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1[[quoteright:350:]] ˛The World Rally Championship, a UsefulNotes/{{Rallying}} series organised by the FIA, started in 1973, but didn't officially include a drivers' championship until 1977. The first drivers' title was won by Italy's Sandro Munari.˛˛The undisputed king of the dirt is Frenchman Sébastien Loeb, who won nine straight WRC titles between 2004 and 2012, all for Citroen, before stepping down from the sport to compete in Touring Cars. Loeb was then succeeded by Sébastien Ogier, who has won the driver's title for six consecutive years from 2013 until 2019, when UsefulNotes/OttTanak took the driver's crown after dominating much of the season, the first Estonian to win the driver's championship. Finnish drivers have won fourteen titles, a remarkable number for a relatively small country, though the roads in the forests of Finland are likened to a perfect training ground for rallying. The WRC has also seen arguably the most successful woman driver in top level international motorsports - Frenchwoman Michele Mouton won four events in the 1980s and was second in the 1982 championship.˛˛As of 2018, cars used in the Championship have to comply with the World Rally Car standard, with 1.6 L direct injection turbo engines and four-wheel drive. Engine power is limited to 380 bhp (225 kW). Rallies were formerly held for the Group B car class, which had few restrictions on engine output and materials used (to the point that the cars used are essentially InNameOnly analogues of road cars they were superficially based on - the Metro 6R4 has little in common with the Austin Metro economy car save for the body shape, similar to how UsefulNotes/{{NASCAR}} vehicles are constructed), but was shortly banned following [[NoOSHACompliance a series of accidents]] that cost the lives of several drivers and spectators. Despite the aforementioned tragedies, fans of the sport view Group B[[note]]Which was also derisively nicknamed "Killer B's"[[/note]] as the WRC's GoldenAge.˛˛Much like UsefulNotes/TwentyFourHoursOfLeMans the prominence of the WRC has ebbed and flowed with manufacturer involvement. Early years saw some success for FIAT and Ford Europe before Audi introduced its revolutionary four-wheel drive Quattro car in 1981, which was then eclipsed by the Group B cars after a few years. The late 1980s were dominated by European cars: Peugeot, Audi, and Lancia. The end of the Group B era led to a few years of doldrums in the late 1980s before Japanese marques took prominence, with Toyota, Subaru and Mitsubishi all winning driver and manufacturer titles. These cars were based more closely on road models than the Group B cars and led to many higher performance limited edition "homologation specials" such as the Toyota Celica [=GT4=], Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ford Escort Cosworth, being available in showrooms. ˛˛By the mid 2000s these cars of WRC's Silver Age had all faded away and left Citroen and Loeb as the WRC's InvincibleHero (much as Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominated in UsefulNotes/FormulaOne). In this time the championship, which rivalled F1 in the 1980s and 90s, faded into obscurity slightly. This DorkAge was exacerbated by many prominent drivers retiring or, tragically, passing away -- 2001 champion Richard Burns died from cancer, the massively popular Creator/ColinMcRae (of ''VideoGame/ColinMcRaeRally'' fame) dying in a helicopter crash, and Estonia's UsefulNotes/MarkkoMartin retiring after his co-driver Michael Park was killed in a crash in Rally GB. The general shortening of events dented the appeal of WRC too - until the 2000s rallies were up to five days long often with 30+ stages, many run at night. By the 2000s most events were compacted to three (in many cases effectively 2 and a half given the short number of stages on the final day) with many stages repeated. Rally GB for example once toured around stages in Yorkshire, Northumbria, Scotland and Wales, before being reduced massively to simply Rally GB Wales. Additionally, the sport was affected by The Great Recession of 2008, which was devastating to most of the world's car manufacturers and forced last of the remaining Japanese teams, Suzuki and Subaru, to leave the championships, leaving just Ford and Citroen to compete for the manufacturers title in 2009 and 2010. ˛˛However, starting in TheNewTens the WRC started to gain popularity again with newer, faster cars that have been likened to the Group B cars of yore, and some more manufacturer involvement from Hyundai, Ford, and a returning Toyota Factory team, who made their debut in 2017 as Toyota Gazoo Racing, after previously backing out from the WRC stage in 1999 to focus on Formula One. Citroen however pulled itself out of the championship following the defeat of six-time championship winner UsefulNotes/SebastienOgier to UsefulNotes/OttTanak. Tänak's championship win marked the first time a non-French driver has won the driver's title since Petter Solberg in 2003.˛˛2020's COVID-19 pandemic brought a major blow to the championship schedule, with Rally Mexico shortened to give ample time for crews to head home as countries brace with lengthy lockdowns and quarantines to contain the spread of the virus, on top of the lack of snow in Sweden which also led to said rally being abridged. Subsequent events were also cancelled as a result, though all is not lost as two new events--Rally Estonia and Ypres Rally--were added at the last minute alongside rescheduled rallies in Turkey and Sardinia to make up for the now-truncated season.


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