All images appear courtesy of www.mcklein.de
There is nothing in motor sport to match the diversity, spectacle and sheer exhilaration of the world rally championship and it's important we remember the history of the sport and the people and places which made the WRC what it is today...
Perhaps we're all guilty of looking back through rose tinted spectacles but rallying in the 1970's was truly a magical time which contained 2 of the most evocative cars of all time.
From Italy came the beautiful Lancia Stratos, a car which when driven by the likes of Sandro Munari and Markko Alen was capable of winning in any conditions.
The shrill scream of the Ferrari V6 engined Stratos and it's futuristic looks was in contrast to the other more mundane saloon cars competing at the time.
But there was one particular box shaped saloon car which was to leave it's mark on the sport for generations to come...
From Timo Makinen to Richard Burns just about every world rally champion from the past 30 years has competed in a Ford Escort RS at some stage or another.
Heroes such as Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, and Roger Clark raised the spectacle of the sport to a new level with their 'sideways' driving style and somehow the cars allowed the drivers to demonstrate their artistry behind the wheel like never before or since...
The 1980's saw a period of incredible change within the sport and undoubtedly some of the highest and lowest points in the sport's history.
When the 4 wheel drive Audi Quattro exploded on the scene in 1981 rallying would never be the same again and looking back 20 years later it seems barely believable that such cars were ever let loose on the world stage.
The battles between the 2 wheel drive Lancia 037 and the original Audi Quattro have now passed into rallying legend, and with the might of Fiat and Audi throwing millions of pounds into the sport rallying suddenly became big business.
It was common to see team helicopters shadowing the cars and dropping mechanics and parts down to fix their charges in the middle of the African plains or high atop the French Alps, and there really was no limit to what could be done in the name of competition.
Things came to a head in the 1985-86 seasons when the Quattro went head to head with the 500+bhp Peugeot 205T16, the RS200, the V6 engined Metro 6R4 and the Super and Turbo-charged Lancia Delta S4.
As the Group A era evolved into the current Word Rally Car formula the sport continued to change.
The 'need' to become more TV friendly meant the loss of classic rallies from the calendar such as the epic Safari Rally, and a change in the ethos of rallying from that of endurance to outright speed and the current format of 'sprint' rallies.
It became common place in the mid 1990's to see rallies resolved by seconds rather than minutes and the increased interest brought in new manufacturers from Japan & Korea.
Whilst the Scandinavian drivers such as Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen continued to dominate the sport, others such as the spectacular Colin McRae, Spain's Carlos Sainz, and France's Didier Auriol proved that they could win on all surfaces as well.
As the decade grew to a close Richard Burns and Petter Solberg ushered in a new level of professionalism within the sport with their more technical driving styles and media savvy.
Sebastien Loeb seemed to come from nowhere when he burst onto the WRC scene with a 2nd place finish on the 2001 Sanremo rally, just 11 seconds behind Gilles Panizzi & comfortably in front of the likes of Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol and Colin McRae. The following year's Monte Carlo Rally should have seen his first WRC victory, only for a time penalty to delay his maiden victory until Rally Germany later that summer.
The former gymnast from the Alsace then dominated the sport throughout the 2000's winning his 1st World Championship in 2004 and forging an alliance with Citroen that broke all the WRC records.
The Frenchman's uncanny ability to take 15 or 20 seconds from his rivals over an icy Monte Carlo stage was reminiscent of the great Walter Rohrl, who is often voted by his peers as the best WRC driver of all time, but Loeb seemed able to set fastest stage times everywhere from Sweden to Rally GB as he rounded out the decade with a remarkable 7 consecutive world titles.
Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg forced Loeb to work hard for his victories during the first half of the decade, whilst a new generation headed by Mikko Hirvonen, Dani Sordo, and the exciting Jari-Matti Latvala challenged the World Champion as the high-tech 2 litre 'World Rally Car' era came to a close at the end of 2010.
Drivers World Championship
|2011||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen DS3 WRC)||FR|
|2010||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen C4 WRC)||FR|
|2009||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen C4 WRC)||FR|
|2008||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen C4 WRC)||FR|
|2007||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen C4 WRC)||FR|
|2006||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen Xsara WRC)||FR|
|2005||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen Xsara WRC)||FR|
|2004||Sébastien Loeb (Citröen Xsara WRC)||FR|
|2003||Petter Solberg(Subaru Impreza WRC)||NO|
|2002||Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot 206 WRC)||FI|
|2001||Richard Burns (Subaru Impreza WRC)||UK|
|2000||Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot 206 WRC)||FI|
|1999||Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI)||FI|
|1998||Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V & VI)||FI|
|1997||Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV)||FI|
|1996||Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III)||FI|
|1995||Colin McRae (Subaru Impreza)||UK|
|1994||Didier Auriol (Toyota Celica GTFour)||FR|
|1993||Juha Kankkunen (Toyota Celica GTFour)||FI|
|1992||Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica GTFour)||ES|
|1991||Juha Kankkunen (Lancia Delta Integrale 16V)||FI|
|1990||Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica GT4)||ES|
|1989||Massimo Biasion (Lancia Delta Integrale & 16V)||IT|
|1988||Massimo Biasion (Lancia Delta Integrale)||IT|
|1987||Juha Kankkunen (Lancia Delta 4WD)||FI|
|1986||Juha Kankkunen (Peugeot 205 T16)||FI|
|1985||Timo Salonen (Peugeot 205 T16)||FI|
|1984||Stig Blomqvist (Audi Coupè Quattro)||SE|
|1983||Hannu Mikkola (Audi Coupè Quattro)||FI|
|1982||Walter Röhrl (Opel Ascona 400)||DE|
|1981||Ari Vatanen (Ford Escort RS)||FI|
|1980||Walter Röhrl (Fiat 131 Abarth)||DE|
|1979||Bjorn Waldegaard (Ford Escort RS & Mercedes 450 SLC 5.0)||SE|
|1978||(FIA Cup) Markku Alèn (Fiat 131 Abarth & Lancia Stratos)||FI|
|1977||(FIA Cup) Sandro Munari (Lancia Stratos)||IT|
|Manufacturers World Championship|
|2011||Citröen (DS3 WRC)|
|2010||Citröen (C4 WRC)|
|2009||Citröen (C4 WRC)|
|2008||Citröen (C4 WRC)|
|2007||Ford (Focus WRC)|
|2006||Ford (Focus WRC)|
|2005||Citröen (Xsara WRC)|
|2004||Citröen (Xsara WRC)|
|2003||Citröen (Xsara WRC)|
|2002||Peugeot (206 WRC)|
|2001||Peugeot (206 WRC)|
|2000||Peugeot (206 WRC)|
|1999||Toyota (Corolla WRC)|
|1998||Mitsubishi (Lancer Evolution V)|
|1997||Subaru (Impreza WRC)|
|1994||Toyota (Celica GT4)|
|1993||Toyota (Celica GT4)|
|1992||Lancia (Integrale Evo)|
|1991||Lancia (Integrale 16V)|
|1990||Lancia (Integrale 16V)|
|1989||Lancia (Integrale 8V)|
|1988||Lancia (Integrale 8V)|
|1987||Lancia (Delta 4WD)|
|1986||Peugeot (205 Turbo 16)|
|1985||Peugeot (205 Turbo 16)|
|1981||Talbot (Sunbeam Lotus)|
|1980||Fiat (131 Abarth)|
|1979||Ford (Escort RS)|
|1978||Fiat (131 Abarth)|
|1977||Fiat (131 Abarth)|
|1973||Alpine Renault (A110)|
|1972||Lancia (Fulvia HF)*|
|1969||Ford Europe(Escort TC)*|
|1968||Ford GB (Escort TC)*|
|*: (Not World Championship)|