Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The dangerously delightful world of Group B rally cars

IT was an Eighties adventure to rival anything Tom Cruise got cast in. Based on a true story, it was packed with glamourous locations, famous faces, speed, noise and excitement.

In fact, only the unexcitingly anonymous name really needed work. Yet mention Group B to any proper petrolhead and you'll find it's a phrase that gets them strangely excited. Just as I was when I caught a cracking BBC documentary on it the other night.

Group B gave sports fans some of the most nailbiting rallying coverage the world's ever seen and proved to sexists everywhere that women were just as Championship-winningly good at powersliding as men - consider my cap doffed, Michele Mouton - but its real legacy is that we were treated to some of the fastest and most advanced cars ever to scream their way, sideways, through a forest. Not one of which was even remotely similar to any of the others.

Audi arrived with a hugely powerful, shortier, scarier version of Gene Hunt's Quattro, while Austin Rover shoehorned an enormous V6 into the back of a Metro to create the mad 6R4. Lancia couldn't choose between a turbocharger and a supercharger for its insanely fast Delta S4, so it used both, while Peugeot made its 205 GTi into a mid-engined, four-wheel-drive dirt track racer (the 205 T16, pictured). Best of all, Ford got cocky and obviously challenged Bear Grylls to come up his idea of a Le Mans racer. The result was the utterly daft - yet utterly delightful - RS200.

It was all going to end in tears and when it inevitably did in 1986 - three people were killed when an RS200 ploughed into the crowd at a rally in Portugal, while Henri Toivonen lost his life when his Lancia crashed in Corsica - Group B was swiftly banned. The flame that burns half as long, so the saying goes, burns twice as bright.

The End. Or rather, it would have been if plans hadn't been announced this week to bring the old, slightly loopy Group B cars out of retirement to wow visitors to an event in Cheshire over the August Bank Holiday later this year.

They'll be at Oulton Park on August 25 and 26, at an event dubbed the The Michelin Rallye Groupe B. More information will be available online at but for me, there's just one problem that might prevent me from seeing Audi Quattros, Metro 6R4s and Peugeot T16s doing what they were designed to do.

It's the same weekend as the Ormskirk MotorFest...


  1. It was a V6 engine in the 6r4. The development engine was cut down to a V6 from a V8, in the prototype cars, but the finished 6r4's all had their purpose designed and built V6 ( V64V ) engines fitted.

  2. Typo! You are, of course, completely right. The 6R4 was powered by a V6 (a version of which later made its way into Jaguar's XJ220). I've amended the article accordingly...