Richard Burns' ‘special’ first-ever WRC car goes up for sale

Rally News

The Peugeot 309 which Richard Burns announced himself with on the 1991 Rally GB, and then took pride of place in his personal collection, has gone up for sale

3 Richard Burns Peugeot 309 GTI

Burns made a name for himself on world stage in 309

Rally Replay

The car that a driver first makes waves with almost inevitably becomes one with which they are indelibly linked, particularly in the colourful world of rallying.

Colin McRae’s Subaru Legacy, Sébastien Loeb’s Xsara kit car and Henri Toivonen’s Talbot Sunbeam all remain imprinted in the memory of off-road fanatics.

Now, the very first world rally machine of another WRC legend, Richard Burns, is going up for sale – a Group A Peugeot 309 GTi which he took to a stunning 16th on the 1991 RAC Rally, a young junior immediately rubbing shoulders with established superstars.

2 Richard Burns Peugeot 309 GTI

Burns had his original 1991 RAC livery put back on the car

Rally Replay

Rally Replay’s Adam Midghall, which is facilitating the sale, describes the 309 as “really special” and explains the path which led Burns towards a car which put him on the world stage at the 1991 RAC Rally.

“Des O’Dell, who ran the Peugeot Sport Challenge, was wanting to find the next British champion,” he says. “I think history shows us that that was quite successful.

“Richard won that championship in ’91 [as well as 1990], and as a prize drive was given the 309 with full factory support to go and do the RAC [in 1991].

From the archive

“To go out finish 16th overall and first in class on the RAC was a cracking result against only four-wheel-drive cars.”

Ten years later, Burns was famously crowned WRC champion after a final-rally showdown with Colin McRae at the same location.

The former would become the first ever English world rally champion, but immediately left his Subaru team for the Peugeot works effort, ten years after his previous Pug appearance – a connection which wasn’t lost on Burns.

Richard Burns Peugeot 309 GTI

Car represented serious step up from previous competition machinery for future British champ

Rally Replay

“I guess it’s always been a little bit of a dream of mine to go back there,” he told Autosport in the midst of the switch. “I started in a small way with Peugeot in 1991.”

Midghall further explains the importance of the 309 to Burns: “Richard looked to ‘re-buy’ a number of different cars from his career when he signed for Subaru in ’99,” he says. “So he bought the Subaru Legacy and various other cars.

“The 309 was quite high on his list of those he wanted to have and he managed to acquire the car.”

The Peugeot represented a serious step-up in machinery for the young Burns compared to his previous cars.

“The car he used in the Peugeot Challenge was a 205 Group N car, so it was effectively a showroom 1.9-litre GTi with a roll cage – and not much more than that,” says Midghall.

“Whereas the Group A car was the next step up in performance, with a dog box, full race-tuned engine, different suspension, different uprights, and so on.

“It was a lot more of an advanced car, more powerful, with 60-70 more horsepower. It was just a natural stepping stone up.”

Looked after by Peugeot in the intervening period, the car had little running before it was taken on by Burns, but was kept in full running order once the late rally star bought it. It has been maintained by his family since his passing, who sold it to a private buyer in 2021 when the collection was downsized.

“It has a been very sympathetically restored, so not ‘over-restored’,” says Midghall. “The floor panels are still quite beaten up, but the engine gearbox was fully rebuilt back in back in ‘99.

“It’s on the button and ready to go for a demonstration event, but also a great piece for a collection. It’s a real collector’s car.”