The Early Years: 1973 - 1981

Since the dawn of time, the human race has been a competitive one. The hunger for victory has led to races on foot, by horse and by boat. When the first automobile was invented in the late 18th century, things were no different. 

Motorsport enthusiasts had been competing in rallies around the world for a number of years, but at the time there was no platform for manufacturers and teams to really test themselves under a championship. 

So, after increased demand, the FIA World Rally Championship was born in 1973. Kicking off with Rallye Monte-Carlo, crews faced thirteen mammoth-length international events in a true test of man and machine. 

Renault was crowned inaugural World Rally Champions after its Alpine A110 dominated at the hands of drivers including Jean-Claude Andruet, Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Jean-Luc Thérier. 

Despite its infancy, the WRC in the 1970s was a magical spectacle for teams, drivers and fans alike. It was during this era that we saw some of the most evocative rally cars of all time.

From Italy, Lancia kicked off its illustrious association with rallying with the beautiful Stratos model which was campaigned by drivers including Sandro Munari and Markku Alén. Aside from its futuristic looks, the unforgettable scream produced by the V6-engined machine made it somewhat unique in comparison to the other saloon cars competing at the time. 

Around the same time, Ford entered the sport with what has arguably gone on to become the most successful rally car of all time: the Ford Escort RS. 

Rally legends including Hannu Mikkola, Björn Waldegård Ari Vatanen and Roger Clark all helped to take the World Rally Championship to a new level with their popular ‘sideways’ driving style. 


Year Driver Car   Team
1973 -- --   Alpine-Renault
1974 -- --   Lancia
1975 -- --   Lancia
1976 -- --   Lancia
1977 -- --   Fiat
1978 Markku Alén (FIN) Fiat 131 Abarth   Fiat
1979 Björn Waldegård (SWE) Ford Escort RS1800   Ford
1980 Walter Röhrl (GER) Fiat 131 Abarth   Fiat
1981 Ari Vatanen (FIN) Ford Escort RS1800   Talbot