Published on: Jan 18, 2016 @ 23:27 Originally Published in: 2014 (old website) (C) Jay Auger - website owner & author Notice: Any form of duplication methods (including but not limited to copy/paste of text and screen capture) of the website's content is strictly forbidden.
In 1985, the FISA (former ruling committee of the FIA) announced a possible replacement class to Group B that was referred to as “Group S”. The new regulations would require only 10 cars for homologation and was essentially a “prototype” class for rallying. The class was originally scheduled to make its debut on January 1st 1988, then as a heavily revised replacement to Group B for 1987, but both were ultimately cancelled. To learn much more about the history of Group S, please CLICK HERE!
In 1986, before the Group B ban was made official, Ford’s Boreham-based Rallye Sport team had also drafted the idea of competing in the proposed Group S category. While other manufacturers were developing a brand new chassis for the class, Ford’s bid was actually an even more evolved version of the RS200. The Shrine has come into contact with John Wheeler, the “father of the RS200”, who has brought the blue oval’s main Group S vision into a reality.
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No official prototype of the Group S Ford RS200 is known to have been physically built before the annulment of category in 1986 but the draft of ideas remained known. The new version was planned to sport a double clutch “FGB” sequential gearbox that was in development by Hewland at the time. Other notables were; lighter bodywork by using more advanced composites, moving the intercooler from the top of the engine bay to the bottom (and using possibly an air/water intercooler instead) for a lower centre of gravity, improving accessibility for service, and the removal of the protruding intercooler roof duct for better aerodynamics.
Two decades after the demise of Group B and S, John Wheeler, one of the RS200 original designers and former chief motorsport engineer at Ford, gave life to the stillborn prototype by building one himself. This adventure started with the purchase of an ex-rallycross car that was severely damaged in the rear section at Brands Hatch. The rest was done with the aid of original spare parts.
At first glance it seems evident that this is no normal RS200. Exterior-wise, the car features a deleted intercooler roof pod, a revised front air dam, a new rear diffuser, and a new rear spoiler. All of it making the car resemble the much smoother lines of the very first RS200 prototype pencilled by Ghia‘s Filippo Sapino.
Closer inspection underneath this special RS200’s skin reveals immediate apparent differences to the front and rear structure, which were previously integrated into the chassis, now replaced by a fully tubular system. This was done in harmony with the original plan for providing easier access to the major mechanical components, which included a much faster way to remove the entire engine from the car, something that is paramount in rally.
A quick look at the engine bay reveals some much noted differences; the top-mounted intercooler has been changed and moved to the rear. This effectively lowers the centre of gravity and reduces drag as was intended. However, the unit forcibly replaces the original location for the spare tire. Then you realise that the turbo is on the opposite side of the usual layout, with something red gleaming underneath it all.
The other major change from a normal RS200 is that Wheeler’s “Group S prototype” does not use a BDT engine as you would expect. In fact, it uses a YB engine to power the car: a series found in the Group A homologation Ford Sierra RS Cosworth from 1986 to 1992.
The main reason for this is that back in 1986 Ford was frantically trying to reach an agreement with FISA’s then technical director Gabriele Cadringher to overturn the annulment of Group S. Ford’s major push was the proposal to impose Group A engines to meet the 300 BHP limit of the category instead of the regulations’ planned 1200cc limit on forced induction units which would have somewhat favoured manufacturers already invested in low-displacement formula powerplants.
The Ford proposal was also a brilliant tactical move since the YB was a stouter engine than the BDT while also producing more torque. These Group A engines were known to be able to produce anywhere between 300 and 600 BHP in unbridled race trim. Both maximum horsepower and torque figures of the YB are available much lower in the rev range hence reducing turbo lag and much improving driveability over a BDT-equipped RS200.
The engine in Wheeler’s car seems indeed to be a YBB found in the earlier Sierra RS models. It has seen some changes and improvements over time such as a switch from a Garrett to a Borg-Warner turbocharger. While originally set at 400 BHP the engine is currently tuned at a healthy 485 BHP, somewhat proving that the 300 BHP regulations would have been difficult to enforce back in 1987 without further bridling.
Other recent changes include replacing the traditional 5-speed manual dogbox with a 6-speed sequential transmission similar to ones used on motorcycles and developed in-house by Mike Quaife. Wheeler insists that the idea is in the lines to what was planned by Ford in 1986 and theoretically could have been made possible with enough R&D back then.
Also gone are the RS200’s original fuel tanks in compartments that were integrated into the car’s structure behind the seats. Wheeler’s car features a much safer 65 litre fuel cell in the right compartment with all of the pumps and filters housed in the left unit.
Wheeler’s overall attention to detail is said to have lowered the car’s weight by 90 KG (200 lb) over the originals. At 1030 kg wet, this RS200 weighs less with a full tank of fuel than the 1986 WRC works rally cars did while dry. This fact alone should satisfy the Ford fanatics who said that the RS200 had potential equal or greater than its rivals of the day if enough development be put in. Still, many of its detractors would not see it as pure and raw than, say, a Lancia Delta S4.
In the end it should be mentioned that Wheeler’s “Group S prototype” was created by his own ideas of what it should have been and might not necessarily fully reflect Boreham’s original plans which most likely would have turned a compromise on many things. This very special RS200 is still being tested and improved every year, such as in the annual Eifel Rallye Festival, even though the Group S category will forever remain stillborn. Nonetheless, John Wheeler’s vision can be considered as the real thing if not a little bit anachronistic here and there – but how can one argue of the end result?
|Group/Class||Group S (theoretical)||PROTOTYPE|
|Production||circa-2010||John Wheeler built: 1 unit|
|Type||YBB, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas||located mid-longitudinal|
|Displacement||2046 cc||WRC x 1.4 = 2864 cc|
|Output power – torque||485 HP @ 6000 rpm||431 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm|
|Materials||block: aluminium||cylinder head: aluminium|
||boost: 1.8 bar|
|Ignition||electronic / firing order 1-3-4-2|
|Lubrication system||dry sump|
|Type||four-wheel drive||Quaife 6-speed sequential shift face-dog gearbox, magnesium casing|
|Clutch||AP twin plate, magnesium bell housing|
|Type||aluminium honeycomb centre chassis structure with integral fuel cell compartments, steel T45 roll-cage structure and removable T45 front and rear tubular space-frames, central compartment in composite FRP with carbon / Kevlar reinforcement, front and rear body panels, and separate front and rear bumpers, and rocker panels in composite FRP / Kevlar / carbon fibre|
|Front suspension||double wishbone with twin close-coupled coil-spring damper units on upper wishbone, antiroll bar with adjustable control blades, adjustable ride-height geometry|
|Rear suspension||double wishbone with twin close-coupled coil-spring damper units on upper wishbone, lower toe-control link, antiroll bar with adjustable control blades, adjustable ride-height geometry|
|Steering system||rack and pinion with hydraulic power assistance||10:1|
|Brakes||330x32mm ventilated discs, 4 pistons AP calipers (F+R)||dual circuit, adjustable bias|
|length: 4000 mm (157.5 in)||width: 1764 mm (69.4 in)||height: 1212 mm (47.7 in)|
|wheelbase: 2530 mm (99.6 in)||front track: 1510 mm (59.4 in)||rear track: 1510 mm (59.4 in)|
|Rims – tires||
|Wet Weight||1030 kg (2270 lb)||Bias: F49/R51%|
|Weight/power||2.1 kg/hp (4.7 lb/hp)|
|Fuel tank||65 litres|
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(C) Article by Jay Auger – website owner & author
- Partial source: Classic & Sports Car (March 2011 issue)
- Images & videos are the property of their original owners
- Eifel Rallye Festival pictures used under permission – McKlein Publishing
- John Wheeler, for sharing extra information about his amazing creation (and putting up with our questions)!
- Phillip Kruger, magazine info.
- Sébastien Dussart, ERF pictures.