Here at Trailing Throttle, we love rallying. We are a website about driving, after all.
There’s hardly a motorsport topic that is guaranteed to spark debate more than ‘Who is the greatest rally driver of all time?’
Okay, there’s ‘Was Michael Schumacher better than Juan-Manuael Fangio?’, or ‘Was the Lancia Stratos a better car than the Ford Escort?’. In fact they’re all great discussion topics…. but I digress.
Back to rallying, and my highly accurate listing of the top five best WRC drivers ever to Scandinavian flick.
1. Sebastian Loeb
Not my favourite by a long shot, but as a driver, Seb was untouchable. The trained gymnast overshadowed all competition in a career that saw nine consecutive World Rally Championships. Most points ever, most podiums ever, most stage wins ever. In a period when time differences are measured in hundredths of a second, he could take a gap that would make even the best competitor look slow. A freak!
2. Juha Kankkunen
Over a 19 year works career that spanned Group B, Group A and World Rally Cars, Kankkunen was consistently a winner, being fast, cool and intelligent, and making few mistakes. Four world championships with three different manufacturers is remarkable.
3. Bjorn Waldegard
The first FIA World Rally Champion, a title earned in 1979 by this fast Swede. Very few can match Waldegard’s longevity, with a factory career stretching over 23 years, and many wins in various rallies well into the 21st century and his seventh decade.
4. Colin McRae
Iconic, fast, spectacular, mercurial, tenacious. All words that can be used to describe McRae. With a well-earned reputation for knocking corners off cars and making lots of work for his service crews, McRae was electrifying to watch on stage. He never gave up, and few will forget the palpable disappointment when the clutch in his Skoda failed late in the 2005 Rally Australia, robbing him of an almost certain podium in a drive that epitomised all that McRae was about.
5. Pat Moss
Stay here with me people. The younger sister of Stirling Moss proved not only to be one of the fastest women rallying in her time, but one of the fastest rally drivers of her time – period. An accomplished equestrienne, Pat Moss earned factory drives – on merit – with BMC (most famously in the Austin Healey 3000), Lancia, Ford and Saab. Her win in the 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege Rally is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever drives in any form of motorsport. Multiple International Rally placings and podiums guarantee her a spot in my top five.
Paddy Hopkirk – the Irish MINI and BMC legend, and fast driver. One year the French had to ban the MINI to stop him winning the Monte!
Hannu Mikkola – if only for his advice over the radio to his Audi team mate, Michele Mouton, when her car was on fire – “drive it in to the lake!”
Ari Vatanen – who doesn’t love Ari Vatanen? Seriously, seriously fast, unpredictable and unlucky to have only one WRC title to his name. When you meet him you see that he’s a truly wonderful human, and deserving of rally legend status!
Ken Block – sorry, I don’t know what happened then…
Andrew Cowan – the brilliant Scot dominated endurance rallies in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as proving fast on sprint rallies too.
Carlos Sainz – my personal favourite. Spectacular, sometimes unpredictable, unbelievably fast on his day.
Tommi Makkinen – four consecutive WRC titles in the late-1990s. A truly brilliant rally driver
There you have it. I don’t expect you to agree, but how about we get a discussion going?
Break out the beer and chips!