Having tramped through a wet and windy Welsh forest for over an hour in freezing cold conditions to then stand next to a deeply rutted, muddy track, the hallowed silence is broken as the bark of an engine, the whistle of a turbo, and the sound of gravel ricocheting off a reinforced sump guard break through the fog. A snarling monster emerges, its brake discs glowing red, the sponsor emblazoned coachwork shooting past with demonic speed as a cacophony of engine roar carries it back into the wispy gloom.
Rallying is one of those motorsports watched and loved by fans the world over, whether it be in the wet Welsh forests, the dusty Cypriot mountains, or the harsh frozen tundras of Norway. The sport pushes cars and drivers beyond their limits and punishes them in ways that no other can. Over the years, many cars have been elevated to legendary status, having found their natural home in the dirt, snow, and sand, whilst there are many rally cars that were developed and never got the chance to complete.
From the heady days of the insane Group B rally cars through to the more focussed era of the Subaru Impreza and beyond, rallying has created its fair share of four-wheeled champions. Plucky underdogs and sought-after hero cars have all battled it out in conditions that many would think undrivable. So with a healthy back-catalog of competitors to scour, these are the 10 most-winning rally cars of all time.
10 Lancia Stratos HF - 3 Constructor Titles, 17 Rally Wins
Designed by Italian styling house Bertone and powered by a 2.4-liter Ferrari V6 engine lifted from the Dino. The Lancia Stratos put out 275 hp in 12-valve form and 320 hp in 24-valve guise, the car proved to be highly competitive and a spectator favorite.
Highly cherished by collectors, the Lancia Stratos brought about a new approach to rallying, as it was the first purpose-designed and built vehicle to be assembled for the sole purpose of being a full-blooded rally competition car.
9 Fiat 131 Abarth - 3 Constructor Titles, 2 Driver's Titles, 18 Rally Wins
With a naturally aspirated engine with a 16-valve head and tuned by the wizards at Abarth, the Fiat 131 made the most of its humble 138 hp and proved to be a highly successful vehicle. It used its agility and prowess to beat a path to the winner's podium.
Essentially a tubular steel roll cage clad with boxily styled fiberglass and aluminum bodywork, the Abarth 131 ran a glorious career from 1976 right the way through to 1981 before Fiat pulled the plug on its career.
8 Citroën Xsara WRC - 3 Driver's Titles, 3 Constructor Titles, 32 Rally Wins
Proving that average road cars can become motorsport greats, the Citroën Xsara F2 Kit Car, a lightweight naturally-aspirated two-wheel-drive special, bloodied the noses of its turbocharged all-wheel-drive competitors in truly spectacular fashion.
Generating a very impressive 290 hp, the Xsara F2 eventually gave way to the Xsara WRC and thanks to the addition of a turbocharger now produced 320 hp and gave far more in gear flexibility through a 6-speed sequential gearbox.
7 Citroën C4 WRC - 3 Constructor Titles, 4 Driver's Titles, 36 Rally Wins
In the hands of Sebastian Loeb, the Citroën C4 WRC was seemingly unstoppable, a 315 hp weapon that claimed scalps at every rutted crest. The engine itself is entirely built by Citroën Sport, specifically designed for the purpose.
The C4 WRC was such a good car that it retained an incredible 100% victory rate when competing in tarmac events, winning all 13 asphalt-based sections of the WRC. Its last win was in 2010 during the UK World Rally Championship.
6 VW Polo WRC - 12 Assorted Titles, 43 Rally Wins, 87 Podium Finishes
On the road, the little Volkswagen Polo tends to live in the long shadow cast by its bigger performance brother the Golf GTI, but when it comes to rallying it steps out to bask in its own very well-deserved limelight.
Debuting in 2013, the Polo R WRC obliterated its competition, winning 6 out of the 8 races that it first entered. From here, the 320 hp 1.6-liter turbocharged Polo, capable of hitting 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, dominated the rally scene for 4 magnificent years.
5 Impreza WRX - 162 Varied Championships
The poster child for rallying in the nineties and early 2000s, the mighty Subaru Impreza WRC sprang into life during the 1993 season and, through different generational variations, built up a victory emblazoned 15 years of service.
Over the years, the Impreza WRC has been piloted by some of the best and fastest rally superstars to have ever completed within the sport. We're talking about the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Tommi Makinen, and Petter Solberg, to name but a few.
4 Audi Quattro - 2 Driver's Titles, 2 Constructor Titles, 23 Rally Wins
Circled in thick red marker, the Audi Quattro is noted as the car that redefined rallying. Based on the road car, it channeled its 300 hp to all four wheels, it came as a revelation and pointed teams who wanted to stay competitive in a whole new engineering direction.
The Audi Quattro is also notable for being the weapon of choice for Michele Mouton in 1981 as she plowed through the male-dominated field of competition to become the sport's first female driver to win a World Rally Championship.
3 Peugeot 205 T16 - 2 World Rally Championships, 50% Entry Win Rate
Homologated for bonkers Group B rallying, the Peugeot T16 took the well-respected standard 205 road car and pumped it full of industrial-strength steroids, resulting in a monster that featured a 400 hp mid-mounted engine and all-wheel-drive.
Cracking 60 mph in a ridiculously fast 2.8 seconds, the T16 would go on to win fifty percent of all the events that it was entered into, a statistic that still stands as a lasting testament to its speed and agility for crossing all types of surfaces.
2 Lancia Delta HF Integrale - 6 Constructor Titles, 46 Rally Wins
When the wild and overpowered beasts that made up Group B rallying were banned, Lancia turned to their small, yet highly capable, Group A-classed Delta HF hatchback to forge a path to victory thanks to its natural ability as a rally car.
Building on this success, the 16v Integrale was developed as a purebred rally car, it went on to be one of rallying's most successful competitors and gained heroic status. As a homologated road car, the Integrale 16v is still, today, a force to be reckoned with.
1 Toyota Celica ST185 - 4 Driver's Championships, 2 Constructor Titles, 30 Rally Wins
The remarkable Toyota Celica ST185 still holds the title of being the company's most successful rally car, yet wasn't born a winner. Initial suspension setups and powertrain faults hindered the car until a series of revisions unleashed its full potential.
Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produced just shy of 300 hp and was connected to an all-wheel-drive system. This allowed the Celica to summon up amazing levels of grip and handling to ensure win after win.