When it comes to fame and fortune in motorsport, Formula One drivers always dominate, the grand prix circus’ mix of speed and glamour helping it grab all the headlines.
However, if you’re looking for the bravest and most versatile pedallers on the planet then you need to trek into the forests or climb up a mountain and seek out a rally driver. With a need to get a grip on gravel, tear-up Tarmac and scorch through the snow, these drivers have to be adaptable and fast everywhere. But who’s the best of the best, and how to decide?
You could just go with the statistics, but we’ve decided to dig a little deeper and look behind the numbers to come up with our top ten. Favouritism might play a part too. To keep things as consistent, however, we’ve only picked drivers who’ve competed since the WRC’s official inception in 1979. So, do you agree with our choices, and if not who would be your picks? Let us know in the comments below.
Sebastien Ogier – Wins: 50 World titles: 7
He hasn’t as many victories or WRC championships as the other Seb, but the ones he has achieved have arguably been even more richly deserved. As soon as he went toe-to-toe with Loeb at Citroen it was clear Ogier was the real deal, and he remains one of the few to beat the elder Frenchman in a straight fight in equal machinery.
Blisteringly quick on every surface and possessed of an uncanny ability to look after his tyres even when setting fastest times, Ogier also has a ferocious work ethic that leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of perfection. Titles in the all-conquering VW Polo were expected, but his two crowns won in the private M-Sport Fiesta against the factory might of Hyundai and Toyota best demonstrate the abilities of his exceptional talent.
Perhaps more worryingly for the competition is the fact he’s not quite finished yet. Yes, 2021 will be his last year before retirement, but it’d be a brave person that best against him leaving with an eighth crown perched on his head.
Juha Kankkunen – Wins: 25 World titles: 4
Markku Alen – Wins: 19 World titles: 0
Like a Stirling Moss of the stages, Markku Alen is arguably the greatest driver never to have won the world title. Okay, that’s not strictly true, as he was champ for 11 days in 1986, before the politically charged machinations of governing body FISA stripped him and his Lancia team of victory in that year’s Sanremo, handing the crown to arch-rival, Peugeot’s Juha Kankkunen.
Known for his ‘maximum attack’ catchphrase, Alen was one of the out-and-out quickest there has ever been. He spent nearly twenty years driving for Fiat and Lancia, leading to a temperament that was more fiery Latin than typically ice-cool Finn. Most of his success came in Lancia Deltas, both Group A and B, but it was the mid-engined 037 that he most enjoyed, despite the trouble he had folding his lanky frame into its cramped interior.
This gossamer light, supercharged rear-wheel drive racer took him to back-to-back victories on the 1982 and 1983 Tour de Corse rallies, making him one of the few Finns that was as fast on tarmac as on gravel.