|Start date 1981|
|Similar 1982 World Rally Champio, 1984 World Rally Champio, 1985 World Rally Champio, 1986 World Rally Champio, 1989 World Rally Championship|
The 1981 World Rally Championship was the ninth season of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) World Rally Championship (WRC). The season consisted of 12 rallies. While this number was the same as the previous year, one change was made to the schedule, replacing New Zealand with the Brazil.
The 1981 World Rally Championship for Drivers was won by Ari Vatanen driving a Rothmans Rally Team Ford Escort RS1800, the only time a privateer team has won the Drivers' Championship. The Makes' Championship was won by Talbot with their Sunbeam Lotus. It also saw the beginning of a new era in the sport with the arrival of the Audi Quattro, the first four-wheel drive rally car. Initially regarded as too heavy and complex for rally stages, it proved its worth with three wins in its debut season, including a maiden victory for Michèle Mouton at the Rallye Sanremo, the only woman to win a WRC event.