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Rally | Group B | Highlight Mix

Posted by Noel Alderman on

This is a tribute to Group B allying of the middle '80s

Introduced in 1982 by the FIA, the group B regulations led to some of the most powerful and sophisticated rally cars ever built, before a series of fatal accidents involving both drivers and spectators led to it's being discontinued in 1986

Commonly referred to as the golden era of rallying. the new ruleset and the race to take advantage of it led to some of the most sophisticated and powerful rally cars ever built

Enjoy the mayhem!

Group B

Group B was a set of regulations introduced in 1982 for competition vehicles in sportscar racing and rallying regulated by the FIA. The Group B regulations fostered some of the fastest, most powerful, and most sophisticated rally cars ever built and is commonly referred to as the golden era of rallying. However, a series of major accidents, some of them fatal, were blamed on their outright speed and lack of crowd control at events. After the death of Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto in the 1986 Tour de Corse, the FIA disestablished the class, dropped its previous plans to replace it by Group S, and instead replaced it as the top-line formula by Group A. The short-lived Group B era has acquired legendary status among rally fans and automobile enthusiasts in general.

Group B had few restrictions on technology, design and the number of cars required for homologation to compete—200, less than other series. Weight was kept as low as possible, high-tech materials were permitted, and there were no restrictions on boost, resulting in the power output of the winning cars increasing from 250 hp in 1981, the year before Group B rules were introduced, to there being at least two cars producing in excess of 500 by 1986, the final year of Group B. In just five years, the power output of rally cars had more than doubled.

The category was aimed at car manufacturers by promising outright competition victories and the subsequent publicity opportunities without the need for an existing production model. There was also a Group C, which had a similarly lax approach to chassis and engine development, but with strict rules on overall weight and maximum fuel load.

Group B was initially a very successful group, with many manufacturers joining the premier World Rally Championship, and increased spectator numbers. But the cost of competing quickly rose and the performance of the cars proved too much resulting in a series of fatal crashes. As a consequence Group B was canceled at the end of 1986 and Group A regulations became the standard for all cars until the advent of World Rally Cars in 1997.

In the following years Group B found a niche in the European Rallycross Championship, with cars such as the MG Metro 6R4 and the Ford RS200 competing as late as 1992.

Group B was conceived when the FISA found that numerous car manufacturers wanted to compete in rallying; witnessing the successes of the Stratos and the Quattro, manufacturers felt cars with mid-engine and RWD or 4WD were preferable, however their RWD production models had been gradually replaced by their FWD counterparts, lessening their chance of winning. By reducing the homologation minimum from 400 (in Group 4) to 200, FIA enabled manufacturers to design specialized RWD or 4WD rally cars without the financial commitment of producing their production counterparts in such large numbers.

Although 1987 saw the end of the Group B cars on the world stage they did not disappear from motorsport. Peugeot adapted their T16 to run in the Dakar Rally. Ari Vatanen won the event in 1987, 1989 and 1990. Improved Peugeot and Audi cars also competed in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. Walter Röhrl's S1 Rally car won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 1987 and set a new record at the time. Audi used their Group B experience to develop a production based racing car for the Trans-Am and IMSA GTO series in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Ford sold off their RS200s to private buyers, with many being used in European Rallycross events from the beginning of 1987 till the end of 1992. The Metro 6R4 also became a frequent sight in Rallycross and the car was also entered in British and Irish national championship events. Porsche's 959 never entered a World Rally event, although it did compete in the Middle East championship and won the Paris-Dakar Rally. The 961 prototype won the GTX class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1986 race but crashed and caught fire in 1987. The Ferrari 288 GTO was built and sold the minimum requirement of cars to the public, however it never saw action in its category.

 

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