Prodrive is not just the technical and organizational might behind the Subaru World Rally Team. It also runs Aston Martin’s DBR9 racing operation, it carries out development and engineering work for numerous car manufacturers, and it is about to enter Formula 1. Like any top-level motor sport operation, Prodrive normally keeps its secrets close to its chest. But over one weekend in July that all changed, as the Banbury-based company opened its doors for charity.

Tickets sold out long in advance of the two open days, which saw more than 4000 motorsport fans stream through Prodrive’s gates to take a look behind the scenes – and help raise money for a deserving cause.

Subaru World Rally Team driver, Chris Atkinson was on hand to drive his works Impreza into the team’s mobile service park, which they had set up in their own car park to demonstrate to amazed crowds what goes on during a World Rally service halt. The crack team of mechanics demonstrated gearbox changes during the weekend – and broke all speed records, eventually getting their time down to an incredible 5 min 48 sec.

Prodrive's world rally mechanics demonstrated rapid Impreza gearbox changes
Impreza WRC shell was just one of the technical displays from across Prodrive's operations
Johnny Herbert laid down some rubber on one of Prodrive's car parks in his Aston Martin DBR9

Meanwhile the Aston Martin Racing team, fresh from its GT1 class win at Le Mans, carried out pit stops on the DBR9, while team drivers Johnny Herbert and David Brabham, smoked the tyres on the Le Mans-winning 009 car.

In addition visitors could take a ride in an Impreza WRC simulator, listen to talks from Prodrive engineers, view historic Prodrive competition cars ranging from a Mk2 Escort to a BAR-Honda F1 car and see some of the company's latest projects, including the Subaru-based P1 sports car.

Prodrive opened its whole Banbury site, so fans could get a real insight into the comprehensive engineering that goes into each of the company’s race and rally cars. Everything was on show, from the machining of raw castings and Impreza rally car bodies ‘in white’ – bare metal, before they’re painted – to completed WRC engines and components on test.

The weekend not only provided a fascinating look into the work of one of Britain’s best-known motorsport operations, it was also a major success for Prodrive's nominated charity, Oxford Children’s Hospital. More than £60,000 was raised for the hospital over the two days from ticket sales and the proceeds of an auction of team clothing and memorabilia.

Published in Total Impreza magazine 2007