Dani Sordo’s third-place finish on Acropolis Rally Greece moved him up to joint ninth on the all-time list of World Rally Championship podium finishers. It’s perhaps a surprising statistic for a driver with only three WRC wins to his name.
But it is also a measure of the Spaniard’s longevity, consistency and value to his employers as a reliable gatherer of big points.
Here is a rundown of the top 10 drivers with the most podium finishes in WRC history:
9= Dani Sordo
This is Dani Sordo’s 18th season competing as a full factory driver or for a manufacturer-backed team in the WRC, yet only half of them have been on full-time basis.
Instead, the 40-year-old has become the ultimate dependable part-timer, rarely expected to challenge for wins but equally rarely likely to throw his car at the scenery.
Sordo is the driver with by far the fewest wins on this list, but his incredible 18-year streak of podiums began with second place on his home round of the WRC in 2006. Driving the third Citroën Xsara WRC, only his fourth appearance in a World Rally Car, reigning Junior champion Sordo was beaten only by Kronos Racing team leader Sébastien Loeb.
Via a stint in the short-lived Mini team, during which he claimed all three of the marque’s WRC podiums, Sordo is now in his 10th year as a Hyundai driver. In that period that has added 20 podiums (including two wins) to his tally, including two from six starts this year.
9= Markku Alén
One of a surprisingly high number of five drivers on this list never to have been crowned world champion, Markku Alén nevertheless had a very successful WRC career in which he was placed second or third in the standings on six occasions – and was once world champion for a few days before it was overturned in 1986!
Nineteen wins – the most of any driver not to win the title – from 129 starts is an impressive return, with a further 37 other podium finishes.
The long-time Fiat and Lancia driver scored his first podium when he came third on the 1973 RAC Rally in a Ford Escort RS1600. Having joined Fiat, Alén claimed three more the next year before taking his first WRC win in Portugal in 1975, driving a 124 Abarth Spider.
He was still winning more than a decade later, taking three wins from six starts on his way to second in the 1988 points with the Lancia Delta HF 4WD and Integrale.
Alén went on to score the Subaru Legacy’s first podium, on Rally Sweden in 1991, and his last time finishing in the top three was second on the 1993 Safari in a Toyota Celica 4WD, his penultimate factory start.
7= Thierry Neuville
Five-time championship runner-up Thierry Neuville has taken all 18 of his WRC event wins with Hyundai over the past 10 years.
But the Belgian’s first time visiting the podium came the year before he joined the Korean manufacturer. Having impressed as part of the Citroën Junior team in 2012, Neuville joined M-Sport to pilot its Ford Fiesta RS WRC in 2013.
Even up against the Volkswagen onslaught, it took Neuville only until the third round in México to claim his first podium finish. He backed that up with a fantastic run of five consecutive podiums – including four second places – through the summer. Finishing the year with a seventh podium on Rally GB placed Neuville second in the championship, in only his second full season.
The podiums – and wins – have flowed for Neuville in his long tenure at Hyundai, including six so far this season in what could end up as his eighth year in the championship’s top three.
7= Marcus Grönholm
The first world champion we reach on our list is Marcus Grönholm. It took the flamboyant Finn until the age of 31 to earn his first full-time factory seat in the WRC, with Peugeot.
Grönholm was quick to make up for lost time. After five outings in the second half of 1999, and a disastrous 2000 Monte Carlo Rally for the French squad, Grönholm shocked the establishment with victory on Rally Sweden in his 206 WRC. It was his first podium finish – making Grönholm one of only two drivers in this top 10 whose first podium was a win.
Three further wins and three second places followed as Grönholm went on to take the title before adding another in 2002. But the 307 WRC was never as potent as its predecessor, and Grönholm managed ‘only’ three wins and 10 further podiums with it in 2004-2005.
A switch to Ford revitalized Grönholm’s challenge and although he couldn’t quite get the better of Sébastien Loeb in the championship, he was twice runner-up. Grönholm’s final podium came on his last start as a factory driver, finishing second in a Ford Focus RS WRC ’06 on 2007’s Rally GB. His 61 podiums (including 30 wins) had all come within an eight-year period.
6 Jari-Matti Latvala
It’s not surprising that the most experienced WRC driver of all time should feature on this list, even though he’s another never to have won the world championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala was something of a prodigy before Kalle Rovanperä came along and redefined the term. He took his first WRC podium at the age of just 22, finishing third in Ireland as part of M-Sport’s second-string Stobart VK team in 2007.
Upon Marcus Grönholm’s retirement, Latvala was promoted to Ford’s full manufacturer team for 2008, winning second time out on Rally Sweden and adding five further podiums on his way to fourth in the standings.
Three more years with Ford followed, before becoming a mainstay of Volkswagen’s four-year WRC stint and then leading Toyota’s return to the WRC in 2017. While lacking the required consistentency to become a world champion, Latvala was a round winner every year except his final season in the top flight, 2019, when he recorded podiums in Finland and Germany.
5 Mikko Hirvonen
Just edging Latvala with 69 podiums, two more than his former team-mate at Ford, is Mikko Hirvonen – who has the most of any non-world champion.
After a year each with the Ford and Subaru factory teams, Hirvonen was driving a privateer Focus when he took his first podium finish. His fastest time on the final stage of Rally Spain in 2005 was enough to snatch third from Xevi Pons and deny Citroën a 1-2-3 in the process.
Hirvonen rejoined the Ford factory team in 2006 and took over as its lead driver following Marcus Grönholm’s retirement. But at the height of Sébastien Loeb’s WRC dominance, wins were hard to come by. The Finn often had to settle for second or third places, although there were 15 victories in total, including four on the bounce during 2009.
That year, he was on the podium in every rally barring Argentina, when thwarted by an engine failure, as he fell just one point short of Loeb.
A two-year spell at Citroën came while Sébastien Ogier’s VW Polo was steamrollering the opposition but still yielded another 15 podium finishes (including one win). And there were three more in his final season, back at M-Sport, including second on the 2014 Rally GB, Hirvonen’s last WRC start.
4 Juha Kankkunen
While (spoiler alert) his fellow four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen doesn’t even feature in the top 10 podium finishers, Juha Kankkunen is the fourth most successful driver of all time by this measure.
The first half of Kankkunen’s career was during a period when drivers (and teams) rarely contested every round of the WRC, and he then drove through the spell of shorter ‘rotational’ calendars in the mid-’90s. So despite a lengthy career in years, only three drivers in this top 10 started fewer WRC events than Kankkunen’s 162.
That gives Triple K a podium strike rate of 46%, all the more impressive when you consider he ended his WRC career in the uncompetitive Hyundai Accent.
Like Grönholm, Kankkunen’s first WRC top-three finish was in fact a win, driving a Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo on the 1985 Safari. The following year he won his first title and he was still taking top-threes into the new millennium. The last of Kankkunen’s three podiums for Subaru in 2000 was third on the Acropolis.
2= Carlos Sainz
The top three drivers with most WRC podiums are some distance clear of the rest. Two-time world champion Carlos Sainz took home a trophy 97 times from 196 WRC starts, just one podium short of a 50% strike rate.
Sainz was a podium finisher every year between 1989 (his first season in a four-wheel-drive car) and 2005 when he had a two-event encore substituting for François Duval. That is a staggering 17 consecutive seasons.
The first podium finish for ‘El Matador’ came with third on the 1989 1000 Lakes Rally, driving a Toyota Celica GT-Four (ST165). And his last, like a number of others on this list, was on his final WRC start: third on the Acropolis in a Citroën Xsara WRC.
When Sainz retired from the WRC at the age of 43, he had more wins (26) and more podiums than anyone else. But an unprecedented spell of dominance was just beginning…
2 Sébastien Ogier
Matching Sainz’s 97 podiums, but still active in the WRC and therefore likely to stretch clear is the more recent of those dominators: Sébastien Ogier.
Having won the JWRC in 2008, Ogier was promoted straight into a World Rally Car full-time, as part of Citroën’s Junior Team in 2009. It took him only until mid-season to record a first podium finish in C4 WRC, second on the Acropolis.
The first wins came the following year, as Ogier began to challenge team-leader Sébastien Ogier. Choosing to join Volkswagen’s nascent WRC effort meant a year driving Škoda Super 2000 machinery in 2012, his only year without a podium (or indeed a win) since. But it was worth it, as Ogier took over from Loeb as rallying’s undisputed no. 1.
Now driving for Toyota on only a part-time basis, there have been three more podiums (all wins) in 2023 and it is surely only a matter of time before Ogier reaches his century.
1 Sébastien Loeb
Standing alone at the top of the table – as for so many rallying records – is nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb. His incredible strike rate of 65% (120 podiums, including 80 wins, from 184 starts) will surely never be matched over any sustained period of time.
Loeb led the way where Ogier would follow, winning the JWRC with Citroën backing before being fast-tracked to the main WRC team, which was then still in its infancy. Loeb stunned by taking his maiden podium – second in Sanremo – on only his second start in a World Rally Car as an extra-curricular outing during that JWRC title-winning season.
He repeated that result on his third appearance, with second on the 2003 Monte. It would likely have been victory but for a two-minute penalty. Instead, the first win came in Germany later that year and Loeb would soon commence a period of dominance like nothing the WRC had ever seen before.
Loeb extended his win and podium tally by famously triumphing at the age of 47 on the Monte last year in M-Sport’s Ford Puma Rally1, and many assumed his part-time role with the squad would continue this year. That didn’t materialize, and whether Loeb will have the chance to further extend his tallies remains to be seen.