The 2016 World Rally Championship is gearing up to be one of the most exciting seasons in its history, staged in some of the world’s most gruelling locations from the classic Monte Carlo Rally to a brand new event in China in September.
Tough conditions will push drivers, co-drivers and their cars to the limit and a recent surge in the sport’s popularity has seen lots of new manufacturers throw their hats into the ring – building super-powered versions of everyday family cars to surprise and delight millions of fans.
But what if manufacturers were given free rein to build exactly what they wanted? That’s the question we asked ourselves and these are the oddball results. Few – if any – of these cars will ever be built, so these awesome exclusive renders will have to do instead.
Go on, car makers of the world… build these!
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo might have an impressive trophy cabinet of racing victories, but is less well known for its success on gravel or snow – until now. The Alfa Romeo Giulia has already been spotted testing at the Nurburgring race circuit and it looks set to be a credible rival to the BMW M3 when it goes on sale in 2016. We wondered, however, what if Alfa Romeo took this super-saloon off the road before it’s even hit tarmac?
Giant wings, splitters and other extreme aero bits dominate the body of what is (or used to be) a handsome and restrained executive saloon. Every panel sports a new vent or intake but the most important modification (and one no Italian car should be without) is the iconic Martini racing livery, inspired by the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale.
Audi TT Quattro
Audi is credited with bringing four-wheel drive to the world of rallying with the famous ‘Ur-Quattro’ in the 1980s. A combination of a warbling turbocharged five-cylinder engine and unbeatable traction transformed this smart German coupe into a world-beating rally car.
It’s a shame Audi isn’t likely to return to the world of rallying any time soon because the latest TT looks stunning after a WRC makeover. Vast flared arches, an insane rear wing and more holes in the bonnet than a cheese grater help transform this capable and compact sports car into a fire-breathing, snow-storming rally monster. What better way to earn the TT the recognition it deserves?
Fiat 500 Abarth
Fiat has been enlisting the help of tuning specialist Abarth to develop high performance rally cars for years. Modifications to both the original Fiat 124 and the Abarth 131 made them race-winning material in their day. The original 500 from the 1960s had its rear-mounted engine permanently on display thanks to an engine cover that was held open to help cooling and aerodynamics.
Subsequently, a Fiat-backed return to the world of rallying with the latest 595 Abarth doesn’t seem too pie in the sky. With the ubiquitous giant wheel arches and a host of huge spotlights, it really looks the part – this WRC hot hatch could prove to be as much of a giant-killer on the dirt as it is on the tarmac.
Ford Mustang RS200
When Ford entered the world of rallying in 1984 it chose not to develop an existing vehicle but to build an all-new car from the ground up. The original RS200 was a composite-bodied, four-wheel drive sports car capable of shrugging off colossal jumps and dangerous terrain with ease, but sadly rule changes meant it was killed off before it could realise its full potential.
The Ford Mustang has gained a similar reputation as a hardy and resilient performance car – although it’s probably more at home on the drag strip than storming through Finnish forests. The latest model could make for a convincing rally car, but the sight of a huge American coupe tearing down tight rally stages is what really seals the concept for us.
Lancia Delta Integrale
Lancia may not be as popular in the UK as it once was (OK, they’re not even sold in the UK), but there’s no denying the almost innumerable successes achieved by the Italian firm in the world of rallying. The Fulvia, Stratos, 037 and Delta helped Lancia win 11 world championships, more than any other manufacturer.
It seems only right then that Lancia should return to the world of rallying, and what better car to do this with than the modern incarnation of the Delta – one of the most famous cars the sport has ever seen. If our concept is anything to go by, a Delta in Alitalia livery would certainly look the part… squinting from a considerable distance.
Mercedes S-Class – the ‘Red Pig’
A rallying version of the luxurious Mercedes S-Class may seem a strange choice but Mercedes built a 300SEL race car in 1971, so bear with us. That car was affectionately known as the ‘Red Pig‘ and was built for the race circuits of Europe rather than storming the sands of Australia. It did, however, achieve an admirable second place at the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa in 1971.
With the firepower the current S-Class has at its disposal – we’ll take the twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 from the S65, if you’re asking – not to mention the Coupe‘s Curve Tilting function that lets it push into corners like a two-tonne superbike, the big saloon could humble more rally-ready machines. Whether its all-seeing night vision would make it through the evening scrutineering we couldn’t say for sure.
The current generation Porsche 911 is the latest in a long line of world-beating performance cars. Over the past half century, the 911 has been victorious in races the world over but arguably the ultimate evolution of this machine was the iconic 959 rally. This jacked-up, four-wheel drive monster proved unreliable at first but eventually won the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally in 1986.
Our 911 looks stunning as a true rally-worthy supercar should, especially with a bull bar, six spot lights and wide arches riveted to the body. Blue and white (and now banned) Rothmans cigarette livery completes what is one of the more believable rally cars on our list.
The original Alpine gained many fans during the ’60s and ’70s thanks, in part, to winning the fabled Monte Carlo Rally in 1971 and 1973. Mounting the engine at the rear, a la the Porsche 911, lent the car not only a unique visual profile but also gave it superb traction on slippery roads.
Renault itself has shown multiple Alpine concept cars in recent years and it’s possible a production model could go on sale in 2016. We’ve based this design on one of the more recent concepts, and the prospect of it becoming reality has made us feel just a little giddy.
Rolls Royce Wraith
You’ll be guaranteed an ‘airy’ ride in this bonkers Rolls Royce Wraith rally car concept. This has to be one of the more madcap creations ever to take to the dirt but it’s actually inspired by an oddball vintage Corniche that competed in the Paris-Dakar rally.
In a car as mad as this you’re more likely to be reading the pace-notes to your chauffeur than taking the wheel yourself, but there’s something so deliciously wrong about off-roading a Rolls Royce. The Wraith’s built-in champagne flutes will add a touch of class to the podium top spot…
Volkswagen Touran rally car
Considering the obscure niches opening in the new car market everyday, it may not be long before a four-wheel drive, rally-bred MPV actually appears. A Volkswagen Touran rally car would be perfect if your school run regularly takes you through Timbuktu or outer Mongolia.
The Volkswagen might not be everyone’s first idea of an all-conquering rally car but the Touareg SUV succeeded in winning the Paris-Dakar rally both in 2009 and 2010, while the Polo R has been victorious in the World Rally Championship every year since 2013. A fully-fledged Touran rally car, as daft as it might seem, might not be such a silly idea after all – just think of all the kit you could carry…
Not a rally fan?
How about checking out the cars we think Star Wars characters would drive? Or even some very British Mad Max vehicles? Or perhaps our Jurassic Park car that we think the filmmakers missed when making the last movie…