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.
Gruelling long distance events continued to be run. In 1967, a group of American offroaders created the Mexican 1000 Rally, a tough 1,000-mile race for cars and motorcycles which ran the length of the Baja California peninsula, much of it initially over roadless desert, which quickly gained fame as the Baja 1000, today run by the SCORE organization. "Baja" events now take place in a number of other countries worldwide.
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 959 was one of the most technically advanced road cars of its time, variable torque-split all-wheel drive, tire-pressure monitoring, and a twin-turbo flat-six making over 400 horsepower. Porsche decided to show off the car's capabilities not by taking it racing, but by taking it rallying at the Paris-Dakar. This Rothmans-liveried legend is what resulted.
The gear changes must be made with a mechanical system, so the paddle shifters were not allowed. However the system was re-allowed in 2015. There was no center differential (earlier it used to be 3 differentials, with a center/3rd differential included), but the new regulation allows only front and rear axle differential (eliminating the center differential to reduce cost), and they must be mechanical, without electronic control or hydraulic or viscous systems (from 2006 to 2010 the center differential and previously all three could be active). Minimum weight is 1200 kg empty and 1350 kg with driver and co-driver (in both cases with only one spare wheel).
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.
Most of the works drivers of the 1950s were amateurs, paid little or nothing, reimbursed their expenses and given bonuses for winning (although there were certainly exceptions, such as the Grand Prix drivers who were brought in for some events). Then in 1960 came arguably the first rallying superstar (and one of the first to be paid to rally full-time), Sweden's Erik Carlsson, driving for Saab.