GROUP B ERA RALLYCROSS

Published on: Jan 17, 2016 @ 20:48
(C) Jay Auger - website owner & author
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In the 1980s, while Group B competition did involve mostly WRC and national rallying, there was also the fierce Formula A / Division 2 European Rallycross Cup. Other popular series were the French and British Rallycross Championships. In fact, the high horsepower potential, increased traction, and light weight of the Group B cars were perfect for the series. However, rallycross was mostly entered by privateers, making the high cost of Group B cars 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 that looked as purposeful as them; with wider bodies, composite panels, and aerodynamic appendages.

1983 Ford Escort RX
1983 Ford Escort Xtrac

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 remaining niche for them. Since WRC rally teams and manufacturers were selling off ex-works cars and remaining homologation specials at giveaway prices, many rallycross privateers bought them to compete in the series. By the end of 1987, the top fields consisted almost entirely of 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, and Lancia Delta S4 in southern Europe.

The competition was very fierce but the Group B cars were very expensive to run. However, the rules 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 was 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, 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 fast Group B rally cars even further; cranking up the turbo boost for more power (reportedly up to 900 HP 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 & Peugeot 205 T16 launching off the starting grid of a French Rallycross race
rs200rx
Jan Arthur Iversen competing with a much modified Ford RS200

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 cars now had to carry extra weight. However, some competitors got creative and de-stroked their engines to keep the horsepower / low weight combination they had before the rule change. These smaller displacement engines revved higher to keep the same horsepower but produced a bit less torque.

The amazing Group B cars were allowed to compete in rallycross until the end of 1992, giving fans 6 extra years after the WRC ban to enjoy the amazing spectacle that only they could provide. They were subsequently replaced by Group A based rally cars for 1993.

“It is my opinion that, although today’s FIA Rallycross cars are amazing performers, the format of older rallycross (more cars on the grid) paired with the Group B cars (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…”

  • For more information about specific Group B rallycross cars, CLICK HERE!
  • To watch Group B era rallycross videos, CLICK HERE!

AVAILABLE LITERATURE

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RX Loreac Rallycross de Lohéac – Depuis 1976 (French)

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

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