GROUP B ERA RALLYCROSS

Published on: Jan 17, 2016 @ 20:48
(C) Jay Auger - website owner & author
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GENERAL HISTORY

In the 1980s, while Group B cars competed mostly in the WRC, international and national rallying, they were also used in the fierce and popular Formula A / Division 2 European, French, British and other national Rallycross championships. In fact, the high horsepower and traction potential, paired with the inherent light weight of the Group B cars was perfect for these adrenaline-charged series. However, rallycross was mostly entered by privateers, making the high cost of Group B homologation specials prohibitive at first, but they slowly started to appear into competition near the end of 1983.

Early on, the Group B machines fought side by side with custom-built special versions of other road cars, such as Ford Escort Xtracs and high-power Porsches, looking as purposeful with wider bodies, composite panels and wild aerodynamic appendages.

1983 Ford Escort Xtrac RX Special

After the ban of Group B cars in the WRC for the start of 1987, besides some hill climb and rally raid venues, rallycross was the only true remaining niche for them. Since WRC rally teams and manufacturers were selling off ex-works evolution cars and remaining homologation specials at giveaway prices, many privateers purchased them to compete in rallycross series. By the end of 1987, the top fields consisted almost entirely of very angry Group B cars. National pride was also very much in play; the Peugeot 205 T16 was much used in the French cup, the MG Metro 6R4 and the Ford RS200 in the British series, the Audi quattro / Sport quattro in the east and the Lancia Delta S4 in southern Europe.

The Group B rallycross era saw very heated battles being fought.

The competition was very fierce but the Group B cars were very expensive to run – demanding a hefty competition budget most privateers had difficulty to afford. However, the rules in rallycross were very loose, making “DIY” style repairs and “frankensteined” cars a common sight. Even the engine make could be changed if one so desired – the only real rule being that the engine had to remain the same amount of cylinders as the production model.

The European Rallycross Championship, which was sanctioned by the FISA and the highest level of competition of the time, also incorporated minimum weight restrictions based on engine displacement – very similar to those used in the Group B WRC days with a 1.4 multiplication factor for forced induction. However, almost everything else was permitted to gain an edge so the competitors often modified the already super-fast Group B rally cars even further; cranking up the turbo boost for more horsepower (reportedly up to 900 BHP was often used in the finals), extra aerodynamic aids (added giant rear wings or double stacked spoilers) and lighter weight modifications (stripped instrumentation, smaller fuel tanks, etc).

Modified Lancia Delta S4 and Peugeot 205 T16 launching off the starting grid.

In 1989, since it was obvious that the FISA couldn’t control the power output of turbocharged engines, they augmented the multiplication factor to 1.7 which meant that most rallycross cars now had to carry extra weight. However, some competitors got creative and de-stroked their engines to keep the same horsepower / low weight combination they had before the rule change. These smaller displacement engines revved higher to keep the same horsepower output but produced a bit less torque. This made the cars ever so more difficult to drive – which added blaze to the fierce battles.

The amazing Group B supercars were allowed to compete in FISA/FIA-sanctioned rallycross until the end of 1992 – giving fans 6 extra years after the WRC ban to enjoy the outstanding spectacle that only they could provide. The Group B supercars were subsequently replaced by Group A-based rally cars for 1993~on due to the former’s ageing technologies and outdated publicity platforms for manufacturers.

“Although today’s FIA World Rallycross supercars are amazing performers, the format of older rallycross (more cars on the grid) paired with the unmatched Group B flair (much harder to drive) made for a more exciting spectacle than what we have today. Which still crowns the Group B era as the most exciting time for anything with four wheels in dirt…”


REFERENCES

(C) Article by Jay Auger – website owner & author

WELCOME TO THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GOLDEN ERA OF RALLYING