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 40-31, and on Monday you’ll have seen the 50-41, now it’s time for 30-21:
30. François Delecour
What if Delecour hadn’t suffered that road accident in a friend’s Ferrari F40 during the 1994 season? Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but the charismatic Frenchman was showing all the hallmarks to be a world champion.
Winning his first events in 1993, Delecour thrived in Ford’s Escort RS Cosworth and won the ’94 Monte (finally, after several Monte close calls) but the accident curtailed his season and he was never quite the same again.
After Ford, Delecour joined Peugeot and drove a 206 WRC for its debut season in 1999, but wasn’t kept on beyond 2000 – famously falling out with team-mate Gilles Panizzi in Corsica. He sought refuge at Ford again before a final kick of the ball with Mitsubishi in 2002.
29. Timo Salonen
Salonen wasn’t exactly what you’d call a typical rally driver. An athlete he was not (he even insisted Peugeot fit an ashtray to his 205) but he came alive in 1985 to win that year’s title.
Salonen served his apprenticeship predominantly in Datsun and Nissan machinery before Jean Todt gave him the call to drive a 205 T16. And although Salonen’s season was a slow burner, four wins on the bounce from Acropolis through to Finland ultimately won him the title.
It was a peak he wouldn’t reach again, but more victories would follow at Peugeot before one final hurrah with Mazda in the Group A era.
28. Kenjiro Shinozuka
Japan’s most successful WRC driver, Shinozuka was a bit of a long-distance African expert and thus won two Ivory Coast rallies back-to-back in 1991 and ’92.
Making that success all the sweeter was the fact he did so in a Japanese car, and he gave Mitsubishi its first WRC win in ’91.
In fact he only ever started one of his 20 WRC events not in a Mitsubishi – Rally Portugal in 1981 where he was 10th in a Ford Escort.
27. Mikko Hirvonen
A perennial bridesmaid in the WRC, Hirvonen may be thankful to not be ranked second here.
But despite the lack of a world title (not for the want of trying), Hirvonen’s was a distinguished WRC career that netted 12 victories – 11 in a Ford and one in a Citroën.
Leading Ford’s assault on the WRC from 2008-’11, he twice took Sébastien Loeb to the final round before ultimately missing out on the title. But he produced some standout victories, including at home in Finland (2009) and in a straight fight against snow expert Marcus Grönholm in Norway (2007).
26. Dani Sordo
One of the WRC’s nicest characters and most appreciated given he’s still at it heading into 2023, 17 years after his top-line debut with Citroën in 2006.
For years Sordo played the supporting role to the rampant Loeb in Xsaras and C4s, and agonizingly kept missing out on a maiden victory. But the other side of an ultimately fruitless Mini switch for 2011-12, Sordo’s day of days finally came in 2013 when he won Rally Germany in a DS3 WRC.
Sordo then joined Hyundai when it returned to the championship in 2014 and hasn’t gone anywhere since – winning two more rallies, both in Sardinia (2019 and 2020), and plenty more podiums.
25. Thierry Neuville
Neuville just scrapes into the top half of your top 50 ranking, ahead of fellow Hyundai long-timer Sordo.
However if Hirvonen is a WRC bridesmaid, spare a thought for Neuville who has finished second in the championship no fewer than five times.
A consistent threat and a winner of 17 rallies, Neuville will once again hunt for his first world title next year in arguably his best position yet, embedded in a Hyundai team that is effectively his.
24. Björn Waldegård
The very first World Rally champion, Waldegård could have been a Lancia legend but instead fled to Ford, frustrated by the politics that favored Italian driver Munari in an Italian team.
And that didn’t work out too poorly for the Swede as he took the 1979 title in a Mk2 Escort. A winner of 16 rallies, the second half of Waldegård’s career became very Africa-focused – entering the Safari as late as 1992 when his Delta Integrale frighteningly caught fire.
Seven of his wins came on the continent, including all but one of the victories he secured in the 1980s.
23. Elfyn Evans
Another active WRC driver, Evans’ WRC career came alive five years ago after a season back in the secondary class.
Rejuvenated, the Welshman claimed his first win on home soil on an historic day when M-Sport also won both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
A move to Toyota in 2020 unlocked even more potential. A winner on just his second Yaris start, Evans led the championship until the final round where he slipped off an icy corner and had to cede it to team-mate Sébastien Ogier.
Evans kept the fight alive to the end again one year later but had less of a shot and duly didn’t win, then fell off the pace a bit in 2022. However his form on the Japan finale suggests he should be back in the race for 2023.
22. Jari-Matti Latvala
Now Evans’ boss at Toyota, Latvala is also the most experienced driver in WRC history with 209 starts.
But like fellow Finn and long-time Ford team-mate Hirvonen, Latvala never managed to become world champion – despite his obvious talent and speed.
He came closest in 2014, jostling with Volkswagen team-mate Ogier before a careless final day crash from the lead in Germany (an event Ogier had retired from) cost him dearly.
Latvala has been key to Toyota’s comeback to the WRC though, winning on just the second rally of the manufacturer’s return and now acting as its team principal since 2021.
21. Kris Meeke
Devastating potential not fully realized. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the Colin McRae protégé’s thrill-a-minute WRC career.
Joining Mini’s project in 2011 looked to be the career break that Meeke needed but the short-lived nature of that program soon put him on the hunt for a new team. Auditioning for Citroën twice in 2013 earned him a full-time drive, and a maiden career win soon arrived on Rally Argentina in 2015.
The next year was his peak, especially beating Latvala in his backyard at Finland. Unfortunately the C3 WRC he’d spent most of that season developing wasn’t great and a few too many crashes for Citroën’s liking suddenly and abruptly cost him his job midway through 2018.
A Toyota lifeline in 2019 netted just one podium and Meeke’s yet to return to the WRC since.
Keep an eye on DirtFish tomorrow when the countdown continues.