Finding Richard and Colin – part 2: Subaru WRX STi in Snowdonia
We're following in the wheeeltracks of Richard Burns and Colin McRae in a WRX STi
When I was very little my family and I lived on the south coast of the isle of Anglesey, just off the coast of North Wales.
My earliest memories of motorsport date back to this time, when my father would take me to the village of Ty Croes – a place you may know as the home of the Anglesey Circuit. I still remember the sights, sounds, and smells from those early experiences, and I still remember the backdrop of Snowdonia from our front garden.
North Wales certainly has a place in my heart, and fans of the World Rally Championship also cherish the landscape, partly because Snowdonia is such a beautiful and deadly landscape to rally. Slippery wet gravel tracks, low temperatures, and thick mud and water combine here with run-off areas consisting of steep drops, trees, or both.
Away from the famous rally stages hosted here, there’s also the roads. With the mountains and forests dominating the land, the road network looks as if it’s been drizzled on the top. The passes snake around the verticality, along rivers, from the ceiling to the basement of this unique place – and this is where most of our testing of the Subaru WRX STi would be done. Amongst the many spectacular roads of the region is a certain triangle even Pythagoras would struggle to get his head around – the famous ‘Evo Triangle’.
Combining sections of the A5, A543, and the B4501, the Evo Triangle – which gained its name from that performance car magazine – is a fast, technical 20-mile route with stunning scenery and relatively low levels of traffic. Blasting the Subaru WRX STi through here in the middle of Winter makes you realise how good it really is. Ice cold and blowy outside, the condition of the roads were far from perfect, but with the torquey grunt of the 2.5-litre turbo catapulting you from corner to corner, and the four-wheel drive grip helping you avoid meeting woolly spectators in the fields alongside you, you feel almost invincible.
While this famous stretch often gets all the headlines, the truth is that it’s very difficult to find bad roads in North Wales. Main routes to and from Porthmadog, Dolgellau, Bala, and Betws-y-Coed all provided entertaining corners and beautiful scenery. This is a landscape built to be explored and if you’ve got a car that’s built to be driven, it makes for a quite brilliant playground – as good as almost anything else you’ll find in Europe.
There’s something of a parallel to draw between the Subaru WRX STi and Snowdonia. Both feel like they’ve existed as long as I can remember – unchanged, iconic, fierce but welcoming. Perhaps that’s why everything just felt right. Snowdonia’s most challenging roads were conquered by Burns and McRae, and it feels like the mountains are happy to see an old adversary again, like there’s a healthy respect between the two.
I’m no rally driver, but Japan’s blue marvel certainly made me feel like one, and with that, I was one step closer to finding Richard and Colin.
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