The last time a 2WD car scored WRC points

Only three drivers this century have scored overall WRC points in a two-wheel-drive car

Rally de Portugal, Faro 27-30 05 2010

Prior to last weekend’s Rally Japan, 17 years had passed since one of Japanese most famous rallying surnames had scored a World Rally Championship point.

That surname is Arai. The driver? Toshi. The last event he scored on? His home one, driving a Subaru Impreza WRC in 2006.

On his first start in a World Rally Car in four years, there’s no doubt that what the 2005 and 2007 PWRC champion achieved that day on the gravel of Hokkaido was impressive. But his son may just have one-upped him in 2023 on the asphalt of Nagoya.

Why? Because Hiroki Arai became the first driver to score a WRC point with a two-wheel-drive car since April 2010. That’s 13 and a half years ago.

Hiroki Arai

There was once a time when two-wheel-drive was the perceived fastest way to go rallying. It took Audi and its revolutionary quattro for that thinking to change. Others soon joined the bandwagon but two-wheel-drive cars did remain competitive for a while – particularly on asphalt events.

Philippe Bugalski won two events outright in a front-wheel-drive Citroën almost 20 years after Audi’s quattro first won in the WRC back in 1981, but every single WRC event held in the 21st century has been conquered by a four-wheel-drive machine.

Arai didn’t break that mould in Japan with his 10th place finish. But the Peugeot 208 Rally4 did join a rather elusive list of just two other drivers to score overall points with a two-wheel-drive car this century.

And he’s in some pretty good company.

Sébastien Ogier

Rally of Jordan, Amman, 24-27 04 2008-

The now eight-time world champion was the first driver of a two-wheel-drive car to register WRC points on the board since Bugalski and Jesús Puras’ 1-2 finish for Citroën on the 1999 Tour de Corse. And Ogier did it on his world championship debut.

Taking on that year’s JWRC – which he and Julien Ingrassia would win at a canter – Ogier headed for Rally México armed with a Citroën C2 S1600 and barely a word of English in his vocabulary.

Winning the category turned out to be no trouble at all for Ogier, despite an immediate 10-second penalty for arriving at the first time control one minute late. His final advantage over Jann Mölder’s Suzuki? A cool 1m31.9s.

But intriguingly, Ogier was moving his way up the leaderboard too. The demise of both works Suzuki SX4 WRCs and Gigi Galli’s Stobart Ford meant the top eight (this was the era when points were only awarded as low as eighth) was starting to be filled with cars usually not found there.

Local hero Ricardo Triviño had thought he had secured that last points-paying place in his Peugeot 206 WRC, but was excluded from the event – thus handing Ogier eighth overall and one world championship point to complement his maiden JWRC victory.

Ogier would go on to claim another 2766 points over the next 15 years, with many more still to come.

Aaron Burkart

Rally of Turkey, Istanbul 16-19 04 2010

The driver that was 12th overall, and fourth in JWRC, that weekend in México became the second driver to score WRC points in a two-wheel-drive car with 10th place on Rally Turkey 2010.

After some four seasons in JWRC (and just one win to show for it in Ireland 2009), Aaron Burkart’s time was 2010. Equipped with a Suzuki Swift S1600, the German pipped Citroën-driving rival Hans Weijs Jr by just four points.

Turkey was the only victory of his campaign, but it was a mature performance from the then 27-year-old who beat Alessandro Broccoli’s Renault Clio R3 by almost four minutes.

Intriguingly, the JWRC field that weekend featured several well-known names including current Rally1 stars Thierry Neuville and Martin Järveoja, Kevin Abbring and Seb Marshall.

High attrition in the main WRC field meant that the JWRC runners were beginning to climb the leaderboard, and when Dani Sordo was caught out in the muddy conditions on the third-last stage, Burkart was promoted to 10th place – a position he held to secure one world championship point.

The circumstances were remarkably similar for Arai at Rally Japan 2023, as he began a steady rise forwards as others hit problems. So when Grégoire Munster slid his Ford Fiesta Rally2 off the road on the final morning, Arai had his little Peugeot into the points and kept it there to secure a hugely gratifying result.

Two years after two-wheel-drive cars were officially absolved from the WRC’s championship structure (with Junior WRC going four-wheel-drive in 2022), isn’t it nice to see a front-wheel-drive car still being competitive on the world stage?