Although there had been exceptions like the outlandish Ford V8 specials created by the Romanians for the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally, rallies before World War II had tended to be for standard or near-standard production cars, a rule supported by manufacturers because it created a relatively even playing field. After the war, most competing cars were production saloons or sports cars, with only minor modifications to improve performance, handling, braking and suspension. This kept costs down and allowed many more people to afford the sport using ordinary family cars, so entry lists grew into the hundreds.
Driving rules and regulations in the real world sadly prevent us from racing everywhere at breakneck speeds and performing hell-raising stunts and turns. Only professional rally and racing drivers can play out their wildest fantasy’s and satiate their lust for speed on the track or rally course. We watch them with envy as they dangerously accelerate around corners, fly over road bumps and career through all kinds of terrain in their finely tuned rally cars. From the tantalizing dessert races in Dakar, to the high-adrenaline rally championships, there is something inherently cool and exciting about this sport.
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.
However, if you are heading for a spin around your favourite backcountry twister, then there are few cars better suited. Independent suspension all-round, a turbocharged 230hp 2.0-litre engine and all-wheel drive, mixed with the early signs of Ford’s newfound commitment to handling, meant the Cosworth would devour pretty much any flavour of road in its path.