without losing time. As it skips over bumps, it never gets too unsettled to hinder McRae’s progress, and as it slides, it points gently in the right direction. Of course, McRae’s skill makes it all possible—and he does it all with sheer elan. He even navigates hairpins with one hand. Clearly, the aggression, coordination, and style his brother was famous for are inherited traits—they both come from the same gifted stock.