As strange as it seems now, SUBARU wasn't a prominent contender in motorsports until 1990. SUBARU 1000 (a model for the Japanese domestic market released in 1966) and later models had been entered in national Japanese rallies with some success, but SUBARU's participation in international events was very limited.
SUBARU's participation in motorsports changed greatly with the release of the Legacy in 1989. Created by bringing together SUBARU's core technologies, the Legacy first demonstrated its high level of performance by breaking the 100,000-kilometer world speed record in the year of its release. SUBARU decided to use the World Rally Championship to further demonstrate the Legacy's abilities to the world.
The WRC is a championship for rally vehicles created from production models, so it serves as a handy proving ground for winning models to demonstrate their superiority to a large worldwide audience. While SUBARU was confident that the Legacy would be the ideal base model for the WRC, it first had to overcome the problems involved with organizing and managing a WRC team.
To make a serious attempt at winning WRC rallies, SUBARU realized it would have to base and manage the rally team in Europe. Japan would be too far away from the rally sites, and wouldn't be a convenient site for developing rally cars. SUBARU therefore went to work on laying the groundwork vital to win in the WRC-- organizing an experienced team, and developing rally cars at a base it set up in Europe.
As these developments were taking place, Ryuichiro Kuze, then president of SUBARU Technica International (STI: the department in charge of SUBARU's motorsports activities), was introduced to a company called Prodrive, on a trip Kuze made to observe the 1989 Safari Rally. With a factory in England and the personnel needed to support rally entries, Prodrive was exactly the partner that SUBARU needed. Since both companies were looking to win WRC rallies, they soon signed a partnership agreement. This agreement was the start of the SUBARU World Rally Team that would later rise to the top of the WRC.
While development of the Legacy rally car continued, SUBARU recruited the lead driver for the team: Markku Alen, winner of a record nineteen WRC rally victories.