Team Operations HQ: Vélizy-Villacoublay, France
- Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
- Talbot Samba Rallye
- Talbot Horizon – Prototype
- Peugeot 205 T16
- Peugeot 205 T16 Grand Raid
- Peugeot 205 T16 Pikes Peak
- Peugeot 205 T16 Rallycross
- Peugeot 405 T16 – Group S Prototype
- Peugeot 405 T16 Grand Raid
- Peugeut 405 T16 Pikes Peak
Notable WRC Drivers:
- Stig Blomqvist (1986 – 2 events)
- Kalle Grundel (1985 – 2 events)
- Juha Kankkunen (1986* – full season)
- Michèle Mouton (1986 – 2 events)
- Bruno Saby (1985 – 4 events / 1986 – 5 events)
- Timo Salonen (1985* & 1986 – full seasons)
- Henri Toivonen (1981 – full season)
- Ari Vatanen (1984 – 5 events / 1985 – 8 events)
*drivers championship winner
WRC GROUP B RESULTS
THE CREATION OF PEUGEOT TALBOT SPORT
In 1979, following the creation of the Talbot marque out of the remnants Chrysler Europe (Simca of France & Rootes UK), parent company PSA (Peugeot / Citroën merger) decided that the new brand needed a high-publicity boost to its image. The result was a two-tier venture into motorsport. In Formula One, PSA became the Ligier team’s title sponsor, rebranding it as Talbot, while using tuneful (if rather elderly) Matra V12 engines in place of the Ford Cosworth DFVs that Ligier had previously campaigned with. The Formula One project was a spectacular failure, and Talbot F1 cars graced the world’s circuits for barely two seasons.
In rallying, PSA put its finances behind the Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus continuation project, spearheaded by team manager Des O’Dell and seconded by Jean Todt. The car had already been under development during the Chrysler era.
The Sunbeam Lotus was a stunning success, scoring a memorable win at the Lombard-RAC rally in 1980, thus breaking years of Ford dominance. In fact, O’Dell proudly quipped “Everyone told me I needed a better Escort. So I built one…” Talbot would, beyond all expectations, win the 1981 WRC manufacturer’s title.
GROUP B PARTICIPATION ANNOUNCEMENT
By then, the FISA (the former name of the FIA) had announced the creation of Group B for 1982 to replace Group 4, with much looser rules to provide manufacturers with a cheaper way to join the top level of the sport. Only 200 homologation cars would be needed to be produced with almost any type of design allowed. This was seen as a major opportunity for car manufacturers to promote their products internationally.
However, the Sunbeam was not planned to remain in production after 1981, and following the introduction of the mid-engine Renault 5 Turbo, PTS knew it needed to work on a similarly spectacular car. Thus began work on a silhouette Talbot Horizon, identifying that the development of a similar concept to the Renault’s was the way forward. Using the same Lotus slant-four engine, sited behind the front seats, the Horizon Group B was the result, and it has to be said, an exciting looking proposition it looked.
However, only two prototypes were built before PSA abandoned the idea in favor of developing a brand new car due to how Audi had exploded onto the rally scene with its quattro. Immediately, all competing rally teams realized that they would most likely need four wheel drive in order to remain competitive in the future.
A CHANGE OF DIRECTION
At the same time, the Peugeot brand wanted to shift their market to small, affordable sporty cars, so they thought that joining the rally craze would give them the publicity needed to promote the upcoming lineup. All was kept a secret, the general public did not know that a new generation hatchback range, the 205, was planned. It felt important to Peugeot’s Chairman, Jean Boillot, that this new motorsport project should be led by a fellow Frenchman. Jean Todt, who already was a world class rally co-driver with a deep-seated knack for management, was the obvious choice.
At a press conference held in London soon after the end of the 1981 rally season, Todt outlined the new strategy for Peugeot, and made several promises:
“Peugeot will design a new and specialized Group B rally car, which will have four wheel drive. The new car will be unveiled in early 1983. Homologation and the first works entries will follow in 1984. By 1985, the car will be good enough, as will the team, to win the World Championship.”
Strong words that the press thought would never come to past…
THE M24-RALLY PROJECT
Initially coded “M24-Rally” project, the design of the car originally started at Talbot’s HQ in Coventry England, under team boss Des O’Dell. However, it was soon clear that the huge span and complexity of the project should be moved to France. Tragically, in the next few months O’Dell’s wife died, prompting the devastated man to return to England for good. From their Coventry home, O’Dell and his team would still provide crucial input as to how a proper rally car should be developed by keeping ease of service at the forefront. Back in France, Todt took supervision of a team of 20 engineers, which were lead by Bernard Perron. The design and build of the 205 rally car came together very quickly.
THE SIDE PROJECT
In interim, since the Sunbeam was going out of production, PSA wanted a quick solution to retaining exposure of the Talbot marque and provide potential customers with an entry-level budget Group B car to replace the outgoing Sunbeam Lotus. Their gambit went with the Talbot Samba Rallye. It was developed at Peugeot Sport Vélizy. Using a similar recipe to the Citroën Visa, the Talbot Samba used plastic body panels. PTS wanted to homologate the Samba into the smallest Group B-9 category (for engines of less than 1300 cc) while the Visa Chrono had already shifted into the B-10 category (for engines of 1300~1599 cc). For this, the 1360 cc Peugeot XY engine as used in the Citroen Visa and the Peugeot 104 ZS Evo2 did not qualify, but at the same time the 1124 cc version of the pre-TU engine family, as used on the 104 ZS Evo1, seemed a little too far off the class limit for a good result. So Peugeot Talbot Sport used a simple trick: a “new” engine was created by using the block & pistons of the 1360 cc version but substituted the crankshaft & con rods of the 1124 cc, which resulted in a final displacement of 1219 cc.
M24-RALLY, THE DEFINITIVE 205 T16
Budget for developing the rally car was almost without limit. In fact, the only real constraint that the engineers had was to fit a high performance four wheel drive package into the diminutive 205 chassis. The normal production 205 was a front wheel drive car but it was decided that, as opposed to the Audi quattro, that the new 205 T16 would be mid-engine for better weight distribution and traction. However, for marketing purposes, it was paramount to keep most of the 205’s exterior body features as intact as possible. Hence, the 205 T16 was officially a silhouette car.
The engineers chose to build the motor around Peugeot’s new XU line of diesel engines but with a much modified DOHC 16 valve head to run gasoline. Since the engine was to be turbocharged, a displacement of 1775 cc was chosen due to the Group B forced induction x1.4 coefficient. The final adjusted figure would settle at 2485 cc thus maximizing the 2000~2500 cc engine class which permitted a lower minimum weight for the car. Originally, they intended to mount the engine longitudinally but there was obvious lack of space. Furthermore, that layout would have made it nearly impossible to service the belts and pulleys. So, in March of 1982, by strong suggestion of Des O’Dell, they had settled on a transverse setup.
To keep a low center of gravity, it was decided to use a gearbox that was bolted behind the engine rather than below it (in the usual transverse engine setup). This would also help balance the weight of the engine which was fitted behind the passenger seat on the right side of the car. It had also transpired that the entire transmission layout would revolve around the availability of a 5-speed, two-shaft, indirect gearbox. Luckily, such a transmission was available in the PSA parts bin: the Citroën SM, a proven and sturdy unit. It would save the engineers much time by not having to devise an entirely new transmission albeit they had to much modify it.
On February 23 1983, just about 14 months after the project debut, Peugeot had a working car: it ran, for the first time, at the Mortefontaine test facility. They had hoped that the 200 homologation road cars would be built by the end of that year so that the team could compete in the January 1984 Monte Carlo rally. However, the only running prototype had only just begun testing, and the car shown to the press was merely the second prototype without an engine and drivetrain. Building 200 cars in just about 8 months seemed frivolous at best.
To make the process as easy as possible, Peugeot elected to make all the road cars to the same specifications, all of them in the same color, and all of them with left-hand drive. The French body specialist, Heuliez, produced all the structures (using, as their base, standard 205 shells which it then carved about considerably). The cars were then shipped to the special factory at Poissy. It would be the same assembly line that would produce the modified 20 evolution cars from which the works fleet of rally cars would evolve.
The January 1st 1984 original deadline would not be met. However, this gave PTS time to enter one car as a prototype in the Milles Pistes rally where it finished second behind a much under-powered four wheel drive Citroën Visa MP. However, since the car used was closer to the road model, sporting “only” about 305 HP, Jean Todt thought that the result was still a satisfactory one.
In March of 1984, when the time came for the 205 T16 to be homologated, Peugeot decided to line up every single one of the cars built on a massive expanse of tarmac so that the FIA inspectors could see for themselves that all the cars truly existed, that no cheating had taken place, and there had been no double-counting of cars to make up the numbers. Homologation was duly granted on April 1st, by which time PTS had already laid plans for the car to make its World Rally Championship debut in Corsica on the 3rd of May.
The 205 T16 was a major achievement for Peugeot. It strongly resembled the production 205 with differences only notable if you put both models side by side (the T16 was obviously wider and with a longer wheelbase). If all went well on the rally scenes, sales for the 205 (and the GTI sport variant) would surely explode.
The 205 T16 combined small size, light weight, and a mid-engine four wheel drive layout which proved to be an immediate recipe for success, setting fastest stage times at its very first rally, and became utterly unbeatable at the end of the 1984 season with drivers Ari Vatanen and Jean-Pierre Nicolas (which was PTS’ test driver during the prototype stage). In fact, this car forced Audi to completely revise their quattro (creation of the Sport quattro) to hopefully remain competitive. A stab that Todt had much enjoyed doing to the rally giant.
Peugeot did not rest on their success as one year later they took advantage of the evolution rules and created an updated version of their rally weapon; boasting more aerodynamics aids to fix the prior known issue, slight revisions were made to the powerplant such as a new turbocharger, and a switch to a water intercooler. They would effectively boost power up to 550 HP.
The 205 T16 turned out to be the most successful WRC Group B rally car with 16 outright rally wins, 2 driver championships (Timo Salonen 1985 / Juha Kankkunen 1986) and 2 manufacturer championships (1985 & 1986), even surpassing the legendary Audi quattro (13 wins / 1 championship) which ran for 1.5 seasons more. In lesser honors, the 205 T16 also won the 1985 & 1986 German Rally Championship (Kalle Grundel 1985 / Michèle Mouton 1986). In brief, the car honored every promise that Jean Todt had made back in late 1981. Todt expected the car to remain competitive until 1988 at the very least, if not longer.
However, it would not get the chance to shine further since the FISA, due to grave safety concerns after Toivonen/Cresto’s deaths, unilaterally cancelled Group B. Originally, there were provisions to replace it with the Group S regulations which were drafted at the end of 1985, albeit much revised. If adopted, these new rules would have permitted the 205 T16 to continue competing. For this, Peugeot actually wanted to perform a third evolution (E3) of the 205 T16. The main improvement planned for the car was the development of a driver adjustable center differential to be able to balance front to rear torque distribution on the fly. The car would also have featured revised aerodynamic enhancements. For the rest, the rally car would have simply been adapted to the new regulations.
However, the FISA ultimately decided not to go forward with Group S and made Group A as the top rally class, effective January 1st 1987. A decision that much angered Todt and Peugeot since they could not get involved in the proceedings. In fact, the anger truly revolved more about Peugeot not having something even near a four wheel drive Group A car to continue competing in the WRC. Peugeot sued the FISA over the financial losses they estimated that the cancellation of Group B would cause them, including loss of previous investments in developing the 205 T16. A lawsuit totaling around 3 million pounds. After lengthy legal delays the action failed. This led to a sour relation between the two parties for a while.
POST GROUP B
By 1987, It came to Jean Todt’s ears that Audi was dominating the Pikes Peak “Race to the Clouds” international hill climb event for the previous 5 years. Albeit Audi had fallen out of contention in the latter WRC battle, with Lancia as the only real adversary to Peugeot in the final Group B season, Todt had not forgotten his original foe: The quattro. Todt always had somewhat of a disdain for the car since he considered it a circumstantial de facto winner only since it had no similar opposition. After all, the quattro was the car that the 205 T16 was originally designed and built to beat. Stopping Audi at Pikes Peak would be the final insult he could give them. Furthermore, Peugeot had also learned that Audi was planning to run a special version of the Sport quattro for the event. Their main gambit lied with Ari Vatanen, who suffered a near fatal crash in the 1985 rally of Argentina that made him miss the entire 1986 rally season. However, the Finn had recovered and was confident he could perform to expectations.
PTS decided to join the fray with a field of not just one but three specially prepared cars. The 1987 Pikes Peak edition 205 T16s sported a slightly longer wheelbase to improve high speed stability paired with a new added front spoiler. The 6 speed transmission that was used in the latter part of the 1986 WRC season was also implemented. The cars had a claimed 550 BHP for 850 KGs of weight. After the first qualifying sessions, Vatanen felt disappointed that he was about 4 seconds per kilometer slower than Röhrl with the Audi and thought that he had not fully recovered his abilities from his 1985 crash. The Peugeot technicians then had the idea to take spare rear spoilers and stack one on top of the other to add downforce. The improvement was immediate as on the next set of qualifiers Vatanen turned the tables on the Audi and was 4 seconds faster per kilometer than Röhrl.
As such, Peugeot team leader Jean Todt had high hopes for victory and hand the quattro one last defeat. However, it was not to be as Ari Vatanen’s car suffered from a broken clamp on the turbocharger inlet hose which resulted in boost pressure issues, and he came 7 seconds behind Walter Röhrl‘s Audi. A small consolation for Peugeot was that all three cars finished the race, resulting in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions.
Although Jean Todt argued that Ari Vatanen could not beat Röhrl “only due to the broken clamp”, the 205 T16 Pikes Peak engineers found it to have an inherent flaw: it had a wheelbase that was too short for the long high speed corners that abound the particular venue. The engineers had already tried to stretch it to the maximum that the 205 body style would allow. Surely, fixing this problem would beat Audi next year, Todt must have thought. He convinced Peugeot to develop a derivative of the 205 T16 that would sport a longer wheelbase chassis and with revised aerodynamics; this was to be based on the company’s Group S prototype formula.
As such, the engineers decided to take the same basic chassis, lengthen the subframe section between the cabin and engine, and drape it in the longer Peugeot 405 body style. The lengthened section also allowed to fit larger fuel tanks aimed specifically for the eventual rally raid version. Further improvements were made to the T16 engine package as Peugeot was no longer restricted by the Group B displacement class rules. Thus, the displacement of the XU8T was increased to 1.9L and fitted with dual variable valve timing. Of course, Peugeot branded the 405 T16 as a brand new competition car for publicity purposes, but it was very much still a 205 T16 underneath.
For the 1988 Pikes Peak contest, Audi would not show up: they had officially retired the rally quattro from competition and were now focusing on circuit racing. This would prevent Todt from exacting the revenge he wanted so badly. However, there was still satisfaction in the fact that Peugeot, unlike Audi, was “still at it”.
Todt gave Vatanen another chance at victory and the Finn would not disappoint. He bettered Röhrl’s previous year record of 10:47.850 by a few tenths of a second (10:47.220): a record that stood until 1994, proving that the Group B T16’s engineering would truly have been competitive for a long time. Todt had replaced the Audi name with Peugeot in the record books and that brought enough satisfaction for him and the team. The 1988 feat was also immortalized in the award wining short movie “Climb Dance”. PTS would not return to Pikes Peak in that era but it is worth mentioning that Robby Unser competed in the 1989 running of the race with an identical 405 T16 and gave the car a second straight victory.
Most top-tier Group B cars ended up being bought by privateers and recycled into European rallycross since their high horsepower potential, traction, and light weight were perfect for the series. As such, rallycross popularity was ever growing. Peugeot saw an opportunity to keep the 205 T16 alive a bit longer.
For the 1988 French Rallycross Championship (FRXC), PTS chose to use one of the 1987 Pikes Peak edition 205 T16s that were unable to defeat Audi at the famed hill climb event. While the Pikes Peak cars had a claimed 550 HP for 850 kg of weight, the French rallycross version‘s engine displacement was decreased from 1775 cc to 1758 cc (to comply with weight class rules) which still produced a healthy 510 HP, and a declared weight of 960 kg (2115 lb). The 6 speed transmission was amputated of its top gear since it was not needed. The car also sported a new front lip spoiler and a latter addition incorporated a large supplemental rear wing for added downforce.
The combination would prove successful which resulted in three consecutive French Rallycross championships from 1988 to 1990 (Guy Fréquelin / Philippe Wambergue / Jean-Manuel Beuzelin).
Peugeot Talbot Sport was looking at various other options to keep the 205 T16 soldiering on. A natural side venture to stage rallying was grand raid / rally raid in such international venues such as Paris-Dakar. As such, PTS prepared modified 205 T16s with; a longer wheelbase to incorporate a very large secondary fuel tank, a beefed up the suspension, and a substantially reinforced chassis. The T16 proved to be a winner in the desert as well.
Jean Todt would oversee the Paris-Dakar operations from 1987 to 1990, which brought PTS 4 straight victories with both special versions of the 205 T16 and 405 T16. Peugeot subsequently decided to withdraw from off-road rallying and left the field open to PSA sister company Citroën, who won the following event with the ZX Rallye-Raid (which was directly based on the Peugeot. This means that the 205 Turbo 16 was a design that came to be competitive for over a decade: an achievement that is seldom seen in motorsport and a testament to Group B’s influence.
With their rallying prowess now behind them, Peugeot Talbot Sport and Jean Todt continued their partnership in endurance sportscar racing. Establishing the team at the defunct rally operations headquarters. In 1988, they had launched the 905 project, to develop a race car to begin competing in the World Sportscar Championship for the 1991 season. The 905 was introduced in 1990 and finished second in the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season. In 1992, PTS won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The same year, they also won the World Sportscar Championship. The series did not run in 1993, but Peugeot were able to take an incredible 1-2-3 finish at the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Peugeot then chose to pull out of motorsport while on top and with a feeling of having achieved everything they had set out for. A decade of true success. The Peugeot Talbot Sport era, as it was, had officially ended. Jean Todt, meanwhile, left Peugeot to successfully lead the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team back to glory. In 2009, he attained the ultimate spot in motorsport management: President of the FIA.
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