Other manufacturers were not content with modifying their 'bread-and-butter' cars. Renault bankrolled the small volume sports-car maker Alpine to transform their little A110 Berlinette coupé into a world-beating rally car, and hired a skilled team of drivers too; then in 1974 came the Lancia Stratos, the first car designed from scratch to win rallies, and the dominant asphalt rally car of its time. These makers overcame the rules of FISA (as the FIA was called at the time) by building the requisite number of these models for the road.
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).
In 1986, driving a Talbot Sunbeam, McRae entered the Scottish Rally Championship and soon made a name for himself with his speed and exciting style of driving. His driving style drew many comparisons to Finnish ex-World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, whom McRae had always idolised. In 1988 he performed a giant-killing act when he took the Scottish Rally Championship series crown in a humble Vauxhall Nova. Craving more power, his next car was a Ford Sierra XR 4x4.
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Built by the freshly created Advanced Vehicle Operations at the Ford Aveley plant in Essex, the Mexico went on sale between 1970 and 1974 with a 1600cc pushrod ohv engine. It cashed in on Ford’s success in the London-Mexico Rally of 1970. With a shade over 90hp, the Mexico could reach a heady 99mph, but this was enough to light up the rubber around the 13” steel wheels mid corner, giving you easily controllable drifts at relatively safe speeds and almost perfect balance.
McRae's outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors' title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997. After a four-year spell with the Ford Motor Co. team, which saw McRae win nine events, he moved to Citroën World Rally Team in 2003 where, despite not winning an event, he helped them win the first of their three consecutive manufacturers' titles. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to motorsport in 1996.
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.
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.