COMPETITION SUMMARY

year1982

The season consisted of 12 rallies. By this time, the schedule format had become generally stable, with only one or two changes to venues year to year. The year marked the return of New Zealand to the schedule in place of Argentina’s Rally Codasur. As with previous seasons, while all 12 events were calculated for tallying the drivers’ scores, only 10 of the events applied to the championship for manufacturers. The two events in which applied only to driver standings were Sweden and the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire.

The inaugural Group B competition year was mostly run with RWD Group 4 cars that were simply carried over into the new regulations. Most rally teams still preferred the classic drivetrain layout over 4WD as Audi was still struggling to get better reliability and dry performance out of their quattro. The inaugural year also saw the launch of the RWD Lancia Rallye 037 (which was the very first top level car built entirely to the new Group B specifications). Thus, every major team had a decent chance at victory.

The competition season was marked by the dominance of the German teams; Audi and Opel. Lancia only ran a partial program to get the 037 through its paces, and the car was unfortunately plagued with retirements (mostly due to engine failures). The 4WD quattro remained very clunky on tarmac, and very much under pressure from the RWD Opel Ascona all season long. In the end, Audi would win the manufacturers championship while Walter Röhrl would win the driver’s title with his Opel. Top Audi pilots Michèle Mouton and Hannu Mikkola took second and third in the drivers’ race, but their combined efforts were enough to put Audi over the top for the work’s cup. Mouton’s finish is the best by a female rally driver to this day. Röhrl’s strong performance in the rallies that only counted for driver points would have improved Opel’s bid for a world title had they counted for manufacturers as well. As for Lancia, besides the mitigated debut of the 037, they were confident that their new car would be very competitive for the following year.

TOP 3 – DRIVER STANDINGS

# DRIVER EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Brazil
BR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
Ivory Coast
CI
United Kingdom
GB
1 West GermanyWalter Röhrl 20 12 15 (10) 15 12 15 (12) 20 109
2 FranceMichèle Mouton 8 20 4 20 20 10 15 97
3 Finland Hannu Mikkola 15 20 15 20 70

TOP 3 – MANUFACTURER STANDINGS

# TEAM EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Brazil
BR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
United Kingdom
GB
1 West Germany Audi 16 18 (6) 18 10 18 18 18 116
2 West Germany Opel 18 (12) 16 12 16 14 (9) 14 14 104
3 JapanNissan 18 12 12 15 57

year1983

The year brought the return of Argentina to the schedule in place of Brazil. As with previous seasons, while all 12 events were calculated for tallying the drivers’ scores, only 10 of the events applied to the championship for manufacturers. The two events in 1983 which applied only to driver standings were Sweden and the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire.

1982 champion Walter Röhrl made the switch to Lancia, joining Markku Alén to lead the effort. Audi carried forward from its successful title run, employing an impressive trio of drivers; Hannu Mikkola, Michèle Mouton, and Stig Blomqvist. Opel signed former 1981 champion Ari Vatanen and fellow countryman Henri Toivonen to drive the Ascona 400 and its successor: the Manta B400. Every aspect from the last season pointed to a heated 3-way battle between Audi, Lancia, and Opel.

Competition was indeed fierce both for drivers and manufacturers. However, the works battle quickly centered on Audi and Lancia; over the course of the season the two cars would win 10 of the 12 events and sit on 30 of the year’s 36 podium positions. Opel could only watch from behind. The Lancia 037 turned out to be a much better performer than the Manta B400 and much nimbler on tarmac than the Audi quattro. It looked like Lancia’s faith in the rear wheel drive 037 was indeed valid. However, the quattro A2, which was introduced mid-season, had much improved reliability, weight, power, and gave the 037 a much harder run for its money. In the end, Lancia emerged on top, returning the Italian team to glory for the first time since the company seized three consecutive manufacturers titles in the mid-1970s with the Stratos.

Driver competition was no less intense, with both of the Lancia teammates (Röhrl/Alén) scoring well through the season. However, they were outpaced by Mikkola, who was able to gather four wins and seven podiums to take the drivers’ title by a healthy margin. Blomqvist was also impressive, finally winning in the last event of the year to place fourth overall, but Mouton’s season was a disappointment. The Opel team also suffered an unimpressive season, the lone highlight being Vatanen’s win in Kenya. This however would prove to be the team’s only podium finish, and Ari himself would finish a distant sixth place on the year.

TOP 3 – DRIVER STANDINGS

# DRIVER EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
Ivory Coast
CI
United Kingdom
GB
1 FinlandHannu Mikkola (10) 20 20 15 20 20 15 15 125
2 West GermanyWalter Röhrl 20 12 15 20 20 15 102
3 FinlandMarkku Alén 15 10 20 15 8 12 20 100

TOP 3 – MANUFACTURER STANDINGS

# TEAM EVENT TOTAL
PTS
Monaco
MC
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
United Kingdom
GB
1 Italy Lancia 18 14 18 18 18 (10) 14 18 118
2 West Germany Audi 14 18 16 14 18 18 (6) 18 116
3 West Germany Opel 10 (9) 18 12 12 9 12 14 87

year1984

As with previous seasons, while all twelve events were calculated for tallying the drivers’ scores, only ten of the events applied to the championship for manufacturers. The two events in which applied only to driver standings were the Swedish Rally and the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire.

Wanting to reclaim the manufacturers title at all costs, Audi put together four of the top drivers in the world; they signed fellow German Walter Röhrl away from Lancia, retaining defending world champion Hannu Mikkola, the returning Stig Blomqvist, and Michèle Mouton who had a part-time contract. Lancia kept Markku Alén as their primary driver for the season and also featured Miki Biasion and Attilio Bettega. Henri Toivonen, who went to Porsche was also brought to compete in select Lancia events.

Röhrl won the first rally of the season (Monte Carlo) with his new machine but after a string of retirements his focus was reassigned on helping development of the Sport quattro. Audi established an early lead when the other contenders proved to be no match for the revised quattro; winning six of the first eight events, including sweeping the podium at the first two rallies. Blomqvist and Mikkola dominated the rest of the season, with Blomqvist proving the best with five rally wins. Mikkola had to settle for second overall despite a consistently strong season in which he took eight podium finishes. Alén was only able to reach third place, even if he had an upgraded Lancia Rally 037 E2, by only capturing a single rally win.

For the second half of the season, Audi launched the Sport quattro as their proper Group B car. It was a short wheelbase version aimed at being more competitive on tarmac and against the smaller rally cars which would soon become a serious threat. The latter would soon appear in the form of the Peugeot 205 T16. The car would become unbeatable in the hands of Ari Vatanen: winning convincingly the last 3 rallies of the season. His performance showed that Peugeot Talbot Sport, headed by Jean Todt, had a winner that could consistently beat the Audi.

The arrival of Peugeot was the wildcard that lessened Lancia’s hope of defending their manufacturers’ title. Audi was thus able to take their revenge on Lancia and reclaim the manufacturer title. Audi’s Stig Blomqvist easily won the drivers’ title over teammate Hannu Mikkola. The battle for rally domination would be getting much fiercer for the following year.

TOP 3 – DRIVER STANDINGS

# DRIVER EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
Ivory Coast
CI
United Kingdom
GB
1 Sweden Stig Blomqv. 15 20 0 0 (8) 20 20 20 10 0 20 0 125
2 FinlandHannu Mikkola 12 20 12 15 (12) 15 0 15 15 104
3 FinlandMarkku Alén 3 15 10 20 12 15 15 0 90

TOP 3 – MANUFACTURER STANDINGS

# TEAM EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
United Kingdom
GB
1 West Germany Audi 18 18 14 (10) 18 18 18 16 120
2 Italy Lancia (10) 16 12 18 14 16 16 16 108
3 FrancePeugeot 12 8 18 18 18 74

year1985

While all 12 events were calculated for tallying the drivers’ scores, only 11 of the events applied to the championship for manufacturers. The event in which applied only to driver standings was the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire.

Peugeot Talbot Sport, having made a successful mid-season 1984 entry into Group B with their new Peugeot 205 T16, returned for a full season with very brash ambitions of winning both titles outright. Besides Timo Salonen signing with Peugeot to support Ari Vatanen, the driver lineups remained relatively unchanged from the previous year.

In the first rally of the season (Monte Carlo), Ari Vatanen, even though he incurred an eight-minute penalty due to an error caused by co-driver Terry Harryman, still managed to catch and beat Walter Röhrl’s quattro in the snowy and icy terrain. At the Swedish Rally, Vatanen won again, establishing himself as the early favorite for a driver’s title. Teammate Salonen would win the following rally in Portugal. With an impressive 6 rally wins in a row, Peugeot had proven beyond any doubt the superiority of its design.

A disaster struck at the Tour de Corse event: on the 4th stage of the rally, Italian driver Attilio Bettega crashed his Lancia 037 into a tree and was killed instantly. His co-driver Maurizio Perissinot survived the crash uninjured. Three rallies later, Vatanen had a major accident in Argentina while speeding down a long straight road in top gear when his 205 T16 crashed and rolled end-over-front. Vatanen’s injuries were severe and deemed life-threatening but he would survive his injuries.

At FISA, the fast Group B cars were already under scrutiny for the potential danger they posed to the unruly spectator masses, but for the first time the safety aspects of the cars themselves were seriously put in question. In turn, Audi felt the dual pressure of Peugeot’s seemingly unbeatable performance and waning parent company commitment to the quattro rally program. With the dangers of Group B rally becoming a more publicized issue, the company was questioning its involvement in the sport unless major changes were made to improve safety.

Amidst its difficulties, Audi decided to continue on with their 1985 rally program. Both Stig Blomqvist and Walter Röhrl were retained as drivers but, even though they were given an ultra powerful S1 E2 version of the quattro, they still had trouble matching the Peugeots’ pace. Their season however only included a single rally win between them, with Röhrl’s triumph at Sanremo proving to be Audi’s last Group B victory in the World Rally Championship. With its star driver injured indefinitely, the Peugeot team was forced to turn to its other driver, Timo Salonen. Thankfully for Peugeot, Salonen had already proven he could win consistently and quickly took over the lead. The Finn would rake up 5 wins and 3 other podium finishes, easily winning the drivers’ championship over Blomqvist.

The Lancia Martini team’s season was an even greater disappointment than Audi’s. The rear wheel drive Lancia Rallye 037 was considered obsolete, even in the hands of skilled drivers such as Markku Alén, Massimo Biasion, and Henri Toivonen. The team anxiously awaited the arrival of the four wheel drive Delta S4 all year long, hoping it would prove as competitive as the 205 T16. The car would debut at the final rally of the season (the RAC Rally) and succeeded in collecting the victory in the capable hands of Henri Toivonen. The new car gave the team much hope for the following season. At the same rally, Austin Rover also made its entrance to the WRC rally scene with the new MG Metro 6R4 where it finished 3rd driven by Tony Pond.

TOP 3 – DRIVER STANDINGS

# DRIVER EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
Ivory Coast
CI
United Kingdom
GB
1 FinlandTimo Salonen 12 12 20 4 20 20 20 20 15 127
2 Sweden Stig Blomqv. 10 15 10 15 10 15 75
3 West GermanyWalter Röhrl 15 12 12 20 59

year1986

The season consisted of 13 rallies, including all twelve venues of the previous season as well as the addition of the Olympus Rally. This marked the return of the WRC to North America, as well as the first world rally to be held on the western side of the continent. With 3 highly funded top class rally teams that now possessed competitive rally cars that had the potential to win, and more on the way, 1986 looked like it was going to be the most exciting season yet.

Still deprived of its injured star driver Ari Vatanen, Peugeot brought in Juha Kankkunen from his good performances with the outclassed Toyota Celica TCT, and Bruno Saby (of French Rally Championship fame) to support champion Timo Salonen. Audi retained ace driver Walter Röhrl and retained former champion Hannu Mikkola. Lancia’s effort would be continued with Henri Toivonen, Markku Alén, and supported by Miki Biasion. MG would rely on the vast experience of Tony Pond and Malcolm Wilson. Ford, which would join the fray at the second rally of the season (Sweden), signed 1984 champion Stig Blomqvist and fellow Swede Kalle Grundel, albeit Ford had a limited program planned for the season.

The competition season began with Henri Toivonen taking the win at Monte Carlo with his Lancia Delta S4. The car yet again proved that it could beat the Peugeot 205 T16 (which had been the benchmark for the last year and a half). At the Swedish Rally, Juha Kankkunen turned the tables on Lancia and won the event with his Peugeot 205 T16 E2, ahead of Markku Alén with the Delta S4, and followed by Ford’s Kalle Grundel with the newly launched RS200.

At the next rally in Portugal, local driver Joaquim Santos lost control of his Ford RS200 and plunged into the crowd, killing 3 spectators and injuring more than 30. At the end of the day, all the factory team drivers decided to withdraw from the rally. The win went to local driver Joaquim Moutinho. This unfortunate event put Group B’s blemished safety record back under the FISA’s scrutiny. After the rally, Audi cancelled their Group B rally program unless the safety issues were fixed, therefore ending the Sport quattro S1 E2’s career short. This event was sort of seen as an excuse for Audi to pull out of rallying since the parent company was already pressuring them to quit for quite some time.

Two rallies later, a subsequent fatal accident at the Tour de Corse would change the course of rallying forever; while leading the rally, Henri Toivonen in his Lancia Delta S4 went off the side of the road, plunged down a ravine, and got hanged in the trees. An explosion ensued, killing Toivonen and co-driver Cresto in a blaze of gasoline. Lancia pulled its cars from the rally but Peugeot (which was at its home event) decided to continue and faced much criticism. This handed the victory to Bruno Saby (his first WRC win). The fatal accidents would strongly affect the championships and Group B’s entire future.

The Acropolis Rally in Greece and the New Zealand Rally were won consecutively by Kankkunen; and the third driver to take his debut win during the season was Lancia’s Miki Biasion, who edged out teammate Alén to win the Rally Argentina. Three Finnish drivers filled the podium in the 1000 Lakes Finland rally, with Salonen and Kankkunen giving Peugeot a 1-2 result, and Alén coming in 3rd for Lancia. At Peugeot, albeit they had originally bid on defending world champion Salonen to lead the team, it was obvious by then that Kankkunen had taken over that role, but they did not issue team orders to favor either one.

The Ivory Coast Rally, which was considered to be the most demanding, grueling, and certainly the most attrition-filled rally of the year was skipped by all of the major Group B teams, and was won by Björn Waldegard (the inaugural 1979 WRC champion) in the rugged Toyota Celica. He had already won the Safari rally thus completing his World Championship African rally sweep and helped give Toyota with a 1-2-3 win. In the end, this was bitter-sweet for Toyota; although the Celica never was directly competitive against the top four wheel drive cars, it nonetheless ended up being the most reliable endurance rally car of the Group B era (6 wins / 10 races).

The season included more controversy at the Rallye San Remo when, upon a complaint from Lancia, the Italian stewards disqualified the entire Peugeot team from the event by accusing the team to have run illegal side “mini” skirts. Peugeot said that they had used the same configuration in earlier rallies without any problems and had passed pre-rally scrutineering at Sanremo. Peugeot appealed, claiming partisan foul-play, but the organizers did not allow the team to continue the rally. This handed a 1-2-3 win for Lancia (Alén, Cerrato, Biasion).

At the RAC Rally in the United Kingdom, Salonen won, with Alén finishing 2nd, and Kankkunen 3rd. At that point, only the driver championship was still in play, with both Alén and Kankkunen up for the title. If it wasn’t for that aspect, Lancia and Peugeot probably would not have participated in the last round of the year: the Olympus Rally in Washington State of the northwest United States. Alén won the rally, a bit over 3 minutes ahead of Kankkunen. Peugeot had unequivocally won their second manufacturers’ title earlier in the season after rally Finland. Yet, there was much celebration in the Lancia camp as Alén had just won the drivers’ championship by 1 point over Kankkunen.

However, the official appeal of Peugeot to the FISA about its disqualification in the Sanremo was still not decided. Markku Alén’s championship hanged on that decision. 3 weeks after the season ended, the FISA declared that the Peugeot cars were legal and blamed the Italian organizers for foul play, albeit some regard this decision as political since Peugeot were also suing the Federation over the ban of Group B itself. The results of the Sanremo rally were annulled which handed the drivers’ championship to Juha Kankkunen instead. Alén was very bitter about the verdict.

TOP 3 – DRIVER STANDINGS

NOTE: No points were awarded for Portugal and Italy

# DRIVER EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
P Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Ivory Coast
CI
I United Kingdom
GB
United States
US
1 FinlandJuha Kank. 8 20 8 20 20 15 12 15 118
2 FinlandMark. Alén 15 12 15 15 12 15 20 104
3 FinlandTimo Salon. 15 8 20 20 63

TOP 3 – MANUFACTURER STANDINGS

# TEAM EVENT PTS
Monaco
MC
Sweden
SE
Portugal
PT
Kenya
KE
France
FR
Greece
GR
New Zealand
NZ
Argentina
AR
Finland
FI
Italy
IT
United Kingdom
GB
1 FrancePeugeot 17 20 (10) 20 20 20 (14) 20 * 20 137
2 Italy Lancia 20 17 (14) 17 17 20 14 * 17 122
3 West GermanyVolkswagen 9 10 9 11 12 14 * 65

Thus ended the Group B competition era, with high drama from start to finish. It is by far the most eventful consecutive years of the World Rally Championship, which helped solidify Group B’s mythical status that exists today.


DETAILED EVENT STATISTICS & VIDEOS FOR ALL COMPETITION YEARS CAN BE FOUND HERE!

DETAILED EVENT REPORTS & VIDEOS FOR ALL GROUP B ERA RALLIES CAN BE FOUND HERE!


Article by Jay Auger – website owner & author

SOURCES;

  • Wikipedia / WRC 19821983198419851986 (partial transcript, reviewed, modified and/or corrected)

PAGE EXPANSION WANTED: Do you wish to contribute information or write a complementary article to this page? Please, do use this CONTACT form to let me know!

Advertisements

WELCOME TO THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GOLDEN ERA OF RALLYING

Advertisements