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.
Italy had been running road competitions since 1895, when a reliability trial was run from Turin to Asti and back. The country's first true motor race was held in 1897 along the shore of Lake Maggiore, from Arona to Stresa and back.[10] This led to a long tradition of road racing, including events like Sicily's Targa Florio (from 1906[11]) and Giro di Sicilia (Tour of Sicily, 1914), which went right round the island,[12] both of which continued on and off until after World War II. The first Alpine event was held in 1898, the Austrian Touring Club's three-day Automobile Run through South Tyrol, which included the infamous Stelvio Pass.[13]

In the 1960s, the competitions manager of BMC, Stuart Turner, hired a series of brave and gifted young Finns, skills honed on their country's highly competitive gravel or snow rallies, and the modern professional driver was born. As special stage rallying spread around the world Scandinavian drivers were challenged by drivers from Italy, Germany, Britain, Spain and elsewhere. Today, a World Champion may be of any nationality.


Not much is known about the BMW M1 rally car other than the fact that it exists, but that alone warrants inclusion. BMW intended its mid-engined supercar for competition, but not Group B competition. That didn't stop this straight-six masterpiece from entering rallies in the early 80s. Set aside some time to watch some videos of the M1 rally car in action, and thank us later.
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]
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