Rallying has long been a motorsport that captures the imagination of enthusiasts worldwide. The sight of cars hurtling through forests, sliding around corners on gravel, or tackling treacherous snowy terrain is both thrilling and awe-inspiring. What makes rallying even more fascinating is the evolution of road-going rally cars, machines that are bred for the dirt and the tarmac alike. These machines combine blistering performance with everyday drivability. In fact, these are cars that fans could buy and drive on the road. In this article, we delve into the history of some iconic road-going rally cars. Cars that that have left an indelible mark on the sport and in the minds of fans. So settle in as we bring you the pace notes version of rally reps through the decades in Tarmac Terrorists.

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Ford Escort RS1600 (1970s)

Ford Escort RS1600

The Ford Escort RS1600 holds a special place in rallying history. It was a dominant force in the early 1970s, thanks to its lightweight construction and potent engine. The RS1600 showcased Ford’s commitment to rally success. It was powered by a 1,6-litre inline-four. The high-revving BDA engine produced approximately 100 kW depending on tune. Its compact dimensions, nimble handling and rear-wheel-drive layout made it a favorite among drivers, including the legendary Hannu Mikkola and Björn Waldegård. Mk1 Escorts are still regular competitors in classic rallying and circuit racing. Click here to check out the MST Escort ‘restomod’.

Audi Quattro (1980s)

Audi Quattro

Audi revolutionised rallying with its innovative Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The Quattro dominated the rally scene, proving the superiority of four-wheel-drive technology across a wide variety of terrains. It is credited with singlehandedly changing the course of rallying forever. Its turbocharged 2,1-litre inline-five engine churned out around 150 kW in road trim. That output rose significantly in race trim. With its distinctive boxy styling, signature soundtrack and unparalleled traction, the Quattro remains an icon of rallying history. Click here to read some interesting facts about quattro and its development.

Lancia Delta Integrale (1980s-1990s)

1991 Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 1

The Lancia Delta Integrale is synonymous with rally success. Introduced in the late 1980s, this compact hatchback with econobox origins dominated the World Rally Championship. The Integrale was unbeatable on the world stage from 1987 to 1993. Legends such as Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz and Miki Biasion dominated events around the world. The boxy hatch was powered by a turbocharged 2,0-litre inline-four producing approximately 164 kW in road spec. The Delta Integrale combined turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive, making it a formidable competitor on any surface. It was an object of lust for any teen rally fan of the 1990s, especially in iconic Martini livery. Click here to check out a beautiful Lancia Delta Integrale road car here in SA.

Subaru Impreza (1990s-2000s)

Subaru Impreza 22B STI is a tarmac terrorist

No list of road-going rally cars would be complete without the Subaru Impreza. Introduced in the early 1990s, blue and gold Impreza WRX and WRX STI variants became synonymous with rallying. Even now, years after the company quit racing, people still recall Subarus as ‘rally cars’. The compact sedans were powered by a turbocharged flat-four engines sending power to all four wheels. The most desirable of all is the wide-arch, two-door 22B (as pictured). Famous personalities such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns achieved legendary status in the Impreza forever cementing its place in motorsport lore.

Toyota GR Yaris (2020s)

Toyota GR Yaris rear

Toyota made a welcome return to the world of rallying in the new millennium. It did so with the bespoke Toyota GR Yaris stands. This model was developed specifically to meet homologation requirements of the World Rally Championship. Under the lightweight bonnet lies a turbocharged 1,6-litre inline-three cylinder engine. Peak power is an impressive 200 kW, which is sent to all four wheels via a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. With its lightweight construction and agile handling, the GR Yaris represents the pinnacle of rally-inspired engineering in the 21st century. Click here to read our GR Yaris driving review.