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.
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. 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.
This particular era was not to last. On the 1986 Rallye de Portugal, four spectators were killed; then in May, on the Tour de Corse, Henri Toivonen went over the edge of a mountain road and was incinerated in the fireball that followed. FISA immediately changed the rules again: rallying after 1987 would be in Group A cars, closer to the production model. One notably successful car during this period was the Lancia Delta Integrale, dominating world rallying during 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992 – winning six consecutive world rally championships, a feat yet unbeaten.
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Analysts spend thousands of hours trying to mathematically determine what will trigger the next rally and how long it will last. Technical analysis is especially prevalent in this effort, although less sophisticated indicators such as hemline fashions or the NFL division of the latest Super Bowl winner also provide fodder for such predictions. This in turn can sometimes lead to speculation that a rally is just around the corner, which can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rallying was again slow to get under way after a major war, but the 1950s were the Golden Age of the long-distance road rally. In Europe, the Monte Carlo Rally, the French and Austrian Alpines, and the Liège were joined by a host of new events that quickly established themselves as classics: the Lisbon Rally (Portugal, 1947), the Tulip Rally (the Netherlands, 1949), the Rally to the Midnight Sun (Sweden, 1951, now the Swedish Rally), the Rally of the 1000 Lakes (Finland, 1951 – now the Rally Finland), and the Acropolis Rally (Greece, 1956). The RAC Rally gained International status on its return in 1951, but for 10 years its emphasis on map-reading navigation and short manoevrability tests made it unpopular with foreign crews. The FIA created in 1953 a European Rally Championship (at first called the "Touring Championship") of eleven events; it was first won by Helmut Polensky of Germany. This was the premier international championship until 1973, when the FIA created the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, won that first year by Alpine-Renault. Not until 1979 was there a World Rally Championship for Drivers, won that year by Björn Waldegård.
Road rallies are the original form, held on highways open to normal traffic, where the emphasis is not on outright speed but on accurate timekeeping and navigation and on vehicle reliability, often on difficult roads and over long distances. They are now primarily amateur events. There are several types of road rallies testing accuracy, navigation or problem solving. Some common types are: Regularity rally or a Time-Speed-Distance rally (also TSD rally, testing ability to stay on track and on time), others are Monte-Carlo styles (Monte Carlo, Pan Am, Pan Carlo, Continental) rally (testing navigation and timing), and various Gimmick rally types (testing logic and observation).
Following his win at the Brands Hatch meeting of the 2007 World Touring Car Championship season, Andy Priaulx dedicated it to McRae, commenting that his death "shows how fragile life can be". McRae's former rival, four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen commented the helicopter accident as terrifying news, and described McRae as "a pleasant fellow and a tough rival". Valentino Rossi, who was taught the basics of driving a rally car by McRae, said he was shocked and saddened by the sudden departure of the former World Rally Champion. Valentino dedicated his win at Estoril MotoGp in 2007 to Colin McRae saying to the media "I want to dedicate this to Colin McRae. He was one of my big idols when I was very young and it's because of him I have a big passion for rally".