DAVID EVANS I
GROUP RALLYING EDITOR
remember the first time I ever saw a Carlos Sainz edition Toyota Celica on the road. I was walking home from school. It stopped me in my tracks. Literally.
I stood and stared. I’d heard about this thing. Read about this thing. Dreamt about this thing. And there it was.
My mates were – most likely (I can’t remember exactly…) – deeply engaged in an argument about whether Will Carling could really hold a candle to his England centre partner Jerry Guscott.
Such was the depth of debate, nobody noticed I’d stopped, until Richard Kingston asked me what I was doing. I pointed. In his own mind, Kingo knew a thing or two about cars. “Nice Porsche.” Seriously? I couldn’t help myself. Didn’t he know this was the Carlos Sainz (CS) Limited Edition car, with only a couple of hundred in Britain. It was a roadgoing version of the Turbo 4WD; I never appreciated it being labeled a Gt-four or GT4. It wasn’t it. It was a Turbo 4WD. Except this one was even better on the road. It had more cooling vents in the front bumper, water injection on the intercooler and every single one was individually numbered. That was the power of a rally special on the road. After that came a legion of Ford Escort Cosworths, Mitsubishi Lancers and Subaru Imprezas. I was always more of an Impreza fan and was, on finding employment on these pages, fortunate enough to drive a Sonic Blue P1 before they went out of production.
It wasn’t quite the ultimate, wide-bodied 22B, but it was still a special piece of kit.
Seeing the rising price of things like the 22B got me thinking about the lack of such machinery these days. Where’s the four-wheel drive equivalent of the i20 or the low and lean Fiesta or Polo?
I poked around the office a little bit and found an R-line Polo. With a 1.2-litre engine. And 100bhp. Oh dear. Obviously, there are warm Fiestas and DS 3s around, but nothing that would come close to a warbling Impreza, eager to be snick-snicked through the gears and thrown at B roads up and down the country. Or so I thought.
OK, it’s not a perfect fit, but it was Sebastien Ogier who got me thinking about this one. We were talking about his recce car: a Golf R. On his direction, I decided to give it a go. Granted, it doesn’t have the brutish looks of the 22B, but its blown two-litre motor does produce more power than the Subaru managed. That’s a good start. A Haldex four-wheel-drive system offers fabulous traction and ‘Race’ mode even makes for a half decent soundtrack, even if it does come via a sound actuator.
My only gripe with the thing was the lack of a conventional handbrake. Its predecessors the R32 and 4Motion – like the Impreza – had been perfect for some gravelly donuts, but the happy stick was very much part of the process.
I actually loved the Golf R and was very sad to see the back of it. I’m sadder still that this is the only example modern rally classic for the road.
Volkswagen, put all of this under a Polo body, chuck some wings on it, a Sebastien Ogier sticker on the back and broadcast your WRC brilliance to the road.
“Ogier got me thinking about this one”