The diminutive machine from Velizy - too small in its original form, until a flotilla of 206 GT road cars were created with extended bumpers to ensure the car conformed with regulations - was equally capable across all surfaces. Marcus Gronholm took two titles in three years, but few could touch Gilles Panizzi on asphalt at the time.
Another year on and Korea was represented at the highest level with the Hyundai Accent WRC, a car which became a real player as the seasons rolled on. Conversely, Mitsubishi, the team which had demonstrated a massively ability to win rallies in its Group A Lancer seemed unable to find the right ingredients for the Lancer WRC, which never won at the sport’s zenith.
Ford and Citroen are the existing manufacturers who will bridge the gap between the two litre and 1.6-litre formula. The underpinning regulations of the World Rally Car remain, offering manufacturers the chance to bring a simple family saloon and create a hero-maker and world rally winner; MINI is the first new manufacturer to sign up, with the Countryman WRC making its debut next season.
The cars which really defined the era, however are the Focus, in all its guises which helped make Ford the most successful manufacturer in the sport ever and Citroen’s C4 WRC. Talking about the latter, it’s impossible not to talk about Sebastien Loeb.
With seven titles and 62 World Rally Car victories under his belt, if there’s one man who knows how to drive a two-litre World Rally Car, it’s the super-successful, former gymnast from Alsace.
The big question is, will he be the king of next year’s new world order?