On 5 August 2006, McRae competed for Subaru in the first live televised American rally in Los Angeles as part of the X-Games. McRae rolled the car on the penultimate corner after landing awkwardly from a jump, which damaged the front bumper and left front tyre. Despite this, McRae kept the car running and continued on to the finish, his time only 0.13 seconds slower than eventual winner Travis Pastrana. McRae was, though, to have one more opportunity at world championship level: he was unexpectedly entered for his final rally by semi-works Kronos Citroën at Rally Turkey in September, where he replaced Sébastien Loeb while the Frenchman recovered from an injury he sustained in a cycling accident immediately prior to the event. A final-stage alternator problem consigned him and returning co-driver Nicky Grist, to a final placing outside the top ten.
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.
The main change over that period has been in the cars, and in the professionalisation and commercialisation of the sport. Manufacturers had entered works cars in rallies, and in their forerunner and cousin events, from the very beginning: the 1894 Paris-Rouen was mainly a competition between them, while the Thousand Mile Trial of 1900 had more trade than private entries.
But this wasn’t enough. By 1984 rallying was all but deregulated, and Audi Sport introduced the Sport Quattro: a shortened, more powerful version of the original coupe, and regulations insisted that 214 were built for the road. With its wheelbase shortened a meaningful 12.6 inches between the B- and C-pillars, the Sport Quattro was more nimble and the bodywork featured numerous GRP and carbon-Kevlar panels. A massive KKK-K27 turbocharger helped increase power to 302hp on the road, while Stig Blomqvist had access to over 450hp in the rally Group B version.
When rallying really took off in the ’80s and ’90s it spawned a new type of performance car. These cars were built for tarmac and mud stages, so their road-going cousins were naturally well-suited to real world conditions. What’s more, they often had four doors, plenty of legroom and a boot (trunk) in the back. And the best bit? Pretty much anyone could buy one and, depending on how deep your pockets were, become Blomqvist, McRae, or Mäkinen.