FSO Polonez 2000 Rally (Group 4 / B)

Published on: Jan 18, 2016 @ 23:36
Originally Published in: 2015 (old website)
(C) Jay Auger - website owner & author
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INTRODUCTION

The FSO Polonez is a front engine / rear wheel drive Polish rally car based on the then newly released 1978 Polonez model built by OBRSO. It is the rally successor to the Polski Fiat 125p. In 1979, the Polonez became a Group 4 competitor, also seeing action in Group 2 a year later. In 1984, the Polonez 2000 was updated to the less strict Group B regulations to keep its rally career ongoing.


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POLONEZ 2000 RALLY

For FSO Sports in Poland, building a proper Group B rally car and a competition programme was no easy task in the waning communist block of the 1980’s. Such projects required government approval and funding for motorsport was mediocre at best. As such it was decided to recycle the Group 4/2 car into the new regulations instead of building a new car entirely.

The engineers did however made plans for the Group B version to use a 3-door model of the Polonez, which was lighter and smaller, paired with a supercharged or turbocharged version of the Fiat-sourced 1995 cc engine. Then it all came to a screeching halt when their ideas simply didn’t get past the officials of the communist regime. Hence, the project was extensively watered down due to the sheer cost of having to produce 200 units of such homologation specials.

2000 Rally Engine

Ultimately, the upgraded Group B version of the Polonez simply featured composite panels to help bring the weight down, plus minor redesigns such a smaller front bumper and brake cooling ducts. Otherwise, it wasn’t much different from its lesser Group 4 counterpart. The 2000 Rally however did feature a few competition parts gathered from different sources such as a Porsche RS braking system.

There are no records of the Group B Polonez ever competing in a round of the World Rally Championship. Instead, it saw action in national rallies of Eastern Europe, predominantly in its home country of Poland where it competed up to the end of its homologation (1989).

It was unofficially reported that all of the competition cars were dismantled and sold for parts at the end of the State-sponsored rally programme in 1990. The Group B FSO Polonez 2000 Rally is therefore available today only through replicas, such as the car pictured in this article: built and driven by engineer Marcin Klonowski.


RALLY CAR SPECIFICATIONS

Group/Class B/11 Homologation number: B-261 (click on # for papers)
Years active 1984~1989 Homologation

  • start: April 1st 1984
  • end: December 31st 1989
Engine
Type Fiat 2.0L, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas front, longitudinal
Displacement 1995 cc WRC = 1995 cc
Compression ratio N/A
Output power – torque 160~175 HP @ – rpm – lb-ft (- Nm) @ – rpm
Materials block: N/A cylinder head: N/A
Aspiration
  • Normal / Natural
  • Weber IDF48 carburretors
  • Bosch Kugel-Fischer mechanical fuel injection
Ignition N/A
Cooling system water-cooled
Lubrication system N/A N/A
Transmission
Type rear wheel drive Colotti – 5 speed manual gearbox
Gearbox ratios N/A N/A
Differential ratios N/A limited slip rear differential
Clutch N/A
Chassis-body
Type FIAT 125 steel monocoque chassis with roll cage, lightened bodywork, widened wheel arches, polycarbonate side windows
Front suspension Bilstein struts, coil springs
Rear suspension Bilstein struts, coil springs, straight axle with panhard rods
Steering system N/A N/A
Brakes Porsche RS brake system with 254 mm ventilated discs N/A
Dimensions
length: 4318 mm (170.0 in) width: N/A height: 1420 mm (55.9 in)
wheelbase: 2509 mm (98.8 in) front track: N/A rear track: N/A
Rims – tires
  • N/A
  • N/A
Dry/Unladen Weight 980 kg (2160 lb)
Weight/power 4.5 kg/HP (9.8 lb/HP)
Fuel tank 72 liters

HOMOLOGATION / PRODUCTION VERSION

FSO Polonez 2000

Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) started production of the Polonez in 1978 as a rebodied Polski Fiat 125p. The 2000 variant was very rare due to the scarcity of the Fiat 2.0L DOHC engine in Eastern Europe. It was mainly sold to government officials and for rally usage. 200 of these cars were used for Group B homologation in 1984.


ROAD CAR SPECIFICATIONS

Class Family Homologation number: B-261 (click on # for papers)
Production 1979~1984 Assembly: Warsaw, Poland
Engine
Type Fiat 2.0L, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas front, longitudinal
Displacement 1995 cc
Compression ratio N/A
Output power – torque 110 HP @ – rpm – lb-ft (- Nm) @ – rpm
Materials block: N/A cylinder head: N/A
Aspiration
  • Normal / Natural
  • carburetor
Ignition N/A
Cooling system water-cooled
Lubrication system N/A N/A
Transmission
Type rear wheel drive 5 speed manual gearbox
Gearbox ratios N/A N/A
Differential ratios N/A N/A
Clutch N/A
Chassis-body
Type FIAT 125 steel monocoque chassis
Front suspension struts, coil springs
Rear suspension struts, coil springs, straight axle
Steering system N/A N/A
Brakes N/A N/A
Dimensions
length: 4318 mm (170.0 in) width: 1650 mm (65.0 in) height: 1420 mm (55.9 in)
wheelbase: 2509 mm (98.8 in) front track: N/A rear track: N/A
Rims – tires
  • N/A
  • N/A
Curb Weight 1075 kg (2,370 lb)
Weight/power 9.8 kg/HP (21.5 lb/HP)
Fuel tank N/A

“STRATOPOLONEZ” PROTOTYPE (Polonez 2500 Racing)

In the late 1970s, FSO Sport / OBRSO fiddled with the idea of a mid-engined variant, ala Renault 5 Turbo (albeit it predates it), called the “StratoPolonez”. The reason for the peculiar but rather familiar sounding name is that the car made use of the engine from a severely crashed Lancia Stratos Group 4 rally car.

The story goes that the son of Poland’s prime minister at the time was an avid rally fan and was given a state of the art Lancia Stratos to compete in the country’s national series. He was leading the 1977 championship until he severely crashed out of an event. The remains of the car were given to FSO’s Research and Development Centre to study the technology and retrofit the V6 Ferrari engine into the brand new Polonez model, supposedly for promotional purposes.

To achieve this, the engineers mated the middle section of the Stratos’ chassis to the Polonez’s outer framework and refitted the mechanical components. The engine output was augmented to 285 BHP by use of a vacuum-assisted exhaust. Other elements came from the Polish national parts bin such as a radiator from a STAR truck.

The  StratoPolonez was initially said to be very difficult to drive due to poor (lack thereof) aerodynamics and flexing rear chassis. The car later received some upgrades such as chassis reinforcement and a major increase in rear track width by use of gigantic fender flares and monstrous 350 mm wide tires. However, the car still suffered from devilish behaviour such as snap oversteer and poor stability.

Only one car was reportedly built and raced sparingly until 1985 when it was decommissioned. It currently sits in the Museum of Industry and Technology of Warsaw, Poland.

It is note to mention that the StratoPolonez was conceived and built in 1978, predating the knowledge of the upcoming Group B category, and as such cannot be considered a true Group B prototype. Arguably, one can theorise that it might have made a more “Group B-esque” car than the Polonez 2000 Rally though.


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