Some of you already know Jay as the owner and author of this website and that obviously makes him one of the best Group B aficionado and connoisseur on the planet. His journey is however an humble one, especially in such an elitist world, but we nonetheless invite you to follow him through the story about how his love for Group B changed his life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- JAY’s JOURNEY
- THE GROUP B GYPSY: Ultimate Passion and Dire Consequences
- RALLY GROUP B SHRINE CREATION
- 53B RS-TURBO: A Tribute to Group B and the 1980s + A Return to Rallying
- WHY WAS GROUP B SO AWESOME?
- JAY’s ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
- CONTACT FORM
Jay has been a rallying fan for as long as he can remember and has the sport to thank for his undeniable love for cars. In his youth, he followed his father, a RCAF loadmaster, to some of his various military assignments around the world. In 1986, one of them gave Jay the incredible opportunity to be stationed in Germany at the peak of the Golden Era of rallying.
A chance encounter with an Audi Sport quattro E2 thundered love at first sight with the Group B rally machines; the speed, the power, the looks, the audacity of it all! It was the beginning of a lifetime obsession: the passion. Jay’s adventure in Europe was sadly cut short, as was Group B itself, and before the turn of the decade he came back to his home country for good… or was it?
It was not long after that Jay wanted to emulate his high-flying and fire-spitting heroes. However, most of the cheaper car models of Group B never were available in North America. As such, he had to make due with much cheaper second-hand base models such as an Opel Kadett E, Mazda 323 GTX, Subaru Legacy RS, Mitsubishi Colt-Lancer and a very rusty Audi Coupe quattro – the latter stranding him on the side of the road on the very first day.
Sadly, Jay’s small stints into local rallycross events were as short-lived as the quattro and quickly parted ways with these rather rare cars as soon they started breaking down. He often nags himself in the thought that he would be having a quattro E2 replica at this very moment if only he realised that the selling of the Audi would be one of the biggest mistakes of his early adult life.
Quite distraught, Jay went into a slump that lasted for a few years. This unfortunately made him forego his love for 1980’s machinery, so he purchased more modern and more reliable Subaru cars such as the WRX and STi models. It is at this point in time that he realised that he should build up his mechanic skills to be able to take care of his cars himself, hopefully saving enough money to get back on the rallying saddle.
Jay would fiddle around with one of his Subarus and be the first person worldwide to short-wheelbase a GD platform, initially by six inches, ultimately by eighteen inches overall. Then, in a weird twist of fate, nostalgia kicked down the door: his undying love for the 1980’s and Group B suddenly came back like a tidal-wave! Hence Jay parted out with his beloved and quite unique rally car.
It all obviously wasn’t a logical choice but the nostalgic link to the 1980’s, be it music, movies, cars, etc, is something that gives Jay much solace. With these personal moments, for mere seconds at a time, recalling feelings of youth; a time when everything felt better, simpler. It’s his “drug”, as he tells it, and Group B was at the centre of it all. It is around this time that the tale took Jay on an incredible, worldwide adventure.
THE GROUP B GYPSY: Ultimate Passion and Dire Consequences
They say that being addicted to drugs can destroy lives. In Jay’s case the needle wasn’t filled with some chemical but with something he once thought to be worse: his unending passion and often illogical fixation on the Group B era of rally sport. It has driven his life from early teen years and, with nostalgia kicking down the door, made Jay forego a “normal” way of life… at least in the usual standards. Obviously, as he points out, it wasn’t rally’s or Group B’s fault but his own “bad choices” in living those dreams.
Jay thus tells this part of the story open-heartedly without any fear of damaging his ego or reputation, rather hoping to possibly gain the understanding of his peers and especially from the local rally community of his native province and country that he “deserted” for nearly 20 years to pursue his passion of the sport in his own way.
Jay recalls an old saying in French: « les cordonniers sont toujours les plus mal chaussés » (the shoemaker always wears the worst shoes) – simply meaning that the cobbler somehow cannot apply his and talents for himself. It would be the financial hurdles that would complicate the dream. Jay was given a bad start by living in a location unsuitable for a Group B fixation; North America in the late 80’s and 90’s. It meant that a lot of expensive travel over the pond was required.
So Jay thus studied and studied, teaching himself everything including how to properly write in both French and English simply by word association, and spending countless hours deep in books, history, mechanics, schematics and diagrams, concepts and designs that make these cars what they are – all to quell the fixation. In his many subsequent trips to Europe, he soon began to realise that he actually knew more than some of the “elite” he was shadowing.
Jay recalls that he couldn’t let this “elite” know who he actually was at the time, a mere “peasant” without an education or diplomas, so he often used an assumed name. He points out “playing the game” quite well and offered his services to millionaire collectors for free. This was a good way to grow a reputation but somehow Jay kept insisting on not being paid for the “privilege” of working and being around these amazing cars.
Making these stints and travels a priority meant that Jay never could build a proper, steady career to secure his future. Finding work where he ended up penniless would keep the cycle going during a whole generation’s worth; traffic control flagger, construction labourer, dump truck driver, boom-truck operator, auto truck and machinery mechanic, heavy machinery operator, crane operator, electrician, plumber, small electronics repair, gantry and overhead crane technician, welder, fabricator, painter, forklift operator, shipping manager, long-haul truck driver… and Jay notes that he may have forgotten a few more but insists on the fact that he was quite competent at all of those jobs.
Being a “Group B Gypsy” was seemingly working out and the thirst for being around these cars slate. But living like this made Jay entirely forego family and career – a normal life. Having no close support, emotional or otherwise, no health benefits, no raises, no promotions, no retirement funds, no investments, and by always keeping to myself and moving around… no friends. Jay let his passion overrun his life and it had dire consequences.
Jay ignored the situation, falling into a “financial bottomless pit”, until it was too late to secure his future in any way. Jay’s entire life savings were sunk in the pursuit of the fixation and yet he didn’t want to change course or begin to accept earnings from the specialised skills and knowledge he sacrificed everything for; the battle endless, without respite or hope of a quiet and peaceful retirement.
Life finally threw Jay a bone when he inherited a garage from his father. It was still on the wrong continent but at least he had a “base of operations” to call home, somewhere to fiddle and try to build himself what he had done so often for others.
This boon led to an opportunity to start a business in logistics and long-haul transportation. That industry was “a sure bet”, Jay thought. Plus, it married well to the way he had been living; he could plan loads to the whereabouts he needed to go, at least in North America, to fulfill his addiction and actually get paid for the miles rather than wasting immense amounts on fuel. However, running such a business on a part-time basis doesn’t make the overheads go away.
Life took away the bone when Jay’s insistence on doing everything on his own led up to the accident where a trailer frame fell on him in his garage. Never truly recovering from the injuries, his health began to slowly falter afterwards and working on his projects took longer as the years rolled by. This took valuable time away from the business and from achieving financial parity – leading to a chain of events he couldn’t stop.
Having your entire life’s efforts taken away by people in business suits isn’t a nice feeling, Jay noted, all the meanwhile insisting on offering his specialised knowledge and skills in Group B history and machinery free of charge. With this fixation and lifestyle, Jay ran his life into the ground life and was homeless for a short while. “At least I dared to live my passion and my life on my own terms” Jay stated with a smile.
Thus where does this leave him? Jay actually never quit on pressing forward and trying to rebuild a life for himself. He found a way to “save” his garage by having the property refinanced and renting out the house thanks to an extended family he hadn’t seen in decades. Jay was thus able to keep all of his tools, parts, vehicles and trailers secure until he was allowed to move back in. “I don’t know what I would have done if I lost my precious project cars”, Jay sighs humbly, we can all sypmathise on that feeling.
This was the perfect opportunity to “push the reset button” and make a new start in life. Jay has since begun to charge for when millionaire Group B collectors require his specialised knowledge, skills and talents; the recent Lotus-Peugeot job being an example. “I think it was about time I did so although some parts of my passion I’ll always give freely, like historical projects, supporting and promoting events”, Jay proudly states, “I think I’ve fixed my “shoes” properly… now if only my health can hold up!”.
In this past and rather tumultous chapter of his life, Jay devised from scratch and built many projects on his road to hopefully return to rallying competition with a Group B car. His own vision of a Group B-tribute fantasy car, built on the chassis of a second generation Volkswagen Scirocco brought him close to achieving this goal but Jay abandoned it.
“It wasn’t an actual replica and some of my peers weren’t quite fond that I was attaching the Group B name to it… in the end it simply didn’t fulfill its mission of promoting the category’s history.” Jay thus began planning for another rally car although he says “it’ll be my final project, ever” with a serious tone. For more details about Jay’s very special Group B / 1980’s tribute car project and other rally stories, please CLICK HERE.
This unbelievable story of a “Group B Gypsy” all traces back to when a young lad saw, eyes-wide and jaw-dropped, a Group B rally car zoom by.
THE RALLY GROUP B SHRINE
Jay’s nostalgia and predisposition culminated in a need to share his love for Group B history. It is then he noticed that there wasn’t a website dedicated to Group B rallying, at least none very inclusive of all content; some had information only about the cars, others only about the statistics, and most only carried partial, biased, or incomplete information. This led to the creation of the “Rally Group B Shrine” which was originally put up on Jay’s personal blog in 2014.
Hundreds, if not thousands of hours (Jay says he eventually lost count) of his time was used to research and write all the articles. In a short amount of time, the “Shrine” soon became the most popular section of Jay’s blog which made him realise that it should be fully independent – this is where you are now!
Alongside Jay’s various past rally and race car projects, the adventure has so far given him the opportunity to communicate and meet with some of Group B’s legends, to publish specialised Group B articles to various automotive magazines of renown, all the while helping out the Group B community such as getting deeply involved into mechanical recommissioning or restoration projects.
This Shrine is part of the master plan to make him relive the childhood dream of being part of Group B. He does note that the website yet remains an ongoing project in itself and is but at a fraction of his overall vision. Jay hopes that the Shrine will be one day recognised as the “official” Group B encyclopedia. We can say that it’s well on his way!
Since the genesis of the Shrine it has helped me become a published author by providing Group B-related articles to automotive magazines of renown. However, I have to say many thanks to the people who’s publications have inspired me because, if not for them, I wouldn’t possess the knowledge that I do and this website would not exist or be as complete; Graham Robson, Mike Moreton, John Davenport, Reinhard Klein, Vittorio Roberti, Luca Gastaldi, Bill Munro, the collective work of Motor Sport Magazine, and Auto Moto and Sport Magazine amongst many more that I’m sadly forgetting. You could even say that my love for Group B might not have been as strong if I didn’t have their work as a daily reminder.
I dedicate the “Rally Group B Shrine” to the exploits and sacrifice of the courageous drivers and co-drivers, imaginative engineers, hardy mechanics, and everyone involved in making what Group B was. Shall they be remembered forever!
Rally Group B Shrine owner, main author and chief editor
The Rally Group B Shrine is a small team of volunteers, simple fans at a glance, but with an extraordinary amount of passion. All is done in the little free time that is not dedicated their family, side-projects, and career. As such, if you find the website enjoyable and a good source of information, a small personal donation could be much appreciated! The Shrine expansion is still ongoing with as much effort as can possibly be put into it.
Do you have questions for Jay or about his website? If so, please use the contact form below to get in touch! (anonymous or hateful messages will be rejected)
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