There are certain cars we see on the roads everyday and don’t really pay much attention to. These cars have become mundane and ordinary, and frankly can’t imagine them being anything more than what they are. But there are some everyday cars that have meaner, powerful alter egos that have foregone the comfort of the road for something rougher and less forgiving. Here are the cars that have made a mark for themselves in the world of Rally.
Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Volkswagen owns racing giants such as Lamborghini and Audi and in the last few years has itself become a key player in the World Rally Championship. Volkswagen’s challenger for the WRC is none other than the Polo. Many Indians identify the Polo as a family car but the addition of an ‘R’ turns it into a Rally beast. The Polo R is powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine giving it a power output of 318 bhp. This car made its debut in 2013 and has won two World Titles with 10 victories in 2013 and 12 in 2014. A second rendition of this car was introduced this year at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. So, the next time you take your beloved Polo for a drive, keep its rally pedigree in mind when you tackle those standard bumps on Indian roads.
Hyundai i20 WRC
Managed by Hyundai Motorsport, the i20 WRC edition made a surprise debut as a prototype at the Paris Motor Show in 2012 and in 2014, made its competitive debut at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. Since its debut, constant improvements were made which led to its remarkable 1-2 victory at the season’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland. The road going Hyundai i20, which most people are familiar with, is pretty underpowered when compared to its WRC cousin. The i20 gets some very serious WRC perks with Hyundai throwing away all the unnecessary weight and adding a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine with an output of 300 BHP.
Suzuki Swift Super 1600
Suzuki Swift is a faithful family member to more than 4 million families and the WRC version just makes its doppelganger look like cheap Japanese porcelain. The Swift Super 1600 was ardently used from 2002 and continued to be in use till 2007 with various iterations being made in its 5 year lifespan. The Swift that we see on Indian roads has quite the flair on rally courses, but Suzuki Motorsport couldn’t really use the car’s potential as it managed only two victories in the Junior World Rally Championship. The Super Swift 1600 had a 1600 cc engine which hardly saw any modification and produced a brake-horse power of 218.
Suzuki SX4 WRC
The Suzuki SX4 remained Maruti Suzuki’s sedan offering for quite a while. The SX4 WRC version was the car which replaced the aforementioned Swift Super 1600. This car was put to the testing ground in February 2007 and it made its competitive debut in the Corsica at the latter half of the year in Tour De Corse. What drove the SX4 was the massive turbocharged 2.0 litre engine with All Wheel Drive which produced a whooping 320 brake horsepower, highest amongst all the cars mentioned above.
The SX4 didn’t have a very successful time in the WRC but did shine in another reputed rally event, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. In the skillful hands of Japanese driver Nobuhiro Tajima, the 910 BHP, 3.1L V6 SX4 not only won the event 3 years in a row but also set the fastest time of 9:51.278.
First introduced in India in 1985, this Four Wheel Drive machine was used in the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) which was indirectly affiliated to FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) in the 1980’s and has seen some brave drivers behind the wheel in the course of 15 to 16 years. It’s true that like every other rally car this car too didn’t have smooth sailing throughout and has seen many ups and downs and also seen changes in its rally team. Being a cult classic, this car has won few accolades in the rallying course.
The Maruti Baleno was a popular sedan, positioned above the Esteem in Maruti Suzuki’s stable. Like every Maruti car, the Baleno was quite popular even if it was overshadowed by its cheaper sibling, the Esteem. The Baleno has returned but has shed its sedan image to become a hatchback. The Baleno, like the Gypsy, had an era of its own, albeit a brief one. Baleno was brought to rallying as a mid-field contender as they were more reliable and the tuning of the suspension became a critical aspect for a sport such as rallying.
Maruti took the 1000, upgraded the existing 1 litre engine with a 1.3 litre engine and it was baptized Esteem. Voilà! Maruti Esteem sure did look fragile but it was one of the most robust cars that Maruti ever manufactured. 1996 was the year when Maruti Esteem became the preferred choice of every other rally team, thanks to the Esteem’s ability to tackle steep turns and exceptional suspension. Esteem is one tough piece of metal and for the past 16 years has been used in rallying as the maintenance of this car is cheap which encourages the drivers to push their as well as the car’s limits. The Esteem is a true rally veteran.
Mahindra Super XUV500
Mahindra has no history in rallying except for this one time when Farad Bhathena won the Great Desert Himalaya Raid successfully in 1988 and 89’ in a prototype MM540. Mahindra may have had no experience but this car managed to sweep the floor clean in the first round of the 2013 INRC, beating the best Mitsubishis. What makes this XUV a Super XUV? One major factor would be that they signed Gaurav Gill as their driver who managed to set faster stage timings in the APRC in 2012 than WRC veterans Per Gunnar Andersson and Chris Atkinson. Another factor being that the XUV has been built in accordance with the T1 regulations which allow Mahindra to modify the XUV500 to a great extent. The Super XUV500 is colossal, cumbersome and heavy, all words which are not favourable when it comes to rallying but its sheer power and the skill of Gill make it an exceptional rally contender.
Skoda Fabia S2000
The only hatchback that Skoda launched in India is driven in the FIA APRC and Skoda has won many accolades and has seen drivers like Chris Atkinson and Juho Hanninen behind its wheel. Skoda Fabia S2000 is the successor of Skoda Fabia WRC which was entitled to be one of the greatest cars in rallying history. Skoda Fabia didn’t really pave its path in the Indian market as the car was considered to be steeply priced for its segment. Powered by a 2.0 litre engine, the Fabia S2000 is a Four Wheel Drive hatchback which produces a brake horsepower of 265 and has bagged many national and international rally titles. Skoda later brought a new version of this car christened Skoda Fabia R5.