Group B: The rally cars that were scary

Between 1983 and 1986 the World Rally Championship shone with very powerful but dangerous cars. So much so that the authorities lowered their thumbs after several fatal accidents.

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There was a time when World Rally it was not for everyone. There was a time when their cars were scary. That era was that of the Group B, a regulation approved by the International Federation of Automobile Sports (current FIA) that allowed manufacturers to use vehicles with all-wheel drive and turbo engines with powers ranging between 300 and 500 horsepower.

The idea for FISA was inspired by the Lancia Stratos, who was all the rage in the 1970s by winning the 1974, 1975 and 1976 titles with the Italian Sandro Munari commanding. Using the regulations of the Group 4 (production of 25 units in the span of 12 months) the Stratos was designed exclusively for running.

Renault 5 Turbo
Renault 5 Turbo.

This new variant captured the interest of the terminals, which began to develop their models with tubular chassis and a very low weight thanks to the use of fiberglass bodies with plastic crystals.

Since there were no restrictions on the power of the impellers, the builders increased the hp in a disproportionate way. Something that It motivated the entry of engineers who worked in Formula 1.

The Group B regulations, which in turn were divided into classes that gave vehicles a weight limit based on engine displacement, came into effect in 1982, although there was little participation because no brand had enough time to prepare their cars. That is why it was not until 1983 that the first championship was played.

Some of the machines that participated in that tournament were the Lancia 037, which had rear wheel drive; the Audi Quattro A1, Renault 5 Turbo, Nissan 240RS, Citroën Visa and Toyota Celica TwinCam Turbo (also with rear traction). That contest was won by the Finn Hannu mikkola with an A1.

Audi Quattro A1
Audi Quattro A1.

The Group B were all the rage and new brands and models were quickly added. In 1984, Audi came out to defend the scepter with the A2 and achieved its goal from the hand of the Swede Stig Blomqvist; while Lancia released a new evolution of the 037. Mazda entered with him RX-7 y Peugeot , with a car that was the symbol of this golden age: the 205 16 Turbo.

The little French machine was a gem of engineering. Its gait was impressive because it weighed less than a ton and had a 500 donkey engine. Carlos Alberto Reutemann rated it as one of the best cars he ever drove after taking it to third place in the Rally Argentina 1985 (equaled the position achieved in 1980 when he raced a Fiat 131 Abarth).

ALMOST A FORMULA 1

In 1986 the Finn Henri Toivonen held an exhibition in the preview of Portuguese GP de F1 in Estoril. He was aboard a Lancia Delta S4 of 450 horses and 890 kilos, marked 1m18s01 and was 1s94 behind the Brazilian's pole Ayrton Senna with its Lotus-Renault 900 hp and 539 kg. With his record Toivonen would have started sixth in the Portuguese event.

The appreciation of Lole is reflected in the statistics since in 1985 and 1986 the Leon was champion with that model. Finnish first Timo Salonen and then with his compatriot Juha Kankkunen, who led to the success of the second evolution called E2 (it had improved aerodynamics with a huge rear spoiler and a nose apron, as well as various side deflectors).

Lancia Delta S4
Lancia Delta S4.

However the days of Group B were numbered due to their dangerousness, demonstrated with a series of fatal accidents. Some cost the lives of spectators and others the pilots themselves, such as the one in Corsica in 1986 in which the Finn died Henri Toivonen. It was precisely this incident that ended this stage of the World Rally. At the end of the tournament that Kankkunen won, FISA lowered its thumb to the regulations and replaced Group B with the Group A.

Some brands, like Audi, withdrew from the competition; while others, like Peugeot, continued in other specialties. In fact, that successful 205 had a version that he won in the Dakar and the Rally of the Pharaohs with Vatanen as the driver.

“This machine is really difficult to control, it's like a herd of wild horses or something. An incredible feeling. In the future, people will remember these crazy years and I will be one of the privileged few who has been lucky enough to participate in this adventure "the two-time German world champion once said Walter Röhrl in an interview when asked about Group B. His accurate analysis today is a summary of a time when the World Rally Championship was not for everyone, a time when his cars were scary.

ONLY FOR THE BRAVE

Peugeot 205 T16
Peugeot 205 T16.

With the endorsement of his four crowns in the World Rallythe finnish Juha Kankkunen is the right person to talk about Group B. In fact, his string of titles in the tournament began in 1986, right in the last season of this regulation. KKK, who later became monarch in 1987, 1991 and 1993, threw out a phrase that perfectly graphs those cars: "The WRC is for boys, Group B was for men". At the time of making a more in-depth analysis, the Nordic explained: “They were very dangerous for any normal driver, but the pilots knew how to handle them. When it was decided to race with Group A it was like going from Formula 1 to Formula Ford ”. As if to demonstrate his passion for the old Group B, Kankkunen has three specimens in his personal museum: a Peugeot 205 T16, for an Audi Quattro S1 and a Lancia Delta S4.

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, a car magazine that is broadcast on Tuesdays from 18 to 19 by RadioArroba.com; is editor of motorsport in Red Bull Argentina, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS. Now you can read it on his blog: automundo.com.ar.

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