The votes are in, and the verdict is to be delivered.
We asked you to vote for who you thought was the greatest World Rally Championship driver of all-time, and you responded in your thousands!
Each participant could put forward their top three drivers, and the accumulated list of names allowed us to create DirtFish readers’ top 50 drivers ever to grace the WRC – a neat number given 2022 marked the 50th season of world championship action.
Throughout this week we’ll be running through the results. Yesterday we revealed 30-21, on Tuesday you’ll have seen 40-31 and on Monday we unveiled 50-41. Now it’s getting serious and it’s time for 20-11:
20. Stig Blomqvist
The ‘original Stig’ was one of the WRC’s most gifted talents, winning the second round in championship history with Saab on Rally Sweden.
Saab was his home for years before Audi came along with the four-wheel-drive Quattro and lured Blomqvist into its fold. It wouldn’t exactly take the Swede long to get acquainted as he won on debut, again in Sweden.
The 1984 world championship title was the peak of Blomqvist’s career but Stig kept his hand in for years, still competing in the WRC two decades later with his final event being in 2006 behind the wheel of a Group N Subaru.
19. Armin Schwarz
As just a one-time event winner with Toyota in 1991, Schwarz wasn’t the most prolific driver in WRC history but has a soft spot in the heart of many rally fans thanks to his efforts in Škoda’s cumbersome Octavia WRC – going some way to explain his high ranking of 19th.
Schwarz’s first WRC forays were in Audi equipment before he was picked up by Toyota in the early 1990s. A two-year Mitsubishi stint was followed by a Toyota return and then a move to Ford for 1997.
He went on to Škoda, and gave the marque its only podium with third on the 2001 Safari Rally. A two-year Hyundai stint interrupted Schwarz’s Škoda stay which ended after 2005, along with his WRC career.
18. Markku Alén
Famous for his “now maximum attack” phrase and being world champion only for it to be ripped away from him 11 days later, Alén was a stalwart of the 1970s and ’80s, predominantly with a Lancia badge stitched to his overalls.
But he was particularly effective in a Fiat too, winning the 1978 Cup for Rally Drivers in a 131 Abarth. And his eventual tally of 19 WRC victories are testament to his competitiveness.
The pain of 1986 (where he had looked to have beaten Peugeot’s Juha Kankkunen only for Peugeot’s exclusion from Rally Sanremo to be overturned and the results annulled) was the closest he got to title success, but Alén did finish second one more time to Lancia team-mate Miki Biasion in 1988.
17. Michèle Mouton
To this day, Mouton remains the only female driver to win a round of the WRC – which points both to a modern societal issue but also her brilliance some 40 years ago now.
Her breakthrough success on Sanremo in 1981 certainly put a few noses out of joint, but that would have been nothing compared to winning the world title in ’82 had she converted the job.
Discovering her father had passed away just before the penultimate round in the Ivory Coast, Mouton kept it to herself and battled on but ultimately crashed and lost the title to Walter Röhrl. She’d never get as close again – her long spell with Audi ending before 1986 as she joined Peugeot but soon retired.
16. Hannu Mikkola
One of Mouton’s team-mates during Audi’s pomp, Mikkola was one of the WRC’s true gentlemen – and certainly had the talent to win more than just the solitary championship in 1983.
Rising to stardom with Ford, Mikkola lost out on the WRC’s inaugural drivers’ title in 1979 by just one point, and sportingly refused to go back on a pre-season agreement that he and team-mate Björn Waldegård would both contest seven events after suffering technical problems in Greece and Finland.
Joining Audi early in 1981, Mikkola hit the jackpot in ’83 but remained as competitive as ever until the end of his career, claiming one more WRC win in Kenya in 1987 and then joining Mazda for the Group A era.
15. Richard Burns
Often compared and contrasted with the other British driver of his generation, Colin McRae, Burns was the thinking man’s champion with a rigorously calculated approach to success.
His descriptive pacenotes and measured strategies to winning rallies were key examples of that. But Burns was fast, winning more stages than anybody across the 1999 and 2000 seasons for Subaru.
The 2001 world title in an Impreza preceded a switch to Peugeot but Burns failed to win a rally, let alone the title.
There’s a big however though, as he almost achieved the unthinkable by winning a title without winning a rally, but lost the chance to make that happen when the brain tumor that ultimately claimed his life manifested itself in the lead up to the 2003 season finale.
14. Henri Toivonen
Nothing is a certainty in life, let alone motorsport, but Toivonen was looking like a threat for the world championship title in 1986 before that tragic accident on the Tour de Corse that claimed both his and co-driver Sergio Cresto’s life.
Ever since his RAC Rally win in 1980 behind the wheel of a Talbot Sunbeam, Toivonen had been earmarked as a champion of the future.
He joined Lancia in 1984 after two years with Opel, and was saddled with an ultimately competitive 037 given it was rear-wheel-drive and the rest of the frontrunners had four-wheel-drive.
When the Delta S4 was launched for the 1985 RAC, Toivonen was unleashed. He won the rally, and then did the same in his next WRC event, the ’86 season opener in Monte Carlo. It’s desperately sad that nobody found out how his season could have gone on after the fateful trip to France.
13. Petter Solberg
‘Mr Hollywood’ found himself at number 13 in your ranking – and conveniently also won 13 world rallies.
Although Solberg’s first works seat came with Ford as a stand-in for Thomas Rådström, it’s with Subaru that he claimed all of his WRC wins – and of course the 2003 title in famously spectacular style.
But when the Sébastien Loeb/Citroën juggernaut took over, the Solberg/Subaru success dried up.
Although he retired in 2012 after a season with Ford which followed a few years of running private Citroëns, Solberg’s final WRC win was in 2005.
12. Ari Vatanen
Vatanen’s life, let alone his WRC career, could have been very different had he not had that horror smash on Rally Argentina in 1985. It took guts for him to ever get back into a rally car, but in truth he was lucky to even survive at all.
He had dominated the second half of 1984 in Peugeot’s new 205 and looked on course for the ’85 title before the off. But Vatanen did at least have a world title in his pocket after success in 1981 in a Ford Escort, which would be Ford’s last drivers’ title for 36 years.
Always living life to the full, Vatanen’s philosophy of ‘why go slow because it’s boring’ was evident in his driving and made him a firm fan favorite as well as a big threat to all rivals he competed against.
11. Marcus Grönholm
The two-time world champion has the third highest victory count, and ‘Boose’ or ‘Magic Marcus’ Grönholm just misses out on a top 10 billing in your ranking.
The Finn’s WRC career took a while to get going, but once it did – when he joined Peugeot halfway through 1999 – it absolutely took off.
In 2000 he took his first win in Sweden, then claimed three more to become champion. A feat he repeated in 2002 with five wins.
When Peugeot pulled the plug on its WRC program after 2005, Grönholm moved to Ford and challenged for the title twice but narrowly missed out thanks to a roll in Australia in 2006 and a smash into a wall in Ireland in 2007. He retired from full-time competition at the end of that year.
Keep an eye on DirtFish tomorrow when the countdown continues.