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Group B – The Legends that will never be forgotten?

Updated August 24, 2013

Group B, a period of Motorsport history which is fresh in any rally fan’s memory, even after 27 long years since its banning in 1986. But it all started in the 1980’s as Motorsport during that decade was dominated by one thing and that was none other than turbo charging. In 1986 when turbo charging had reached its peak in Formula 1 (FIA’s other main venture) car’s had reached extremely scary levels of performance, with the most powerful that being the BMW – Brabham combination putting upwards of 1400hp out in Qualifying trim.

In the FIA World Rally Championship things had reached even scarier levels of speed and power never before seen in the history of rallying, where cars were putting upwards of 600hp through all 4 wheels, and bodywork was extensively made out of Kevlar and reinforced plastic to save huge amounts of weight. So what exactly made Group B the most remembered era of rallying and why was it so special?

To answer that question we have to go back to the start of the Group B era in 1982, where the birth of these outrageous cars began. It was in 1982 that the FIA had decided to modify the rules in both Racing and Rallying to encourage more marques to enter competitively as well as be a replacement for the aging Group 4 regulations which had its course.

Through the lack of regulations, no real homologation rules and the huge publicity that would be given to winners of the FIA World Rally Championship, it provided a carrot that was too tasty to leave dangling for many high profile car manufacturers.

Only 200 examples of each car were permitted to be built in order for them to comply for Group B rules and there was no cap on either engines or boost pressure. This led to some seriously crazy numbers where, in 1981 250hp was considered the maximum for rally cars, whereas in 1986 we saw cars nudging a monumental 600hp that weighed just 900kg in some cases. This drastic weight was through the use of many high tech materials including Kevlar and reinforced plastics, meaning the budgets of works teams spiralled out of control in the pursuit of becoming World Champion.

So why did fans love it so much?

Towards the end of the Group B era cars were ridiculously fast, Audi had the Quattro – a 5 cylinder fire spitting monster, Lancia had the Delta S4, Ford had the RS200, Peugeot had the T16 a 205 with some serious attitude, and the fans favourite – Rover with their race prepped V6 Metro 6R4.

Cars were capable of doing 0-60 in just over two seconds on gravel and allowed fans to experience the true terror that the Group B cars possessed with the best drivers in the world at the helm including Ari Vatanen, Walter Rohrl and Stiq Blomqvist. Thousands of fanatical followers travelled to see the machines in all their glory throughout the forests of Europe.

However it was not to last, the cars became almost too fast for most rally events and many spectators were killed in an accident at the Portuguese rally where Joaquim Santos left the road in his RS200. However that was not the last tragedy, as at the Corsican Rally, championship favourite Henri Toivonen, plunged down the bank of a tight left hand bend and his Delta S4 engulfed in flames. Nothing was left in the remains other than his charred remains and the chassis.

This provided the end to what was the most exciting and advanced era in rallying, and is still remembered today as producing the best rally cars in the history of the sport.

James Parker Is Business Developments Manager of Official Merchandise and also permanent blogger and writer.

Most of his work can be found on the Official Merchandise Blog which he manages full time.

With a huge interest for Automotive/Motorsport and a Formula 1 fan, his passion is in the writing of the industry and sport he has loved for over 14 years now.

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Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

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