RALLYING’S uNcRowNed kING
The whistle, the whoosh and the chatter.
Stage side at night, headlights raked the
horizon, searching out the turns, while
foot-long flames marked a comet-like trail.
Inside or outside, rallying’s ultra-excessive supercars overloaded senses.
From the outside, the acceleration was
simply staggering. Formula 1 had come
to the forests. While suspension and
transmission technology would remain a
little on the agricultural side, big-wing
aero brought downforce on a level never
previously seen in rallying.
From the inside, the world had gone
nuts. Gear, gear, gear, more power, even
more power and traction like you had
never known. Every ratio delivered
another bullet-force kick in the back.
It’s a commonly held misconception that
Audi’s Quattro coincided with Group B’s
genesis. It didn’t. The all-wheel drive
revolution actually came before FISA’s
category overhaul; the original Quattro was
a Group 4 car. Lancia’s two-wheel drive
037 was the first genuine Gp. B machine.
Pre-Group B, rally cars were divided
into four categories: saloon cars and GT
GROUP B: THE AGE OF EXCESS
Gp. A required a production run of 5,000
cars and could be partly modified; Gp. N
was the showroom-spec equivalent. Group
B required a production run of 200 cars.
The Quattro changed the game with
AWD, but Peugeot’s mid-engined 205
took it to the next level. Lancia might
have been late to the party with a
purpose-built Gp. B beast, but when it
arrived the Delta S4 changed the game
again, using a supercharger to overcome
turbo lag inherent in everything except
the naturally aspirated MG Metro 6R4.
It wasn’t going to end there. Intended
evolutions of these cars were simply
insane, offering more and more power. All
this on rallies which took crews to the
edge of fatigue and beyond. Predictably,
the fans loved it. And that was part of the
problem. Portugal 1986, and Joaquim
Santos’ Ford RS200 crashed into the
crowd, killing three people and injuring
32 (one of whom died later). Then Corsica,
Toivonen and Cresto. Before the rally had
even finished, FISA president Jean-Marie
Balestre had announced Group B would be
no more come the end of the season.
All-wheel-drive, 500hp, winged rocket ships on tight, twisty gravel. Group B was spectacular, but short lived...
With few restrictions on design and
materials, and manufacturers required
to build just 200 road cars, Group B
spawned exotica such as the peugeot
205 T16 (MAIN) and Lancia’s Delta S4.
With Group B gone from WRC for ’ 87, Gp. A
for modified road cars took over. Cars like
Lancia’s Delta Integrale lacked the pure
spectacle of Gp. B, but rallying survived.
cars, subsequently split into modified and
standard. The top class was Group 4, for
modified GT cars. Or supposedly GT cars –
FISA found it hard to legislate against,
for example, Peugeot homologating its
504 sedan into Group 4, it had four seats
and could be claimed as a GT.
After much debate, FISA sanctioned
Groups A, B and N to run from 1982 (with
Group 4 alongside for one final season).