The 10 Best Rally Cars of All Time

Bernardo Montes de Oca@bmontes17Contributor IAugust 27, 2010

The 10 Best Rally Cars of All Time

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    Rally as a sport has grown to epic proportions, but the interest people have had in it has decreased since there has been a development of monotony in rally's highest ranking, the WRC.

    Now, there has been a tendency to participate in categories, or championships, like the IRC which provide rules that are easier for more people to cope with.

    Perhaps, it's necessary to go back to the days of Group B and open the competition, but for now, one can look back at the great days of rallying and wonder: which were the best cars in rally history?

    Here is a list of the trademark cars of the sport and a bit of their history.

10. Ford Focus WRC

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    Granted, the Focus is a rally car which has been present in the latter days of rallying, but that's the exact reason why it is on this list.

    Right now, it is one of the two brands that have endured the ups and downs on the WRC.

    That proves this car is good and can keep with a certain French manufacturer and its dominance of the sport.

    The present model used by the major Ford teams is the RS WRC, which aesthetically matches the RS Mk II from 2009, it produces 300 bhp and 550 Nm of torque.

    Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miko Hirvonen are in charge of providing the excitement for fans all around the world.

9. Alpine-Renault A110 1600

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    The Alpine Renault A110 deserves a place in this list for the effect it had on the International Championship for Manufacturers in the '70s and also being considered the first World Rally Champion vehicle in 1973.

    This car provided a beautiful body design and a 1.6 liter engine made from an all-aluminum block.

    With a top speed of 210 km/h, steady handling (under the right hands) and a light body, this car rose amidst the ranks to become champion in 1971, also finishing second in 1970.

    After the development of other rally cars designed exactly for competition, the Alpine went through several modifications which rendered it unreliable.

    Little by little, Alpine stopped participating and gave way to Renault as a Rally competitor.

    Ove Andersson had provided skilled driving for the Alpine and was its most famous driver.

8. Volvo PV444/544

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    1.8 Liters, a 3 or 4 speed transmission, and a complex suspension which provided great handling gave this car a great reputation for being a rally car.

    It was the very same fact that it was not fast but provided torque at the lower gears that made it European Rally Champion an respectable three times under the driving of Gunnar Anderson.

    Again, this cute car which wowed the Swedes on the snow-covered backstreets fell victim to other brands developing models strictly for rallying.

    Now a cult car, it still provides good looks and a personality rarely seen in other cars in this list.

    Gunnar Anderson was in charge of winning the championships in this Volvo.

7. Porsche 911

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    1966 G3 Champion, 1967 G1 and G3 Champion, 1968 Champion in the ERC (European Rally Championship) and 1971 ICM Champion (International Championship for Manufacturers).

    This is a very respectable career for the King of Oversteer.

    With a simple configuration of Rear Wheel Drive and Rear Engine, this car provided quite a challenge for drivers, especially when having the larger engines providing up to 125 hp.

    Being air-cooled, it had the notoriety of not being started to warm up long moments before racing, instead only started minutes before.

    When the car was static, the temperature would rise rapidly and could overheat.

    It also competed in the WRC with less success, but managed to score points under the talented driving of Henri Toivonen.

    A wide range of drivers took this car to championship level, such as Sobieslaw Zasada, Günter Klass and Vic Elford.

6. Citroën C4 WRC

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    Many would say that this position should go the C4 WRC as well as the Xsara WRC, and well they would be right.

    But then again, every car Sébastien Loeb drives has the chance of becoming iconic. This car has been champion of the WRC three times in a row, and is now the major competition of the No. 10 slide in this list.

    Again, it fits the standards of the modern-day WRC. It has a 2.0 Liter engine with 310 hp and 560 Nm of torque.

    Citroën did not have a good history when it came to Group B racing, participating with the virtual unknown Citroën BX 4TC, but now it is clear that this team has dialed success down.

    Perhaps, the fact that they are champions since 2004 has taken a bit of excitement away from the sport, but hats off the French manufacturer.

5. Ford Escort Mk.I RS

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    Photograph Credit: Creative Commons.

    The Ford Escort 1600 RS was the staple for excellence in rallying during the '60s and '70s.

    It had a traditional front engine, rear-wheel drive configuration and provided a stable ride for talented hands to take the car to the limits of its performance.

    It gained the respect of the world as the Champion of the World Cup of Rally race in 1970, known as the London to Mexico Race, which covered 16,000 miles and was completed on May 27, 1970, after starting on April 19 of that same year.

    Hannu Mikkola was in charge of driving the modified car, which housed a 1850 cc engine instead of the traditional 1.6L version.

    It also won the driver's championship in 1979 under the driving of Ari Vatanen.

    All in all, this car is emblematic of Ford's first steps in rallying. It certainly has reflected on the modern-day Focus.

4. Lancia Stratos HF

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    Fast, loud, aesthetically "different" and certainly a hassle to drive, the Lancia Stratos was the definition of what rally was all about.

    This was the first car designed entirely for rallying from scratch, and boy was it good. It won the World Rally Championship a total of 4 times and the European Rally Championship three times.

    Granted, other cars like the Fiat 131 Abarth did win more championships and were competitive with this car, but look at it.

    There is no other rally car which looked or will look like it anymore.

    The engine on this car provided 280 hp on normal tuning but could easily be amped up to an astounding 560 hp with the addition of a turbocharger. This made the car slightly unreliable and pretty much undriveable.

    After a successful run, the development of Group B rally cars forced Lancia to focus on other models.

    Bernard Daniche won the three championships of the ERC while driving this Lancia.

3. Peugeot 205 T16

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    Granted, it did only win two WRC championships but I'd like to put one thing in perspective.

    The road going versions of this car (200 had to be made for the car to be able to compete) had less than half the horsepower the T16 Rally car had. And they had 200 hp.

    This car was fast, brutally fast, and it proved its worth under the driving of Juha Kankunen and Timo Salonen, who won the championships in 86 and 85 respectively.

    Such was the performance of this car, that the 205T16 was taken as a base for the version which won a certainly rally called the Paris Dakar rally, not once but twice.

    This was one of the four main competitors during the Group B era, along with Lancia, Ford and Audi. (We'll get to them, not to worry.) They set the standards for what performance was all about.

2. Audi Quattro

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    Before true car fans go all crazy, let me justify why this car (my personal favorite) is only ranked second on this list.

    Reliability.

    The Audi Quattro set standards for the future of rallying. As a pace car, it first ran in 1981 and would have set the pace by leading the rally with a gap of 9 minutes over the actual winner of the rally.

    The first versions were "only" rated at 300 hp, but then evolved into the monster that was the S2, which ended up with a power output rating of 591 hp.

    It made Michele Mouton the first woman ever to win a World Rally and also the fastest woman to climb Pikes Peak. During that climb, she was the fast time all round, and Walter Rorhl repeated such a feat two years later.

    However, this car only won two championships. Breakdowns in major rallies had earned it a reputation for a "win or retire" philosophy.

    Still this car caught the eyes of many with its sound, looks, and performance.

1. Lancia 037

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    Photograph Credit: Creative Commons.

    The Lancia 037 only won ONE WRC championship in the manufacturer's category and that's exactly the reason it goes on the first place.

    This remains the only rear-wheel drive car to stand up to the Audi Quattro. Also, this car won the ERC three times.

    It had a 2.0 L engine with a supercharger, which provided upwards of 300 horsepower.

    It was the last of Rear Wheel Drive cars and an emblem on a great manufacturer.

    This was a hard choice to make, but in the end, this is a list of the best cars which captivated the hearts of rally fans all around the world.

    The list of drivers is just as astounding as any other car. Marku Alen, Henri Toivonen, Miki Biasion and Walter Rohrl all had a go at this car, helping it become champion in 1983.

Honorable Mentions

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    Here are a few cars which can be considered amongst the best in this sport:.

    Opel Ascona 400 - 1982 WRC champion. 1974, 1979, 1982 ERC champion.

    Subaru Impreza - The definition of the modern day rally car, staple for younger fans of the sport.

    Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - The counterpart of the Impreza, it was the balance between Subaru and Mitsubishi which defined the late 90's for rallying.

    Amongst the two, they have earned 7 WRC championships (Mitsubishi taking 4 and Subaru 3)

    Lancia Delta HF - Lancia is considered the most successful rally competitor of all times, and the Delta HF was key in this success.

    A safer sequel to the Delta S4, it was reduced to 300 hp but still managed 6 Manufacturer's Championships and 4 Driver's Championships.

    Lancia Delta S4 - Never won a championship in the WRC, and won one in the ERC, but was considered one of the most dangerous cars to drive.

    It was the vehicle driven by Henri Toivonen in the moment of his death, leading to the cancellation of the Group B category.

    Toyota Celica Turbo - Won the WRC championship for Manufacturers three times and the Driver's Championship two times.

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