Dear Santa. We, at DirtFish, would like this…
It’s that time of year, isn’t it? The cookies have been bought, ready to be given to Rudolph and the rest of his reindeer friends. The kids aren’t willing to sleep, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus flying his way over the chimney tops.
Maybe the only thing giving you sanity as your household descends into madness is us here at DirtFish. At least we like to think so.
But we’re all feeling festive too, and have written our wishlist to Santa in the only way we know how. The rally way.
Which manufacturers would we like to see join (or rejoin) the World Rally Championship?
We’ve each been given one (or two in the case of our greedier team members) wishes to grant, and we’ll see what the elves can do.
We’re not hopeful we’ll get the gifts we’ve asked for, but we can only dream, can’t we…
I’m potentially at risk of making a fun and light-hearted feature all boring and serious here, but there’s a strong case to make that Škoda should be a top-line WRC manufacturer anyway. That’s if Rally2 should become the basis for Rally1, which many – including me – can’t help but agree with.
But politics aside, genuinely how good would it be to have a Fabia back at the top of the rallying tree?
Although Škoda was never quite at the races when it was a fully-fledged World Rally team, it simply hasn’t missed when creating cars for the second-tier – starting with the Fabia S2000, then R5, the Rally2 evo and now (surely) the Fabia RS Rally2.
You’d have to assume that with this know-how, the guys and girls at Škoda Motorsport would produce a winner. Nobody doesn’t want that.
And if nothing else, I miss that distinctive green paint job from the top of the WRC. Somebody, somewhere, make this happen please.
When you think back to iconic rally cars of the ages, you might naturally turn to Subaru or Ford, but many of you will also cast your minds back to that ever so beautiful Group B era Quattro.
Audi doesn’t do things by halves, as it proved during the 1980s when it picked up two WRC drivers’ titles and two manufacturers’ titles in three years.
And while we would no longer see a Quattro-style saloon car feature on the stages again, that wouldn’t rule Audi out from entering a car into WRC’s top-tier class.
It’s also not completely beyond the realms of possibility that this fantasy could become a reality either.
With Audi’s support, Mattias Ekström’s EKS JC team announced last year that it would be developing a Rally2-specification Quattro A1. That car hasn’t become FIA homologated, but it wouldn’t be a huge leap for Audi to decide to re-enter the category with a works Rally1 car.
After all, it is having something of a renaissance in the world of motorsport, after committing to a Formula 1 entry for 2026, despite it pulling the plug on a World Endurance Championship entry.
But what car would be suitable for Rally1? Naturally, an A1 could be built to Rally1 specification, but so too could the A3.
There’s plenty of choice, although the hybrid regulations would be more suited to the A3 given Audi already offers an electric road-going version of the car.
Although not impossible, it’s still unlikely that Audi would return to the WRC after 35 years away from the championship. But just imagine what it would be like to have a yellow and white liveried four-ring badged car hurtling through some of the world’s greatest rally stages.
Audi, I plead with you to make this a reality; what a great Christmas present it would be.
And with WRC having now introduced hybrid cars, and considering new technologies for the future, bringing the Vorsprung durch Technik slogan back to the championship would have more relevance than ever before.
If you look back through the pages of rallying history, you’ll find some illustrious names like Abarth, Citroën, Lancia, Opel, Peugeot – and they all have something in common.
These days the who’s who of rallying’s past all fall under the Stellantis umbrella, so if we were to bring any back from the dead (in rallying terms), we’d probably only get a shot with one.
So what’s it to be? Go romantic and opt for Lancia, a company that’s long overdue a resurgence? Give a nod to recent history and take a look at Citroën? Capitalize on the attention garnered by Peugeot’s recent sportscar return and double down with a rally return too? Or go mad with Mopar just for a laugh?
Hand Stellantis a WRC-sized checkbook and they really couldn’t do wrong picking any one of the brands in its stable. But for me, it’d of course be Lancia.
It’s a win-win. The WRC gets another brand, one that would likely garner renewed interest as people pine for days gone by; and the brand itself would get a welcome shot in the arm thanks to having eyeballs on its contemporary activities for the first time since the ’90s.
The thing is, as with everything, Lancia’s going electric in the real world (cue chaos in the comments). But if we do need to gloss over Lancia’s recent EV range announcement, then there’s still all the other options I mentioned.
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen a Citroën on the stages. Or… how about a Dodge Challenger WRC, anyone?
Hot on the heels of Dom’s suggestion of Stellantis, I’m going to take that and be more specific. As there’s one of its brands in particular that I believe the WRC is crying out for.
Nigh on 20 years after its Group B heyday, Peugeot rocked up back in the service park and showed the world the way with its 206 WRC. Some 20 years on from the 206’s final title, Peugeot is surely now due a return to rallying’s top table.
Because that’s how this works, right?
It’s maybe not a total pipe dream either. Peugeot still has a very small footing in rallying with its 208 Rally4, so maybe a 208 Rally1 isn’t too ludicrous a thought.
But if it happens, petition to convince Niclas Grönholm away from rallycross into the WRC and for Peugeot to sign him. No Peugeot team is complete without a Grönholm. And while we’re at it, shove Kalle Rovanperä in there for full Grönholm/Rovanperä replication vibes.
This is a wishlist after all; it doesn’t need to be totally realistic!
Has there ever been a manufacturer that’s benefited more from rallying? Subaru transformed its image from a maker of cars for farmers to a brand that every man on the street wanted to own via its successful WRC program in the 1990s.
With cult hero Colin McRae leading its line, the iconic electric blue and day-glo livery, and a mean looking machine with a fantastic soundtrack, Subaru led the way with how to achieve marketing success via motorsport. McRae’s own video game franchise helped take Subaru – and rallying – to a completely new audience.
Marketing, after all, is what manufacturers are in the sport for.
Having been away from the WRC for well over a decade, it’s high time Subaru came back and rekindled that flame. Its last world title was nearly 20 years ago, so there’s a whole generation of people who may not associate Subaru with success on the stages. Time for that to change.
Subaru’s American Rally Association success in the intervening period shows that there is still an appetite for rallying within the company and, in Brandon Semenuk, it already has a star in the making to slot into the driver’s seat.
Quite a left-field choice I think, but let’s have Alpine back in the WRC.
The French marque has had quite a resurgence in motorsport of late. It’s made their appearance in F1 and is now establishing itself in the World Endurance Championship.
Why not make a comeback to the top level of rallying and make its mark on the top three tiers of world championship racing.
Alpine has got a history in rallying, but that’s going back a few years now. Although earlier this year the outfit did signal a possible intention to return to the WRC in the future.
We’ve got some very talented French drivers in the championship, it’s only right to get a French manufacturer back since Citroën’s departure at the end of 2019.
Not by any means a certainty, but how nice would an Alpine rally car look in today’s WRC era?
Dear Santa (with Oliver Hoffman in copy)
It has to be. Ingolstadt’s been responsible for the last four decades of turbo-charged total traction in the World Rally Championship, so it seems only sensible to have the word quattro back where it truly belongs.
Let’s forget all this Sauber, F1 nonsense and remember where Audi’s sporting heritage really sits (yeah, forget all that Auto Union stuff as well…). It sits very firmly in the mud.
Mr. Hoffman, are you making notes? You should be.
In 1981, Audi changed the way the world looked at rallying and the next homologation cycle provides the opportunity for innovation to shape a generation. In a word, hydrogen. In a sentence, make hydrogen and that fuel cell thing a workable solution. Yes, Toyota’s ahead already, but instead of going around in circles, do something more sensible instead.
And another thing, team kit has to hark back to the 1980s. I want to see everybody decked out in cream rally jackets with black, red and grey piping around the Audi Sport badge on the back.
Got that. Good man. Make it happen. There’s a mince pie and a cheeky dram in it for you.