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. The current reigning world champion is Sébastien Ogier, who has won the driver's title for five consecutive years since 2013. 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 In Name Only 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 NASCAR vehicles are constructed), but was shortly banned following a series of accidents that cost the lives of several drivers and spectators. Despite the aforementioned tragedies, fans of the sport view Group Bnote as the WRC's Golden Age.
Much like 24 Hours of Le Mans 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 Boring Invincible Hero (much as Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominated in Formula One). In this time the championship, which rivalled F1 in the 1980s and 90s, faded into obscurity slightly. This Dork Age was exacerbated by many prominent drivers retiring or, tragically, passing away — 2001 champion Richard Burns died from cancer, the massively popular Colin McRae (of Colin McRae Rally fame) dying in a helicopter crash, and Estonia's Markko Märtin 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 The New10s 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.