“Ask anyone to name a rally driver and the first name that comes to mind is invariably Colin McRae,” said Silverstone’s Adam Rutter. “He was always a favourite among rally fans but his incredible success also made him a household name.” The auction house expects this very Focus to sell for between £120,000 and £140,000, or about $170-200k when the gavel drops on February 23.
The ultimate Grey Poupon car, except sideways on dirt. Funded by Christian Dior and his Jules fragrance, the Corniche rally car competed in the fearsome Paris-Dakar. In truth, there's very little Rolls-Royce to the Corniche rally car: it's a tubular chassis fitted with a four-wheel-drive system from a Toyota Land Cruiser and a small-block Chevy V-8. But, it looks like a Rolls, and that's what counts.
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.
The causes and characteristics of rallies vary, but most financial theorists agree that economic cycles and investor sentiment both play a role in the creation and momentum of rallies. In general, information about a strong or strengthening economy, indicated by high employment, high disposable income, low inflation and high business profits usually ushers in a rally. The existence of several new trading highs for well-known companies also indicates a rally is occurring. It is important to note that government involvement affects rallies: Changing the federal funds rate or tax rates indirectly encourages economic expansion or contraction.
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.
Longer term rallies are typically the outcome of events with a longer-term impact such as changes in government tax or fiscal policy, business regulation or interest rates. Economic data announcements that signal positive changes in business and economic cycles also have a longer lasting impact that may cause shifts in investment capital from one sector to another. For example, a significant lowering of interest rates may cause investors to shift from fixed income instruments to equities. This would create a rally in the equities markets.
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. 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. These were followed in 1974 by the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally, and in 1977 by the Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Rally.
In Germany, the Herkomer Trophy was first held in 1905, and again in 1906. This challenging five-day event attracted over 100 entrants to tackle its 1,000 km (620 mi) road section, a hillclimb and a speed trial, but sadly it was marred by poor organisation and confusing regulations. One participant had been Prince Henry of Austria, who was inspired to do better, so he enlisted the aid of the Imperial Automobile Club of Germany to create the first Prinz Heinrich Fahrt (Prince Henry Trial) in 1908. Another trial was held in 1910. These were very successful, attracting top drivers and works cars from major teams – several manufacturers added "Prince Henry" models to their ranges. The first Alpine Trial was held in 1909, in Austria; by 1914, this was the toughest event of its kind, producing a star performance from Britain's James Radley in his Rolls-Royce Alpine Eagle.
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.