Pacenotes are a unique and major tool in modern rallying. Television spectators will occasionally notice the voice of a co-driver in mid-race reading the pacenotes over the car's internal intercom. These pacenotes provide a detailed description of the course and allow the driver to predict conditions ahead and prepare for various course conditions such as turns and jumps.
This particular era was not to last. On the 1986 Rallye de Portugal, four spectators were killed; then in May, on the Tour de Corse, Henri Toivonen went over the edge of a mountain road and was incinerated in the fireball that followed. FISA immediately changed the rules again: rallying after 1987 would be in Group A cars, closer to the production model. One notably successful car during this period was the Lancia Delta Integrale, dominating world rallying during 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992 – winning six consecutive world rally championships, a feat yet unbeaten.
The 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally followed four years later. The rally travelled southwards into Africa but a navigational error saw most of the rally become lost in Algerian desert. Eventually only seven teams reached the southernmost point of the rally in Nigeria with five teams making it back to West Germany having driven all legs and only the winning team completing the full distance. This, coupled with the economic climate of the 1970s the heat went out of intercontinental rallying after a second London–Sydney Marathon in 1977. The concept though was revived in 1979 for the original Paris-Dakar Rally. The success of the Dakar would eventually see intercontinental rallying recognised as its own discipline; the Rally Raid.
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As public interest grew, car companies started to introduce special models or variants for rallying, such as the British Motor Corporation's highly successful Mini Cooper, introduced in 1962, and its successor the Mini Cooper S (1963), developed by the Cooper Car Company. Shortly after, Ford of Britain first hired Lotus to create a high-performance version of their Cortina family car, then in 1968 launched the Escort Twin Cam, one of the most successful rally cars of its era. Similarly, Abarth developed high performance versions of Fiats 124 roadster and 131 saloon.
In the Paris–Madrid race of May 1903, the Mors of Fernand Gabriel [fr] took just under five and a quarter hours for the 550 km (340 mi) to Bordeaux, an average of 105 km/h (65.3 mph). Speeds had now far outstripped the safe limits of dusty highways thronged with spectators and open to other traffic, people and animals; there were numerous crashes, many injuries and eight deaths. The French government stopped the race and banned this style of event. From then on, racing in Europe (apart from Italy) would be on closed circuits, initially on long loops of public highway and then, in 1907, on the first purpose-built track, England's Brooklands. Racing was going its own separate way.
On 27 September 2008 the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally took place in Perth, Scotland. An enhanced entry list of several former big name rally drivers took part in memory of Colin. The impressive entry list included ex-World Championship drivers Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen (partnered by his 1981 WRC winning co-driver David Richards), Björn Waldegård, Stig Blomqvist, Malcolm Wilson, Russell Brookes, Jimmy McRae, Andrew Cowan and Louise Aitken-Walker, many competing in their original cars. A handful of current WRC drivers also took part including Matthew Wilson, Kris Meeke and Travis Pastrana. The event was deemed a great success, attracting record spectator numbers to the Perthshire forests. Outright winner was Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson in a Ford Focus WRC. Fittingly, Colin's brother Alister McRae won the classic category.
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.
The funeral for Colin and Johnny took place on 26 September at Daldowie Crematorium near Glasgow, conducted by the Rev Tom Houston, who had married the McRaes, and the Rev Steven Reid, chaplain at Johnny's school. An address was given by Robbie Head, a former rally driver and commentator who was a close friend of McRae's, with the Rev Houston giving the benediction. McRae's niece and nephews performed the tune Highland Cathedral, a popular funeral song. The song "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, a favourite song of McRae's, was played when the family entered the chapel (coincidentally, Redding himself also died in an air crash). The Proclaimers' song "I'm on My Way" was played when they left. Colin and Johnny McRae were cremated in the same coffin. Among the attendees at the funeral were fellow Scottish racing drivers Jackie Stewart and Dario Franchitti.
McRae, made his debut on the gruelling Dakar Rally Raid with Nissan in January 2004, and impressed the team by scoring two stage wins on his way to a memorable finish on the gruelling Sahara event. He returned to the Dakar in 2005 and was fastest on two of the first three stages in Morocco, before crashing out of the rally towards the end of stage six.
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.
While nowadays we are used to rally cars being visually close relatives to hot hatchbacks and saloons, it wasn’t always this way. The Lancia Stratos was the first car purpose built for the World Rally Championship; however, its rakish supercar looks and Ferrari-sourced V6 suggested it was better suited to the car park outside Monte Carlo’s casino than the world’s toughest rally stages.