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.
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No official prototype of the Group S RS200 is known to have been physically built before the annulment of category but the draft of ideas remained. 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 of 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 technical director Gabriele Cadringher to overturn the annulment of Group S. One of Ford’s major push was the proposal to impose Group A engines to meet the 300 BHP limit of the category.
This proposal was also a tactical move by Ford 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 to be a YBB found in the earlier 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. Other recent changes include replacing the 5-speed manual dogbox with a 6-speed sequential transmission – in the lines to what was planned by Ford in 1986.
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, this RS200 weighs less with a full tank of fuel than the 1986 works rally cars did while dry.
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. The car is still being tested and improved, 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, even with the few anachronisms under its skin.
|Group/Class||Group S (theoretical)||PROTOTYPE|
|Production||2010 – estimated||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||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: N/A|
|Weight/power||2.1 kg/hp (4.7 lb/hp)|
|Fuel tank||65 litres|
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(C) Articles 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 information about his amazing creation (and putting up with my questions!)
- Phillip Kruger, magazine info.
- Sébastien Dussart, pictures.