What’s your favorite rally car and why? In the first of a new series, we ask some of the rallying and rallycross world’s leading figures about the car which started the passion, what made it so memorable and why it deserves the recognition it got (or not!).
Every rally fan has a special relationship with a particular car or cars. There are many reasons why we’re attracted to certain vehicle. It can be the sound, the design, the livery or even the driver behind the wheel.
The great thing about rallying (and rallycross: don’t worry, we’re not ignoring RX machinery), is that there is a plethora of cars across the decades from which to choose. The spectacular to the hideous, the wonderful to the downright weird. As fans, we love the drivers, the rallies and the cars. Moreover, we love talking shop.
Although he’s the official commentator for the World Rallycross Championship, Andrew Coley is also a “rally guy”. And his pick is a car which upset the World Rally Championship applecart in the 1990s, the Peugeot 306 Maxi.
The hugely popular ‘F2’ cars were outrageously fun to watch, even better to listen to and always a dark horse on the asphalt events of the late ’90s. Think Jésus Puras, Philippe Bulgalski in the Citroën Xsara. But the 306 Maxi in the hands of Gilles Panizzi and François Delecour, among others, is what sticks with Andrew.
What springs to mind when you think of the Peugeot 306 Maxi?
The main thing about the Peugeot 306 Maxi is that, bizarrely, I don’t have any memories of seeing it in the flesh and I think that just goes to show you what a powerful vehicle it was. Not in terms of the power of the engine, but in terms of emotion I suppose. Of course, I was aware of the F2 cars, we had the Renault Maxi Mégane in the UK which I also loved, competing in the British Rally Championship with the blue and yellow cars. Those things were just etched in my memory.
At the top level in the WRC, it was the Seat Ibiza F2 and then the Evo2 version of that, and then the 306 Maxi. But that’s the thing, apart from when I’m commentating at Brands Hatch, I’ve never seen one in real life. There’s a guy called Chris West [in the MN Circuit Rally Championship] who drives one but that’s probably about it. It’s not even a real Peugeot 306 Maxi but even then, I’m like: ‘aw man, I’d love that car’.
What is it you appreciate the most about the car?
What I love about the car is a combination of the noise, the drivers who were able to challenge the frontrunners of the WRC as well, much to the annoyance of the WRC factory teams. Just hearing it at 10,000rpm, high up the revs all the time, seven-speed box as well is just incredible to listen to. I’ve watched the onboards on YouTube loads of times and it never gets old. There’s one of Delecour pulling seventh gear in the snow, going downhill and then binning it and that’s another thing I liked about them; they always looked like they were going to have an accident.
They were never going to be as fast as the WRC cars, particularly not in tricky conditions, but the noise and the big wide stance of the cars made them really spectacular.
What’s your lasting memory of the 306 Maxi?
For me, it was the fact they were proper dark horses on WRC events. On dry asphalt, the 306 and the Xsaras could challenge for victory – I think Puras won and the 306 Maxi had a couple of podiums, but it’s the 306 Maxi that does it for me. The likes of Panizzi and Delecour are the ones who made the 306 special for me, they were very specialist asphalt drivers (they were more than capable on other surfaces of course) but the physicality of those guys in a Peugeot 306 Maxi was just brilliant to watch, and they still are. They’re pulling on the belts, they’re puffing out, it was absolutely wonderful to watch. Full commitment.
It’s clear from Coley’s words that he is as passionate for the 306 now as he was when they were causing a nuisance for the higher echelons of the world championship. He loves a good YouTube binge watching old onboards of the car in action. We followed his advice and wondered where on Earth the time went.
Contradicting our own rules for this feature series, Andrew will return with not just one more favorite car, but two. Keep an eye on DirtFish each week for some more trips down memory lane.