WRC’s 50 Greatest Moments: First win for a turbocharged car | WRC.com® | FIA World Rally Championship | Official Website

Mon 07 Nov 2022

WRC’s 50 Greatest Moments: First win for a turbocharged car

As the years went by and the sport developed, so did the technology used in rallying’s top-level cars.

Saab was ahead of its time, but the 99 Turbo’s introduction to rallying came through a simple case of natural evolution. 

The Swedish marque had a strong reputation in rallying circles and Stig Blomqvist - now an 11-time WRC rally winner - had already triumphed at various events, first with the 96 V4 and also with the naturally-aspirated 99 EMS. 

When the 99 EMS’s homologation expired at the end of 1977 season, Saab was forced to find new methods to extract more ponies from its 8-valve engine. Armed with prior knowledge of using turbochargers on its 96 rallycross car in the early 1970s, Saab bolted a Garrett T03 turbo onto its 99 rally car.

Tasked with handling the 270-horsepower two-wheel drive beast was Blomqvist. Stig debuted the car on the 1978 RAC Rally but retired with a broken driveshaft.

The following year, however, history was made. On home soil at the 1979 Swedish Rally, Blomqvist and co-driver Björn Cederberg triumphed by over one-minute - leading home Björn Waldegård’s Ford Escort RS1800 with Pentti Airikkala third in a Vauxhall Chevette. It marked the first-ever WRC win for a turbocharged car. 

The 99 Turbo was something of a one-hit wonder, however. Blomqvist entered the RAC Rally later that year but crashed out in Kielder and Saab withdrew its involvement from rallying in 1980.

Cover Photo: © McKlein