To celebrate the 50th season of the Championship in 2022, we offer a retrospective of events and top drivers from the past 50 years, along with some development anecdotes from our level design team.

Back in time


Acropolis 1973 - As early as the 1960s, car manufacturers realised how much it was in their interest to develop the discipline. By developing cars adapted to these events, their role quickly became predominant and the WRC was initially the Championnat International des Marques (CIM). In 1973, for the very first season of the World Rally Championship, it was the Alpine A110 "berlinette" that seemed best equipped to offer the title to its manufacturer, Renault Alpine.

Renault Alpine A110 in 1972

Sanremo 1981 - In 1979, alongside the manufacturers' championship, the International Sports Commission (CSI) introduced a genuine championship dedicated to drivers. In 1981, Michèle Mouton won the San Remo at the wheel of the Audi quattro Sport, becoming the first (and only) woman in history to win a round of the World Rally Championship. At the start of the fifth and final stage, Michèle Mouton and Ari Vatanen were neck and neck: although equipped with 4-wheel drive, the Audi Quattro was less agile than the Ford Escort on the steep, tarmac roads. Vatanen took the lead, 8 seconds ahead of his rival, when the front of his car brushed the parapet and hit a protruding stone. He was forced to finish the stage at a reduced pace, while Michèle Mouton flew to victory.

Michèle Mouton and her co-driver Fabrizia Pons celebrate their first world victory

Kenya 1993 - When you think of the Kenya leg of the 1993 Rally, you almost immediately picture Reinhard Klein's superb photograph. Ian Duncan and his Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 take off against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro, admired by two Masai who have come to enjoy the show. This photo was taken during testing and not during the actual rally. In an interview with franceracing, Reinhard Klein explains:
"The ultimate challenge was to get the Masai to the side of the road. Of course, they wanted to be paid, but the problem was that they were scared when the car came up to speed. Normally, they are used to vehicles travelling at 50 km/h. This one reached 170 km/h as it approached the jump... And they ran! We told them we didn't have the photo yet because they'd left, but they said we'd only paid for one shot. So we had to renegotiate, take a few photos and pay them for each one. They had to get used to the speed, stand in the right place and not run away. It took a few tries, but eventually all the pieces came together. The Masai were used to the speed, they stayed in place, they knew they were safe, the car jumped correctly and Kilimanjaro was in glorious sunshine."

Reinhard Klein's legendary photo

The 90s also saw some crazy races: The Rally Argentina in 1994 goes down in history with a 6s gap at the finish between the duos Auriol-Occelli and Sainz-Moya. The Rally Argentina ranks behind the 1976 Sanremo Rally (4s gap) as the rally with the smallest gap at the finish. Didier Auriol won the stage in his Toyota Celica 4WD.

Germany 2002 - Rally Germany became a round of the World Rally Championship in 2002, replacing Rally Portugal. Sébastien Loeb has been the sole winner of the event for 9 years in a row, following his first victory in 2002. The Arena Panzerplatte on Rally Germany, reproduced on a 1:1 scale, is the most-played special stage in WRC 9!

The beginning of the century marked the dawn of many titles for Sébastien Loeb: he won his first Manufacturers' World Championship title in the 2004 Rally Argentina, alongside co-driver Daniel Elena.

Loeb and Elena at the 2008 Rally Germany

And what about development? Patrick Chastel, Lead Level Designer on WRC 10, explains:


"One of the difficulties we have faced is references. Some of the rallies are very old and we have very few videos and photos. Fortunately, WRC Promoter provided us with a lot of footage, which allowed us to get a feel for the atmosphere of the time.

Today the atmosphere is a bit different, depending on the era, there were a few less rules that governed the competitions. There have been major changes in the layout and safety of the public, for example. And we have put a lot of emphasis on that! This is something that rally players are not used to seeing. We have made compromises between the atmosphere of the time, without putting the audience in too dangerous situations. We try to convey a "friendly" and benevolent side that is found in the rally world. That's one of the advantages of working in car games, there's no violence!

It was also great to see some of the old rallies, including San Remo and Acropolis (before it reappeared on the official calendar this year). Recreating legendary rallies that have thrilled fans and immersing yourself in the history of the WRC by driving a vintage car with a vintage driver is fantastic! Sanremo, for example, is an iconic place. Not being able to play this stage in the WRC games would have been a real shame!"


How to create a special event? Elodie Jean, WRC Referent and Environment Artist, explains:


"Acropolis and Sanremo were the first two new countries and historic rallies to be created for WRC 10. First of all, it's the Level Designers and Graphic Designers who choose an interesting location. The graphic designers then use geo-location tools to create a terrain in relief. The Level Designers lay the roads, and then it's the turn of the Graphic Designers to make the whole thing look pretty, while telling stories based on the level design. The production period is fairly short, so the challenge is to come up with visually interesting spots like the village of Sanremo or the Acropolis monastery, while respecting the time constraints. Time forces us to cut to the chase, but that's also how good ideas are born.

September 17, 2021