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).
McRae, made his debut on the gruelling Dakar Rally Raid with Nissan in January 2004, and impressed the team by scoring two stage wins on his way to a memorable finish on the gruelling Sahara event. He returned to the Dakar in 2005 and was fastest on two of the first three stages in Morocco, before crashing out of the rally towards the end of stage six.
For 2003, McRae signed for Citroën, a team of winning pedigree due to its successes of the previous year with young Frenchman Sébastien Loeb but otherwise undertaking its first complete campaign at World Rally Championship level. McRae's second-place finish on his début in Monte Carlo alongside Loeb and Carlos Sainz whom, aboard the Xsara WRC, helped complete a 1–2–3 finish, transpired to be the finest result he would achieve for the team, for the season was to end with seventh in the drivers' championship, with no victories. Rule changes that were to be brought in for the 2004 season changed the previous practice of having three nominated points-scorers within a team to two. With Loeb partway through a multiple year contract, this meant the Citroën factory team, under Guy Frequelin's leadership, were forced to choose between dropping McRae or Sainz. With Sainz being the more successful of the two during the 2003 season, it was McRae who had to look elsewhere for 2004. David Richards, McRae's former boss at Subaru, who had by now taken over WRC's commercial rights holders ISC and worried that the loss of a character like McRae would damage his ability to market the sport, set about trying to help McRae find a drive for 2004. McRae was unable to find a team, and for the first time in over ten years he would not be competing in the World Rally Championship.
In the past, most rally courses were not allowed to be scanned prior to the race, and the co-drivers used only maps supplied by the organization. The exact route of the rally often remained secret until race day. Modern rallies have mostly converted to using organizer-supplied notes or allowing full reconnaissance, as opposed to racing the stages blindly. This change has been brought on in large part due to competitor demand.
The 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally followed four years later. The rally travelled southwards into Africa but a navigational error saw most of the rally become lost in Algerian desert. Eventually only seven teams reached the southernmost point of the rally in Nigeria with five teams making it back to West Germany having driven all legs and only the winning team completing the full distance. This, coupled with the economic climate of the 1970s the heat went out of intercontinental rallying after a second London–Sydney Marathon in 1977. The concept though was revived in 1979 for the original Paris-Dakar Rally. The success of the Dakar would eventually see intercontinental rallying recognised as its own discipline; the Rally Raid.
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Since then, the nature of the events themselves has evolved relatively slowly. The increasing costs, both of organization and of competing, as well as safety concerns, have, over the last twenty years, brought progressively shorter rallies, shorter stages and the elimination of nighttime running, scornfully referred to as "office hours rallying" by older hands. Some of the older international events have gone, replaced by others from a much wider spread of countries around the world, until today rallying is truly a worldwide sport. At the same time, fields have shrunk dramatically, as the amateur in his near-standard car is squeezed out.
McRae was married to Alison, and had two children, Hollie and Johnny. McRae moved to the principality of Monaco in 1995, partly through his friendship with David Coulthard. However, as his young family grew up, he spent more time back at his home in Lanarkshire—accepting the higher tax liability of living in Scotland. The couple bought the 17th century Jerviswood House.
The RAC Rally had formally become an International event in 1951, but Britain's laws precluded the closure of public highways for special stages. This meant it had to rely on short manoeuvrability tests, regularity sections and night map-reading navigation to find a winner, which made it unattractive to foreign crews. In 1961, Jack Kemsley was able to persuade the Forestry Commission to open their many hundreds of miles of well surfaced and sinuous gravel roads, and the event was transformed into one of the most demanding and popular in the calendar, by 1983 having over 600 miles (970 km) of stage. It is now called Rally GB.
In 1980, a German car maker, Audi, at that time not noted for their interest in rallying, introduced a rather large and heavy coupé version of their family saloon, installed a turbocharged 2.1 litre five-cylinder engine, and fitted it with four-wheel drive. Thus the Audi Quattro was born. International regulations had prohibited four-wheel drive; but FISA accepted that this was a genuine production car, and changed the rules. The Quattro quickly became the car to beat on snow, ice or gravel; and in 1983 took Hannu Mikkola to the World Rally Championship title. Other manufacturers had no production four-wheel drive car on which to base their response, so FISA was persuaded to change the rules, and open the Championship to cars in Group B. This allowed cars to be much further removed from production models, and so was created a generation of rallying supercars, of which the most radical and impressive were the Peugeot 205 T16, Renault 5 Turbo and the Lancia Delta S4, with flimsy fibreglass bodies roughly the shape of the standard car tacked onto lightweight spaceframe chassis, four-wheel drive, and power outputs reportedly as high as 600 hp (450 kW). Further Group B cars were developed by Ford (the RS200), British Leyland (the Metro 6R4) and many others, but these were less successful.