The Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard will feature a big rally focus, celebrating the weird, the wonderful and the downright exceptional in the near 50-year history of the World Rally Championship. From the quirky no-name stuff, to the bonafide championship winners, these are our rally cars not to miss at the 2021 Festival.
Eleven lairy rally cars to see at FOS
1972 Alpine A110 Berlinette
The Alpine A110 is the first-year master of the World Rally Championship. There’s no ignoring it, much as the vast presence of Group B and Group A machinery of later years dominates our imaginations when it comes to rallying. Almost doubling the points of the second-placed Fiat Abarth 124 (an example of which you’ll also be able to see at the Festival), the Alpine’s dominance was convincing.
1979 Ford Escort RS1800
In spite of Ford only having three championships to its name, the Blue Oval is an institution in world rallying. It’s near enough been a consistent and formidable competitor, in various guises, since the WRC’s first decade, in which it claimed the first of its three championships. It’s 1979 and the Ford Escort RS1800 is the king of official stage rallying, with Bjorn Waldegård piloting to victory. So catching an RS1800 in action at Goodwood has got to be near-essential for any rallying fan.
1983 Lancia 037 Evo2
In 1983, rallying faced the all-wheel-drive revolution, as the Audi Quattro showed everyone just how devastatingly effective drive to all four wheels could be when traction is limited. But good old fashioned weight distribution and honed dynamics would manage one last win. The manufacturer’s championship would go to the Lancia 037 in 1983, by all other names, a mid-engined supercar. One of the prettiest cars to ever have turned a wheel on a special stage? Quite possibly.
1983 Audi Quattro
Overdone as it is, you can’t talk about rallying without the Quattro. It’s at the very least in the top three defining cars of the sport. We all know its story, we all know how it looks, how it sounds. What’s especially significant about the 1983 car, is it’s a representation of the car the late great Hannu Mikkola won his championship title in. We’ll be celebrating the career of Hannu, with a class of cars dedicated to his memory, in which this Quattro will feature.
1985 Mercedes 190E
Now back to the quirky stuff. The Mercedes-Benz 190E was actually first greenlit on the basis that a version won the World Rally Championship. By the time the 2.3 16 was ready, Audi’s Quattro was already sending ripples across the world of off-road racing, so it was beaten before it even existed. That means it’s not exactly common to see 190s rallying. Happily, our wheelhouse at the Festival of Speed expands beyond the great and the good, to the weird and the wonderful.
1986 Lancia Delta S4
Though most default to the Quattro as the characterisation of Group B as a class, we might consider deferring to this. It’s the Lancia Delta S4. Savagely fast and honestly, probably just downright dangerous, the Delta S4 played its part in period in the demise of Group B, following the deaths of Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto following an accident in 1986. This Kevlar-bodied, turbo and supercharged monster could scarcely be further from the humble hatchback with which it shared a name.
1989 Opel Cabira 4x4 Turbo
From the car that toppled a class, to the car that infuriated a legend. In a class where Escort Cosworths and Celica GT-Fours were battling it out, an Opel Calibra shouldn’t seem so out of place. But it does. Nevertheless, cars were prepared for the highest echelons of rally competition for the early 1990s. This Calibra 4x4 Turbo was one of them, driven in period by Stig Blomqvist. Any potential it had was scuppered by poor reliability, infuriating the super Swede. This car is back in action for 2021 though, and you can see it at the Festival of Speed.
1992 Toyota Celica GT-Four
Speaking of the GT-Four, there’s one of those coming too. It really is candyland for rally fans this year. A 1992 car, it predates the famous restrictor-plate scandal of the 1995 season but still wears that incredible Castrol white, red and green livery. One not to miss.
1999 Subaru Impreza WRC ‘99
Pick a car, any car, from Subaru’s world rally championship endeavours of the 1990s and 2000s and you’ll get a warbling, fire-spitting and likely blue machine to drop your jaw. We’ve chosen the 1999 car to put on this list not because of how good it was – it wasn’t – but because of how revolutionary it was. In fact, it was the paddle-shift tech the WRC99 used that made it unreliable for the first chunk of the season. It wasn’t long before everyone was at it, though. Someone had to blaze the trail.
2000 Peugeot 206 WRC
If we say Peugeot 206 ‘glorious’ might not be the first word that comes to mind. Let’s add WRC on the end and then claim it was perhaps one of the coolest looking cars in the sport at the time. The World Rally Car formula, which took over from Group A, afforded designers a bit more freedom when it came to aerodynamics and performance, to deviate from the road cars on which the racers were based. This Peugeot exemplifies those freedoms we reckon… In fact, it went a bit beyond, given Peugeot had to build a special 206 GT road car with extended bumpers, to homologate it.
2008 Citroën C4 WRC
We of course had to end on a champion. A champion, driven by the champion. This is a Citroën C4 WRC, specifically the C4 WRC that Sébastien Loeb drove to his fifth World Rally Championship title in 2008. He would go on to win four more… As for the 2008 season, it wasn’t a clean sheet of victories for this dynamic due, though 11 out of 15 rallies is convincing if not a lockout. Other fun facts about the C4 WRC? It was the first top-flight rallying drive of none other than Sébastien Ogier. As for the championship-winning car, yes, you’ll be able to see it in action at the 2021 Festival of Speed as Girardo & Co bring it down for a bit of fun in the Sussex sun.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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