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.
Rally is a form of motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. It is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages.
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.
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.
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.
The term "rally", as a branch of motorsport, probably dates from the first Monte Carlo Rally of January 1911. Until the late 1920s, few if any other events used the term. Rallying itself can be traced back to the 1894 Paris–Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition (Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux), sponsored by a Paris newspaper, Le Petit Journal, which attracted considerable public interest and entries from leading manufacturers. Prizes were awarded to the vehicles by a jury based on the reports of the observers who rode in each car; the official winner was Albert Lemaître driving a 3 hp Peugeot, although the Comte de Dion had finished first but his steam powered vehicle was ineligible for the official competition. This event led directly to a period of city-to-city road races in France and other European countries, which introduced many of the features found in later rallies: individual start times with cars running against the clock rather than head to head; time controls at the entry and exit points of towns along the way; road books and route notes; and driving over long distances on ordinary, mainly gravel, roads, facing hazards such as dust, traffic, pedestrians and farm animals.
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.
Starting in 2011, rules for WRC cars changed to be more restrictive. Now regulations were derived from Super 2000 cars with a different aerodynamic kit. The cars were smaller models (there was no longer a minimum 4m length), with a 1600 cm3 direct injection turbo-charged engine with a 33 mm diameter air restrictor and a maximum pressure of 2.5 bar absolute (this will limit torque to about 400 N.m or less).
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.
Anyone who has ever played Sega Rally 2 will instantly be familiar with this car. Mäkinen won his fourth consecutive WRC title in a red Evo VI, and this car was commissioned as a road-going replica to celebrate that fact. The Tommi special was fitted with a faster-responding titanium turbo, lower suspension, a front strut brace, and quicker steering. The car made 280hp and hit 60mph in 4.5 seconds.
Rising investor confidence also indicates a rally, and it is perhaps more powerful than any economic indicator because when investors believe something is going to happen (a rally, for example), they tend to take action (purchasing shares in order to profit from expected price increases) that actually turn expectations into reality. Although it is an objective concept, investor sentiment shows through in mathematical measurements such as the put/call ratio, the advance/decline line, IPO activity, and the amount of outstanding margin debt.