Are these the greatest rally cars ever?

Ford Escort MkII rally car
With the 2012 rally season getting underway with the Monte Carlo Rally, we thought it was time to look back at rally car heroes from the past and almost present, with our pick of the best 10 cars to go sideways.

Agree or disagree with Martyn's list of cars? As always, let us know below.



1. Audi Quattro
Audi burst on to the rallying scene in 1981 when it introduced the Quattro. Largely based on the road-going Quattro models, the engine of the original competition version produced approximately 300bhp. Over the next three years, Audi went on to introduce the A1 and A2 evolutions of the Quattro in response to the new Group B regulations, with the power increasing to around 350bhp. Key Quattro drivers included Hannu Mikkola, Michele Mouton (who became the first woman ever to win a world championship rally) and Stig Blomqvist.



2. Citroen Xsara
The Xsara World Rally Car was based on the road-going Citroen Xsara hatchback, but ultimately the 310bhp, 2.0-litre engine is unique to the WRC car. The Xsara was one of the most successful cars ever to compete in the World Rally Championship, as it took Frenchman Sebastien Loeb to 28 rally wins and three consecutive Driver's Championship titles from 2004 to 2006. Although Loeb is the best-known Xsara driver, other drivers that have won with the car included Jesus Puras, Carlos Sainz and Francois Duval.



3. Ford Escort RS1800 MK2
As with its predecessor, the Escort MK2 had a successful rally career. The Escort RS1800, was essentially a special car created for rallying. The works rally cars were very special machines as the body shells were heavily strengthened, they were fitted with wide wheel arch extensions and the highly-modified engine produced up to 270 bhp. The late 1970s were a particularly successful period in rallying for Ford. The Mark II Escort continued its predecessor's unbeaten run on the RAC rally, winning every year from 1975–79. Other wins included Bjorn Waldergard's World Rally Championship Driver's title win in 1979, with Hannu Mikkola a runner up and Ari Vatanen in fifth place.



4.Lancia Stratos
The Stratos started a new era in rallying as it was the first car to be designed from scratch for rallying and very successful it was too during the 70s and early 80s. An obvious forerunner of the maddest 80's Group B rally cars, the Stratos weighed just 1000kgs and was powerful (power came from the 250bhp, 2.4-litre V6 from the Ferrari Dino). Launched in 1972, it wasn't until the following year that it became a winner. Sandro Munari and Bjorn Waldegard were the standout drivers.



5.Lancia Delta HF Integrale
In 1988, Lancia achieved 10 wins out of 11 rallies and the world title, well before the end of the season with the 8-valve Delta HF Integrale. No rivals were able to keep up with its unrivalled performance, reliability and durability throughout the season. At the heart of the 8-valve HF Integrale is a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder fuel injected twin cam engine producing 185bhp. This is mated with permanent four-wheel drive, which splits the torque 56 per cent to the front axle, 44 per cent to the rear. Top Integrale drivers included Miki Biasion, Markku Allen, Didier Auriol and Mikael Ericsson.



6. Morris Mini Cooper
The Morris Mini Cooper might only have 70bhp, but when it was combined with sharp handling and amazing cornering ability the Mini was a giant killer. Best known for its Monte Carlo wins, the cars were run by the BMC Competitions Department with Paddy Hopkirk becoming a British hero after an outright win in 1964. Timo Makinen won the following year in 1965 and it should have been three years in a row, if the cars hadn't been excluded on a dubious lighting technicality.



7. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally car is probably closest in concept to the Subaru Impreza and despite the fact that Tommi Makinen won three World Rally Championships from 1996 to 1999; it's the Impreza that's better known. The Lancer Evolution was unique amongst its rivals in the World Rally Championship, as it was a homologated Group A car, which was slightly modified to be able to race competitively against World Rally Cars. Other top Mitsubishi drivers included Richard Burns, Alister McRae and Francois Delecour.



8.Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
Audi might have had the Group B championship its own way, were it not for the introduction of the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. Designed from the ground up as a rally car, the only requirement that Peugeot gave motorsport boss Jean Todt was that it had to look like its new 205 supermini. The shape was about the only thing similar to the 205, as most of the engine and running gear was moved to the back to improve weight distribution. Ari Vatanen scored the Turbo 16's first win in Finland back in 1984. For the next two seasons Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen dominated in the original or more outrageous E2 format.



9. Saab 96
Sweden's Nordic environment didn't just breed great rally drivers such as Erik Carlsson; it bred great rally cars once too. Not as well known as the Mini Cooper, but it did make people take notice of the Saab brand in its day. It wasn't massively powerful, but what it lacked in performance it more than made up in road holding and reliability. The 96 made its mark on rally history, winning the RAC (British) Rally three times between 1960 and 1962, and the Monte Carlo Rally in 1961 and 1962. Key Saab 96 drivers included Simo Lampinen, Per Eklund, Pat Moss-Carlsson, Tom Trana Stig Blomqvist and Carl Orrenius.



10. Subaru Impreza 555
The Impreza was the car that announced Subaru as a serious contender for the World Rally Championship title. Introduced in 1993, Subaru would only let the Impreza race once the bigger Legacy that preceded it was a winner. Compared to the later WRC cars, the Impreza 555 looked pretty much standard. There was no fancy body kit, with just the tamest rear wing fitted. It did have the all conquering 300bhp, flat four engine and four-wheel drive, which in the hands of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz chased their way to the title, with McRae being successful and sealing his title at the season ending RAC Rally. Replaced by the World Rally Car era, it still remains a car of champions.

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