It scored six successive World Rally Championships in its long career, and on the road it punched way above its weight. To drive, Integrales feel unwaveringly surefooted and endlessly poised. But, whereas more modern turbocharged four-wheel drive cars have sacrificed outright fun for grip and numbed precision, the Integrale is always exciting to hustle down a back road.
Between 1997 and 2010, the regulations mandated that World Rally Cars must have been built upon a production car with a minimum production run of 2500 units. A number of modifications could be made including increasing the engine displacement up to 2.0L, forced induction (including an anti-lag system), addition of four wheel drive, fitment of a sequential gearbox, modified suspension layout and attachment points, aerodynamic body modifications, weight reduction to a minimum of 1230 kg and chassis strengthening for greater rigidity. The maximum width was set at 1770 mm while front and rear tracks shouldn't exceed 1550 mm.
In an attempt to cut costs, since 2006 new regulations required mechanical front and rear differentials, while the central differential remained active. Active suspension and water injections were also prohibited. Cars entered by a manufacturer had to be equipped with the same engine for two rallies; further limitations were imposed on the changing of some parts, including suspension, steering, turbochargers and gearboxes.
Longer term rallies are typically the outcome of events with a longer-term impact such as changes in government tax or fiscal policy, business regulation or interest rates. Economic data announcements that signal positive changes in business and economic cycles also have a longer lasting impact that may cause shifts in investment capital from one sector to another. For example, a significant lowering of interest rates may cause investors to shift from fixed income instruments to equities. This would create a rally in the equities markets.
There are two main forms: stage rallies and road rallies. Since the 1960s, stage rallies have been the professional branch of the sport. They are based on straightforward speed over stretches of road closed to other traffic. These may vary from asphalt mountain passes to rough forest tracks, from ice and snow to desert sand, each chosen to provide an enjoyable challenge for the crew and a test of the car's performance and reliability.
The World Rally Championship now visits nearly all continents, taking its stylish sideways driving style and specialized cars to a vast global market, estimated by some to be second only to the Formula One juggernaut. This has produced unprecedented levels of visibility in recent years, but in many ways removed the motorsport from its grassroots past. For better or worse, rally has become a lucrative business.
Rising investor confidence also indicates a rally, and it is perhaps more powerful than any economic indicator because when investors believe something is going to happen (a rally, for example), they tend to take action (purchasing shares in order to profit from expected price increases) that actually turn expectations into reality. Although it is an objective concept, investor sentiment shows through in mathematical measurements such as the put/call ratio, the advance/decline line, IPO activity, and the amount of outstanding margin debt.
Since then, the nature of the events themselves has evolved relatively slowly. The increasing costs, both of organization and of competing, as well as safety concerns, have, over the last twenty years, brought progressively shorter rallies, shorter stages and the elimination of nighttime running, scornfully referred to as "office hours rallying" by older hands. Some of the older international events have gone, replaced by others from a much wider spread of countries around the world, until today rallying is truly a worldwide sport. At the same time, fields have shrunk dramatically, as the amateur in his near-standard car is squeezed out.
The causes and characteristics of rallies vary, but most financial theorists agree that economic cycles and investor sentiment both play a role in the creation and momentum of rallies. In general, information about a strong or strengthening economy, indicated by high employment, high disposable income, low inflation and high business profits usually ushers in a rally. The existence of several new trading highs for well-known companies also indicates a rally is occurring. It is important to note that government involvement affects rallies: Changing the federal funds rate or tax rates indirectly encourages economic expansion or contraction.