We take rally cars based off front-wheel-drive subcompacts for granted now, but the Mini Cooper was the first of the breed. The humble Mini was originally designed to be an affordable city car, but others saw different possibilities. Race car engineer John Cooper took a 997cc engine out of one of his Formula Junior racers and fitted disc brakes to the Mini to create the Mini Cooper. In hotter Cooper S form, the Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, setting the template for so many rally cars to come.
While the supermarket carpark boys may lay claim to having the best Impreza around, this was the Japanese firm’s own take on the ultimate tuned Scooby. A true thoroughbred, only 424 were made using exotic parts like a twin-plate ceramic clutch, Bilstein shocks and aluminium suspension components. The bodywork was based on Peter Stevens’ own rally car, and the track was deliberately wider.
The French started their own Rallye des Alpes Françaises in 1932, which continued after World War II as the Rallye International des Alpes, the name often shortened to Coupe des Alpes. Other important rallies started between the wars included Britain's RAC Rally (1932) and Belgium's Liège-Rome-Liège or just Liège, officially called "Le Marathon de la Route" (1931), two events of radically different character; the former a gentle tour between cities from various start points, "rallying" at a seaside resort with a series of manoeuvrability and car control tests; the latter a thinly disguised road race over some of Europe's toughest mountain roads.
Colin McRae began his competitive career in motorsport riding trial bikes at an early age, despite being more interested in four wheeled machines rather than two wheel bikes. At the age of sixteen, through the Coltness Car Club, McRae discovered autotesting, he soon traded his bike for a Mini Cooper and started competing. A year later, he began to negotiate with another club member to use his Hillman Avenger for the Kames Stages, a single-staged rally venue not far from McRae's home. McRae finished the event fourteenth; first in his class although he had run most of the event in a higher position.
McRae's outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors' title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997. After a four-year spell with the Ford Motor Co. team, which saw McRae win nine events, he moved to Citroën World Rally Team in 2003 where, despite not winning an event, he helped them win the first of their three consecutive manufacturers' titles. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to motorsport in 1996.
First- and second-generation Ford Escorts are some of the most popular vintage rally cars in Europe. They're eligible for import via the 25-year rule, which means people are starting to rally them on this side of the pond too. If you're looking for a good time on dirt, the Escort is the car for you. Here's an unrestored Mk1 model up for bidding now.
"bring together," c.1600, from French rallier, from Old French ralier "reassemble, unite again," from re- "again" (see re-) + alier "unite" (see ally (v.)). Intransitive meaning "pull together hastily, recover order, revive, rouse" is from 1660s. Related: Rallied; rallying. Rally round the flag (1862) is a line from popular American Civil War song "Battle Cry of Freedom."