My favorite car: DirtFish special

For the final edition in our feature series, we pick out three of the most iconic rally cars in history

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They say good things always come to an end at some point, and the same can be said about our Favorite Car series.

We’ve featured some absolute belters over the past few months, from the Peugeot 306 Maxi to the Lancia Delta S1 and the Volkswagen Beetle RX and, quite frankly, there are so many cars close to our hearts that we simply could not fit into the time this series has been running.

For the final edition of this feature, we have a slightly different format. Instead of three questions for one subject, DirtFish’s team of writers each answer the same question: simply, what is your favorite car and why?

Peugeot 205 T16

1986 Olympus Rallye USA copyright:Mcklein

This is my favorite car, both on the road and on the special stages, mainly due to it being simply iconic. Maybe not the most attractive car compared to some of today’s monsters, but by golly, it was a beast.

The Peugeot 205 T16 was not just a powerful piece of kit, it was actually one of the most influential cars of its time and its lifespan went far beyond its known years in the Group B WRC, Dakar Rally and European Rallycross. In fact, so influential it was, that the 205 T16 was rebodied to power the all-conquering Citroën ZX Rally Raid between 1990 and 1997 as well.

Group B rallying was all about pushing the boundaries of technical brilliance and while the Audi Quattro revolutionized the WRC with its four-wheel-drive system, the 205 T16 was almost the unsung hero during the 1980s.

It won back-to-back WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles – as well as German Rally Championship crowns – in 1985 and 1986 and won the Dakar in successive years in 1987 and 1988. It then won back-to-back European Rallycross titles with the great Matti Alamäki in 1989 and 1990. In short, from the end of 1984 to 1990, it was the car to beat.

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Andrea Adamo's memories of the 205 T16

When he was a boy, Adamo can recall the infamous Rally Sanremo 1986 where Peugeot was in the thick of controversy

It continued its life with PSA Group stablemate Citroën to win another three Dakars with Pierre Lartigue between 1994 and 1996 and won the inaugural season of Andros Trophy in 1990.

A veritable all-round car but the key selling point for me – having been too young to actually see it up close in the flesh – was its appearance and sound on a rally special stage. Ideally on asphalt, where the nervous 500hp pocket rocket hatchback really came into its own.

Look at the old YouTube videos of it in action and you’ll appreciate just how glued it is on the road, while simultaneously completely out of control! Only the Peugeot 306 Maxi sparks anywhere close to the emotions I get when I watch the 205 T16.

With or without the rear spoiler – which the E2 version had – it was a bomb of a car and is easily my favorite Group B rally car. Is it my favorite car ever? That’s a really tough question, but it’s definitely in the top one!

Stephen Brunsdon

Subaru Impreza S5 WRC

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It would’ve been so easy for me to pick one of the monstrous Formula 2 Kit Cars that ruled the roost in Great Britain as I was growing up. I can still remember bursting into tears as a three-year-old when Tapio Laukkannen threaded his Volkswagen Golf IV Kit Car past me on a technical section of the Langton stage on the Jim Clark Rally in Scotland.

Those gorgeous revs were too much for my ears to handle at a tender age, but the impression that car – and actually, Laukkanen too – left on me is immeasurable. Had I not been lucky enough to live on the Jim Clark Rally route as a youngster I might not be the massive rally nerd I am today.

However, if I was fortunate enough to be in the position where somebody handed me a crash helmet and said ‘you’ve got 10 minutes, go for a blast in any rally car you like’ I’d be longing to be in a Subaru Impreza S5 WRC – the original Subaru World Rally Car (a car also driven by Laukkanen in later years before my very eyes).

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The best front-wheel-drive rally cars

Formula 2 Kit Cars feature highly on DirtFish's list of the top 10 front-wheel-drive rally cars too...

There are several reasons the Impreza S5 WRC deserves this accolade. Firstly, have you heard it? A lot is made of the soundtrack of Subarus and in particular the Group A Impreza 555 but the savage bark and turbo wastegate chatter of the S5 WRC is in a different league.

Then there’s the men that drove it. As a young British rallying fan Colin McRae and Richard Burns were absolute idols to me, but there were several other heroes like Irish legend Andrew Nesbitt who thrust this car into my own personal limelight. Sacrilege this may be, but the Impreza in Cuisine de France livery is just about perfect.

The car was also a personal favorite of mine on the virtual stages as well as the real ones. It was the car to have on the first computer game I properly played (Mobil 1 Rally Championship) and was a weapon on my Scalextric set too.


Credit: DirtFish Media

In short, the original Impreza WRC epitomizes all the reasons why I got into rallying and all the things that makes it great. Find me somebody who doesn’t like this car and I’ll send you a dollar.

But having said all of that, do go and search for the onboard of Laukkanen on the Abbey St Bathans of the 2000 Jim Clark Rally. On slick tires as it starts to drizzle, the Finn – ably assisted by Kaj Lindström – wrestles with his front-wheel-drive Golf for 14.9 glorious miles. You simply will not regret it.

Luke Barry

*Our deputy editor is not the only person to name the Subaru Impreza S5 as their favorite car this season. We promised in our first edition that World Rallycross commentator Andrew Coley would make a return, and we’ve kept that promise!

Andrew lists the S5 as “joint first place” with his ultimate pick, which was the Peugeot 306 Maxi, describing it as a car “I would absolutely buy if I had the money”. We’re of the same opinion, although it remains a pipe dream as we can barely afford the steering wheel between all three of us!

Porsche 911 GT3

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Credit: FIA ERC

I find it quite funny how some rally fans are afraid of what the cars will sound like if rallying goes full electric. I’m not. You see, most rally cars are packing a turbo. And most turbo cars aren’t particularly strong in the audio department. There’s only one rally car I’ll really miss the sound of when petrol is gone: the Porsche 911 GT3.

You can try and complain about my casual disdain for the average turbo motor if you want. But the scream of the naturally aspirated flat-six of the Porsche 911 GT3 is too loud for me to hear you chewing me out.

A 911 GT3 brings something a little different to the stages. It’s a long, rear-wheel-drive sportscar; not your typical rally fayre of juiced-up hatchbacks. And that engine. Mamma mia. It can sing like nothing else. Dare I say it, it even sounds better than Andy Burton’s Peugeot 306 Cosworth, once a legend in British rallying circles for its 11,000rpm V6 scream.

It passes the Impreza and Lancer test. The rally car you want on your driveway in its road-going form Alasdair Lindsay on the 911

It’s not really at its best on the tight and twisty stuff. But show it an on-the-limit fast section and the 911 GT3 truly comes alive. Like many R-GT cars the 911 is mostly piloted by gentlemen drivers, so you might struggle to see one on the absolute limit. But in the hands of François Delecour, it was a joy to watch.

With little in the way of downforce beyond the uncomplicated single-plane rear-wing, Delecour danced through sweeping turns on the absolute limit of grip, the 911 twitching as he tried to keep the rear from going wherever it pleases. Or he tried sometimes. There was a 50/50 chance he’d arrive sideways with a trunkful of throttle, having some fun. All the better.

We have road cars from well over a dozen manufacturers across several classes in modern-day rally. But can you guess the only one I’ve been searching for in the classifieds recently? The 911. An entry-level 996, admittedly, because I’m not minted enough for any of the other variants. But ultimately, it’s passed the Impreza and Lancer test. The rally car you want on your driveway in its road-going form.

Now, watch this and try to tell me it’s not the best sounding rally car out there!

Alasdair Lindsay