In 1982, racing driver Enzo “the wolf” Coloni founded his own team, Coloni Motorsport. That same year, he won the Italian F3 title, promptly retired, and refocused his efforts as team principal. The team competed in Formula 3 before making the big step up to Formula 1 in 1987 when the FIA announced the end of the very expensive ‘turbo-era’.
By 1985, Japanese car companies were winning races in Formula 1. In fact, Honda won the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship in 1986, 1987 and 1988. In 1989, Subaru had enough of watching their rivals succeed in Formula 1, and decided to become an engine supplier. The same F1 regulations that encouraged Coloni to move up to F1 also attracted Subaru, giving them a global platform to demonstrate their engineering ability.
In 1989, the flat-12 Subaru 1235 racing engine was developed with an established engine partner. Plans to supply engines to independent teams such as Minardi were scrapped when Subaru instead took a controlling interest in the Coloni team. Subaru brought substantial financial backing, paid off Coloni’s debts, and brought an exclusive new engine. Rebranded as Coloni-Subaru, the team would enter the 1990 Formula 1 Championship as a ‘works’ team.
In March 1990, at the US Grand Prix, the Coloni Subaru C3B was revealed. With its wide, long sidepods, the car looked different from conventional designs of the day, and did not have a central air-box, due to the unique engine architecture. The ‘boxer’ engine was Subaru’s connection between their road cars in the dealerships and the race cars on the track. Unfortunately the Subaru 1235 engine was heavy, only produced 500 HP, and banished the Coloni Subaru to the back of the pack. Uncompetitive, the Coloni-Subaru did not qualify for the US Grand Prix. As the season went on, improvements were few and results remained abysmal.
By May 1990, Subaru fired Enzo Coloni from the team, but even his replacement brought no improvements. In June 1990, Subaru withdrew completely form Formula 1 and sold the team back to Enzo Coloni no sponsors and no engines, no sponsors but no debts.
After their short stint in Formula 1, Subaru refocused their motorsports efforts on the World Rally Championship. The Japanese firm entrusted their rally program to Dave Richard’s Prodrive and their success over the next decade made the Subaru WRX a legend.
What could have happened if Subaru had remained in F1 for a few years more.