WHERE WOULD RALLYING BE NOW?
It’s hard to tell. Maybe the sport would have retained/gained a bit more in worldwide popularity, maybe not. Then again, with ever tighter government laws and safety rules nowadays, it is hard to imagine that Group B rallying would have lasted much longer than it did. There’s no way the series, having fans line up the roads and eventually getting killed, would have survived the lawyers. It might have survived if spectators would have been banned from the special stages. Then again, that would have made the sport dwindle in popularity. Thus, having no popular interest would have made the manufacturers quit rallying. Conundrum. The evolution of the sport was simply too fast for the world to adapt to it.
IS THERE ANYTHING CLOSE TO MODERN GROUP B RALLY CARS TODAY?
The FIA rallycross (RX) cars we know today are very basic WRC-type machines that are “unrestricted” to around 600 HP so they are, of sorts, modern Group B cars. If you put away the original homologation requirements, that is.
However, that amount of power and speed is only allowed because the RX venues are highly safety oriented; such as in stadiums and circuits, with lots of run-off space or with safety barriers. On a more recent note, the new WRC2017-spec machines with their increased power and larger aerodynamic aids will help bring rallying closer to what Group B was. However, they are still a far cry of being cars designed and built entirely from scratch to win rallies.
Besides the RX and WRC-2017 cars, how would modern rally Group B / Group S cars actually look like if the class never got cancelled? Not many people dwell in “what ifs” but some have argued that, since the latter Group B prototypes were shifting towards supercar (exotic) based (like the Porsche 959 and Ferrari 288 GTO), the trend would have continued. Meaning that the production super and hyper cars we know today would be simply modified for rallying. I personally disagree with that theory. However, for Group B circuit racing (as history would unfold never took off before the ban), the supercars (exotics) would have most likely became the norm.
THE 80’s, CONTINUED, IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE.
If you look back at the “winning recipe” of the golden era, the most successful Group B rally cars were of space-frame construction and designed from scratch specifically to win rallies. Thus, I am more prone to think that, since some Group B designs have naturally “evolved” into hill climb monster machines, modern theoretical rally Group B cars would have been very similar to the purpose built Pikes Peak top contenders. At least those when Pikes Peak was still mostly on gravel: think Suzuki Escudo & SX4, etc… or more recently the amazing Peugeot 208 T16 that Sebastien Loeb drove to crush the record (and put a long-stroke suspension on it for rally duty). Imagine seeing these cars blasting through a rally stage! Yeah, that’s what modern Group B would be like if the same no holds barred mentality from the 80’s would have endured on. That, of course, is my own personal opinion.
Finally, think of the 200 road versions that would be needed for homologation. Amazing cars we would have, albeit admittedly they would be very costly, but still they’d make us dream…
What’s your take?