Ford RS200 (Group B)

Published on: Jan 18, 2016 @ 18:59
Originally Published in: 2014 (old website)
(C) Jay Auger - website owner & author
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Ford RS200


Ford Escort RS1700T

After winning the 1979 WRC manufacturer title, Ford completely abandoned competition to concentrate on developing a new rally car for the upcoming Group B category. Their new rally weapon was originally intended to be the rear-wheel drive Escort RS1700T but when the car’s conception was finished the winning standard was already shifting to four-wheel drive. At first, there was provisions to adapt the car to four-wheel drive but in early 1983 Ford decided to abandon over two years of work developing the RS1700T and started anew with a bespoke model.



Originally, the replacement to the RS1700T was planned to once again emulate an existing road-going model (which greatly favoured product placement). However, it was suggested that if Ford had any hopes of winning consistently in the WRC, the requirement had to be quickly put aside in favour of designing a dedicated rally platform from scratch.

The new project was code-named “B200” (Group B200 homologation units). Work started in July 1983. The chassis was designed by former F1 designer Tony Southgate and Ford’s John Wheeler, a former F1 engineer himself who had also worked at Porsche. The exterior design was done by Ghia’s Filippo Sapino, albeit it had to later be modified to incorporate Ford Sierra parts (for cheaper and quicker ease of service), much to the dismay of Sapino.

RS200 – two part cabin structure

By March 1984 a driveable prototype was presented to Ford management and was promptly approved. The car, now officially a Ford Rallye Sport model, was renamed the RS200 (RS = Rallye Sport, 200 = homologation requirement).

“B200” original prototype
“B200” original prototype – rear

The RS200 was the only Group B rally car that was a totally new and bespoke model in itself. As such, it was not a “silhouette car” – not trying to emulate a current road going car in shape or form. However, to save time, the Ford parts bin was extensively raided; the front windscreen, tail lights,  gear knob, and door features were identical to those of the early Sierra model, while the side windows were trimmed-down Sierra units.

Ford RS200 – technical view

The engineers also carried over many of the RS1700T’s features such as mounting the transmission at the opposite end of the engine for better weight balancing, and re-used the same 1778 cc BDT engine. However, since the engines had been sitting for two years, they “cleaned” them by slightly boring out the cylinders for a final rating of 1803 cc. The official horsepower rating for these engines originally were of 380 BHP but were ultimately rated at 444 BHP.

A double wishbone suspension setup with twin-dampers on all four wheels aided handling and helped give the car a balanced platform. Early tests showed that the car lacked downforce so the designers added a larger rear spoiler and a roof mounted intercooler duct to aid in cooling. They later added “ears” to the sides of the roof duct to provide better cooling for the rear brakes.

Due to its complexity and parts bin sources, the RS200 turned out a bit heavier than what was expected (1050 kg / 2315 lb). The engine displacement also somewhat handicapped the car by placing it in the “low” range (2524 cc) of the 2500~2999 cc adjusted class. While this can be seen as a mistake at first glance, the engineers knew that the car would never be able to weigh as little as the lower engine class regulations offered. This in turn opened up a new window of opportunity for the 1987 season with the planned Evolution (ET) version.

The iconic RS200 was conceived sporting very high F1-derived technology but its best WRC result was a 3rd place in its inaugural event in the 1986 Sweden Rally. Critics of the car often state that the design of the RS200 failed to exploit the lax Group B rules to the maximum. This criticism came from the fact that, since the RS200 didn’t have to emulate an actual road going model, it could have been made even more purposeful.

However, some insiders claim that the car had a potential greater than any of its competitors if enough development had been put in. Admittedly, even the RS200 detractors admit that it never truly had the time to shine since it began competing during the last year of Group B (1986) while not far different from the actual homologation model and was rather competitive when it did not break down.

Ironically, the RS200 played a role in the chains of events leading to the cancellation of Group B when local driver Joaquim Santos lost control and crashed into a crowd of people at the 1986 Portugal rally.

RS200E – EVOLUTION (1987)

Ford RS200E Prototype

Before news of the cancellation of Group B was made public in 1986, Ford had already begun working on the “evolution” (ET) model of their RS200 which was planned to debut at the 1987 Swedish rally. It is sometimes referred to as the “RS200 Evolution” or “RS200E”. It must be noted that the rally cars used in the inaugural 1986 season were only slightly upgraded homologation versions and are often considered not to be true evolution cars.

The main upgrade of the planned 1987 RS200E consists in an improved version of the BDT Cosworth engine. Called the “BDT-E”, it was developed by Formula engine designer Brian Hart, and features a larger displacement of 2137 cc (from 1803 cc) to maximise the 2500~3000 cc engine class that the car was already in (2992 cc with the x1.4 forced induction factor). For WRC competition, the engine was planned to develop anywhere between 450~650 BHP and with improved torque. More power was reported to be possible at higher boost levels but with greatly reduced reliability.

Other upgrades included a stronger suspension and better brakes. The only notable exterior features to help differentiate the RS200E from the “normal” RS200 are the presence of NACA ducts in front of the rear wheels and a larger/taller intercooler roof duct. A few lucky RS200 units were reported to have been converted to the new spec before the project was cancelled.

Ford was also toying with the idea of modifying the RS200 for use in the stillborn Group S category. Details about that car can be found HERE.

While the RS200E would never have the opportunity to race in the WRC, one car was subsequently bought and entered into European Rallycross by Martin Schanche (with 650 BHP) and raced until 1992.

Some national rally series allowed use of Group B cars post-ban thus some lucky contenders were able to update their car to the new spec. However these made quite expensive race cars to maintain due to the short life-span of the evolution engine.


Much later in 2004, another RS200E was built by Mach 2 Racing by using original spare parts, albeit much modified, with an engine tuned to produce 840 BHP. The car was entered into that year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and was driven to victory by rally legend Stig Blomqvist.


  • (E) = Evolution version (1987)
Group/Class B/12 Homologation number: B-280 (click # to view papers)
Years active 1986 Homologation

  • start: February 1st 1986
  • end: December 31st 1991
  • BDT, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas
  • BDT-E, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas (E)
located centrally (mid engine) longitudinal at 23o
  • 1803 cc
  • 2137 cc (E)
WRC: x 1.4 =

  • 2524 cc
  • 2790 cc (E)
Compression ratio 7.2:1
Output power – torque
  • 350~450 HP @ 8000 rpm
  • (officially rated at 444 HP)
  • 450~650 HP @ – rpm (E)
360 lb-ft (489 Nm) @ 5500 rpm
Materials block: aluminium cylinder head: aluminium
  • Garrett T03 turbocharger
  • Garrett TR03 turbocharger (E)
  • air/air intercooler
  • Bosch Motronic multi-point electronic fuel injection
pressure: (23 psi) 1.6 bar
Ignition electronic / firing order 1-3-4-2
Cooling system water-cooled
Lubrication system dry sump with 3 oil pumps
Type four wheel drive 5 speed transaxle gearbox mounted in the front with a second driveshaft to power the rear wheels
Gearbox ratios
  • 1st: 2.692
  • 2nd: 1.824
  • 3rd: 1.318
  • 4th: 1.043
  • 5th: 0.786
  • R: 3.083
  • 1st: 3.091
  • 2nd: 2.143
  • 3rd: 1.687
  • 4th: 1.368
  • 5th: 1.140
  • R: 3.083
Differential ratio front/rear:

  • 4.375

Transfer box:

  • 0.864
  • 1.043
  • 1.158
  • 1.278
  • Ferguson viscous coupling center differential with 37/63 or 50/50 or 0/100 torque distribution
  • Adjustable viscous coupling front and rear differentials
Clutch AP twin plate
Type Aluminium honeycomb lower chassis with carbon glass aramid composite upper structure and steel integral roll cage. Front & rear high strength alloy subframes. 2 door coupe plastic composite, carbon glass aramid epoxy composite bodyshell and bonnets, with plastic composite bumpers

taller intercooler pod, cooling “ears” for rear brakes, NACA duct (E)

Front suspension double wishbones with twin coil springs and twin dampers, adjustable anti-roll bar
Rear suspension double wishbones with twin coil springs and twin dampers. Adjustable anti-roll bar and toe control link
Steering system rack and pinion with optional hydraulic power assistance 12:1
Brakes ventilated rotors front/rear 285/304mm diameter with 4 piston calipers. Twin rotor system with 2 rotors 272mm diameter on same construction with 1 piston caliper and 2×2 pads dual circuit (no servo), with mechanical fly-off and hydraulic center lever acting on separate, mechanically operated rear calipers
length: 4000 mm (157.5″) width: 1785 mm (70.3 in) height: 1321 mm (52.0 in)
wheelbase: 2530 mm (99.6 in) front track: 1502 mm (59.1 in) rear track: 1497 mm (58.9 in)
Rims – tires 6″ – 8″ (8.75″ or 11″ optional) x 16″
  • Pirelli
  • 245/40/16 (dry tarmac)
  • 225/50VR-16 (wet tarmac)
Dry/Unladen Weight 1050 kg (2,315 lb)
Weight/power 2.4 kg/HP
Fuel tank 105 or 74 + 42 = 116 lt


Ford RS200 road car

Of the 225 units produced only about 140 were reported to have been sold. The balance were stripped to serve as part outs and some were destroyed in multiple crash testing sessions. This car is very coveted by collectors and has later spawned kit cars to allow someone to build your own replica. Although it is sometimes nicknamed “the ugly-duckling”, the RS200 is arguably considered to have the most timeless design of any Group B car, pleasing to young and old alike.

Differences between the rally and the road model are minimal (mainly the interior and de-tuned engine), making turning the RS200 into a competition ready vehicle a very easy task. A few lucky road cars were updated with the planned 2137 cc BDT-E “Evolution” engine that would have been introduced in 1987 if Group B had not been cancelled.

Some cars received only the engine upgrade while a rare few also got aerodynamic enhancements. It is rumoured that those ultra rare RS200E units with overclocked engines were however to be treated with care and were known to have a very short lifespan if thoroughly abused. The RS200E held the record twelve years running for the fastest accelerating (0-100 km/h) production car with a blistering 3.07 seconds.


Class Sports Homologation number: B-280 (click # to view papers)
Conception/Production 1983~86 (225) Assembly: United Kingdom
Type I-4, 1.8L, DOHC 16v, gas mid-engine
Output power – torque 240 HP 207 lb-ft (280 Nm)
Aspiration turbocharger Boost: N/A
Ignition electronic / firing order 1-3-4-2
Cooling system water-cooled
Lubrication system N/A
Type four-wheel drive 5-speed front transaxle
Gearbox ratios
  • N/A
Differential ratio
  • N/A
Clutch N/A
Type Aluminium honeycomb lower chassis with carbon glass aramid composite upper structure and steel integral roll cage.
Front suspension double wishbones with 1 lower wishbone and 1 upper short transverse arm, and anti roll bar
Rear suspension double wishbones with 1 lower wishbone and 1 upper short transverse arm, and anti roll bar
Steering system rack and pinion with hydraulic power assistance N/A
Brakes N/A
length: 4000 mm (157.5 in) width: 1760 mm (69.3 in) height: 1321 mm (52.0 in)
wheelbase: 2530 mm (99.6 in) front track: 1502 mm (59.1 in) rear track: 1497 mm (58.9 in)
Curb Weight 1180 kg (2600 lb)
Weight/power 4.9 kg/HP (10.8 lb/HP)
Fuel tank N/A
Drag coefficient N/A



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 Group B – The rise and fall of rallying’s wildest cars

RS200: Ford’s Group B Legend

 Ford RS200: The Story So Far

 Rallye Sport Fords

Traction For Sale: The Story of Ferguson Formula Four-Wheel Drive

Cosworth Cosworth- The Search for Power

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