The Liège continued as uncompromisingly an open road event run to an impossible time schedule, and remained Europe's toughest rally until 1964, by which time it had turned to the wilds of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to find traffic-free roads; but in the end the pressures were irresistible.[41] The Coupe des Alpes struggled on until 1973 until it too succumbed, its demise no doubt hastened by the decision of the French motor sporting authorities to select the Tour de Corse as its representative event in international rally championships.[42]

In Africa, 1950 saw the first French-run Méditerranée-le Cap, a 10,000-mile (16,000 km) rally from the Mediterranean to South Africa; it was run on and off until 1961, when the new political situation hastened its demise.[51] In 1953 East Africa saw the demanding Coronation Safari, which went on to become the Safari Rally and a World Championship round,[52] to be followed in due course by the Rallye du Maroc and the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire. Australia's Redex Round Australia Trial also dates from 1953, although this remained isolated from the rest of the rallying world.[53]
In Ireland, the first Ulster Motor Rally (1931) was run from multiple starting points. After several years in this format, it transitioned into the 1,000-mile (1,600 km) Circuit of Ireland Rally.[32] In Italy, Benito Mussolini's government encouraged motorsport of all kinds and facilitated road racing, so the sport quickly restarted after World War I. In 1927 the Mille Miglia (Thousand Mile) was founded, run over a 1,000-mile (1,600 km) loop of highways from Brescia to Rome and back. It continued in this form until 1938.[33]

When the Porsche 959 arrived at 195mph in 1986, it was by far the most technically advanced, the fastest and most capable hypercar ever conceived. So try and get your head around this: it was originally designed as a Group B rally car, with the road cars only being necessary for homologation purposes. That’s like a McLaren P1 or 918 Spyder taking on the 1000 Lakes… Absolute madness.
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.[7] 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.[8] Racing was going its own separate way.

The 959 was one of the most technically advanced road cars of its time, variable torque-split all-wheel drive, tire-pressure monitoring, and a twin-turbo flat-six making over 400 horsepower. Porsche decided to show off the car's capabilities not by taking it racing, but by taking it rallying at the Paris-Dakar. This Rothmans-liveried legend is what resulted.


With victory in the Safari Rally in 2002, McRae made the record books as the driver with most event wins in the World Rally Championship. His record has since been broken by Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. McRae's contract with Ford came to an end following the 2002 season, and after reportedly asking for wages of five million pounds a year, Ford decided against renewing the contract, reluctant to commit such a high amount of their budget to a driver's salary. The two parties split on amicable terms, with Ford's European director of motorsport Martin Whitaker stating "On behalf of all of us at Ford Motor Company I would like to publicly thank Colin and Nicky for their efforts during the past four years with the Ford team. I wish them both well in the future."[15] McRae said of his time with Ford "It's been a very successful four years, we've achieved a lot of very good results and I'm quite happy that myself and Ford have had a very successful partnership."[16]
With victory in the Safari Rally in 2002, McRae made the record books as the driver with most event wins in the World Rally Championship. His record has since been broken by Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. McRae's contract with Ford came to an end following the 2002 season, and after reportedly asking for wages of five million pounds a year, Ford decided against renewing the contract, reluctant to commit such a high amount of their budget to a driver's salary. The two parties split on amicable terms, with Ford's European director of motorsport Martin Whitaker stating "On behalf of all of us at Ford Motor Company I would like to publicly thank Colin and Nicky for their efforts during the past four years with the Ford team. I wish them both well in the future."[15] McRae said of his time with Ford "It's been a very successful four years, we've achieved a lot of very good results and I'm quite happy that myself and Ford have had a very successful partnership."[16]
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.
1968 brought the first of a series of British-organised intercontinental rallies, the Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon, which attracted over 100 crews including a number of works teams and top drivers; it was won by the Hillman Hunter of Andrew Cowan/Brian Coyle/Colin Malkin.[56] Not to be outdone, the rival Daily Mirror sponsored in 1970 the London-Mexico World Cup Rally, linking the stadia of two successive football World Cups, on a route that crossed Europe to Bulgaria and back before shipping out from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, after looping around South America, and a run through some of the most frightening sections of Peru's road race, the Caminos del Inca, they wrap it up being shipped to Panama and a final run up Central America. The Ford Escort of Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm won.[57] These were followed in 1974 by the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally,[58] and in 1977 by the Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Rally.[59]
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.
In Africa, 1950 saw the first French-run Méditerranée-le Cap, a 10,000-mile (16,000 km) rally from the Mediterranean to South Africa; it was run on and off until 1961, when the new political situation hastened its demise.[51] In 1953 East Africa saw the demanding Coronation Safari, which went on to become the Safari Rally and a World Championship round,[52] to be followed in due course by the Rallye du Maroc and the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire. Australia's Redex Round Australia Trial also dates from 1953, although this remained isolated from the rest of the rallying world.[53]
After several years of varying success, McRae switched to the M-Sport-run Ford factory team for 1999, driving the new Ford Focus rally car. The deal saw McRae earning six million pounds over two years, which at the time made him the highest earning rally driver in history.[12] This move was immediately rewarded with two consecutive wins at the Safari Rally and Rally Portugal. A number of shunts and reliability issues for the new car for much of the rest of that season, however, resulted in only sixth place in the championship standings overall. Moreover, a rare personal pointless run had begun for McRae that year which was only to be halted with a podium on the following February's Swedish Rally, the beginning of a recovery which saw McRae victorious on the asphalt turns of Catalunya and the gravel of Greece, and post 4th in the 2000 overall standings. Midway through the 2000 season, the lacking reliability of the Focus had led to McRae threatening to leave the team if the problems continued.[13] The upturn towards the end of the season resulted in him deciding to renew his contract with Ford for a further two years.[14] McRae's intermittent success with Ford continued into 2001, where after failing to score in any of the first four rounds, including having momentarily led defending winner Tommi Mäkinen on the stages of the season opening Monte Carlo Rally prior to being forced into retirement, he then went on to score three consecutive victories in Argentina, Cyprus and Greece to tie with Mäkinen at the top of the points table. However, having again led the championship outright entering the final round in Great Britain, McRae once more missed out on a possible second title, crashing out and finishing second in the drivers championship, two points behind Subaru's Richard Burns.
Two ultra long distance challenges took place at this time. The Peking-Paris of 1907 was not officially a competition, but a "raid", the French term for an expedition or collective endeavour whose promoters, the newspaper "Le Matin", rather optimistically expected participants to help each other; it was 'won' by Prince Scipione Borghese, Luigi Barzini, and Ettore Guizzardi in an Itala.[24] The New York–Paris of the following year, which went via Japan and Siberia, was won by George Schuster and others in a Thomas Flyer.[25] Each event attracted only a handful of adventurous souls, but in both cases the successful drivers exhibited characteristics modern rally drivers would recognise: meticulous preparation, mechanical skill, resourcefulness, perseverance and a certain single-minded ruthlessness. The New York–Seattle race of 1909, if shorter, was no easier. Rather gentler (and more akin to modern rallying) was the Glidden Tour, run by the American Automobile Association between 1902 and 1913, which had timed legs between control points and a marking system to determine the winners.[26]
These events were road races in all but name, but in Italy such races were still allowed, and the Mille Miglia continued until a serious accident in 1957 caused it to be banned.[43] Meanwhile, in 1981, the Tour de France was revived by the Automobile-Club de Nice as a different kind of rally, based primarily on a series of races at circuits and hillclimbs around the country.[44] It was successful for a while and continued until 1986. It spawned similar events in a few other countries, but none survive.
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.
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