Whether you’re a motorsport fan or not, you’ve definitely heard of rallying. This sport is among the few that sit at the pinnacle of extreme vehicle performance. It involves a unique skillset from drivers as well as outstanding engineering and design skills from those behind the curtain. This is because these cars are designed and built to withstand the abuse of off-road race tracks while still managing to extract as much performance as possible from their hardened powertrains.
Over the years, car manufactures who participate in rally competitions have strived to build cars that don’t just go fast but also go the distance. This drove innovation through the roof, which brought forth some of the most iconic cars ever seen in motorsports. And in this piece, we’ll look at ten legendary rally cars that topped the fan’s list. So, dig in.
10 1973 Lancia Stratos
At the start of 1970, Audi launched what was one of the most dominant cars in rallying – the Quattro. And Lancia's answer to it was the 1973 Lancia Stratos.
The 1973 Lancia Stratos was one of the greatest and most iconic rally cars in history. This Italian beauty featured a 2.4-liter inline 4 engine that pushed 265 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque to its rear-wheel-drive drivetrain.
The Lancia Stratos dominated the World Rally Championship from 1974 to 1976, beating the Quattros to Audi’s surprise. Lancia produced 500 units of this car. At its peak, the Stratos was driven by Sandro Munari and Björn Waldegård.
9 1975 Ford Escort RS1800
In the early 70s, Ford introduced the world to the Ford Escort RS1600, which later evolved to the Ford Escort RS1800. This car was built specifically for rallying. It featured a 1.8-liter inline-four engine that pushed 115 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque.
In its early days, the Escort won the East Africa Safari Rally Championship with Hannu Mikkola behind the wheel. It later went on to win a number of titles with drivers like Ari Vatanen and Björn Waldegård behind the wheel.
8 1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1
Audi is one of the many car brands under the Volkswagen group. Volkswagen has gained notoriety for building practical high-performance cars.
In 1985, Audi unveiled the Audi Sport Quattro S1 at the Lakes Rally. This car was powered by a 2.1 inline 5 engine that pushed 540 horsepower and 435 lb-ft of torque. The recirculating air system helped reduce the turbo lag on the S1.
At its peak, the Quattro S1 was driven by legendary drivers who included Michele Mouton, Walter Röhrl, and Hannu Mikkola.
7 1986 Ford RS200 Evolution
Ford is one of the most popular American car companies in the world. It is renowned for its trucks, muscle cars, supercars as well as practical daily drivers
The Ford RS200 Evolution was a car designed and built for racing in Group B rallying. This American beauty was powered by a 2.1-liter inline-four engine that pushed 580 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque to its four-wheel-drive drivetrain.
This ride made it to the Guinness World Record book as the fastest accelerating rally car of its time. Stig Blomqvist was among the few drivers who had a chance to drive this beast.
6 1997 Subaru Impreza S3 WRC
For the longest time, Subaru has been the go-to for anyone in the market looking for a budget rally car. In 1997, Subaru and Colin McRae collaborated to form one of the most dynamic racing duos in history.
The 1997 Subaru Impreza S3 WRC was powered by a 2.0-liter Boxer inline-four engine. This engine pushed 310 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque to its four-wheel-drive drivetrain.
The Subaru Impreza S3 WRC competed against Mitsubishi with Colin McRae behind the wheel and Tommi Mäkinen in the Mitsubishi. It won the Manufacturer’s title three years in a row.
5 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV
The 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV was built to commemorate the four years of Lancer’s development. The Evolution IV made its debut in 1997 at the Monte Carlo rally event.
This Japanese beauty featured a 2.0-liter inline-four engine. This engine had a max power output of 280 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. All this power was pushed to its four-wheel-drive drivetrain.
Tommi Mäkinen was the man behind the wheel when the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV won the Portugal Rally and Catalunya Rally. He went ahead to win the WRC Drivers Championship thrice in a row in this car, from 1997 to 1999.
4 1999 Ford Focus WRC MK1
The Ford Focus RS is one of the many cars that are scheduled to be discontinued in 2021. The Ford Focus RS can trace its roots back to one of the most iconic rallying cars in history – the 1999 Ford Focus WRC MK1.
The 1999 Ford Focus WRC MK1 debuted at the 1999 Monte Carlo event. This rally beast was powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four engine. This engine pushed 300 brake horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque to its four-wheel-drive drivetrain.
The Ford Focus WRC MK1 was driven to victory by a number of legends including Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, and Simon Jean-Joseph.
3 2007 Citroen C4 WRC
The 2007 Citroen C4 WRC debuted in 2007. This was after it made a guest appearance at the 2006 Paris Motor Show. This beauty was built to succeed in the Xsara WRC, which had three World manufacturer’s titles under its belt.
A 2.0-liter inline-four engine powered the Citroen C4 WRC. This engine pushed 315 horsepower and 419 lb-ft of torque to its all-wheel-drive drivetrain.
This French beast went on to win 36 out of 56 rallies that it participated in. Behind the wheel of this champion sat Sébastien Loeb, Dani Sordo, and Sébastien Ogier.
2 1976 Fiat 131 Abarth
The 1976 Fiat 131 Abarth sets the standard of the best rally cars in history. The Fiat 131 Abarth started off as an economical daily driver that turned into a rallying giant killer almost overnight.
A 2.0-liter inline-four engine powered this Italian beauty. This engine had a max power output of 140 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to its rear-wheel-drive drivetrain. This car rose to its peak, thanks to the marvelous work of Markku Alen and Walter Röhrl behind its wheel.
1 1985 Peugeot 205 T16
In 1985, Peugeot built a car that was specifically built to compete in the Group B rally competition. The 1985 Peugeot featured a 1.8-line four-cylinder engine that pushed 460 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque. This engine pushed its power to its four-wheel-drive drivetrain.
During its reign, the Peugeot was driven by legendary drivers Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen, and Juha Kankkunen. This ride won the Manufacturers’ title in 1985 and 1986. After the 1986 accident that caused the death of Lancia drivers Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto, Peugeot retired from rally racing.