If you jog your memory a bit, I bet you can recall Group B. This rally division was famous for its cars that combined 4-wheel drive with turbocharging to produce some of the most exhilarating but dangerous race cars.
Other people might remember Group B as "Formula One in the forest". In fact, within the car racing world, Group B represented supercars among the trees!
From 1983 to 1986, car rallying advanced faster and further than it had done in the preceding forty years. With Group B, rallying as a sport was pushed to the very edge of performance, in a way even putting the sport beyond common sense.
Group B was a short-lived era, true, but it didn’t cease to exist before acquiring a legendary status in the rallying hall of fame. In memory of this golden era, a special display was held during the London Classic Car Show back in February 2016.
With cars like the Lancia Rally 037 and the Lancia Delta S4, the Italians aimed to come up with their own 1980s replacement for the iconic Stratos, but the Germans had already moved their game on. Their answer, the Quattro (meaning “Four” in Italian) brought about the kind of transformation that nobody had anticipated.
At first, many people didn’t believe that a combination of a turbocharging and 4-wheel drive would work, as it seemed too complicated and heavy. Much to their surprise, Audi Quattro proved them all wrong. In fact, the car went on to win each single one of the 31 stages of rallying that it participated in during its debut race with Franz Wittmann behind the wheel!
Then came the smaller and much nimbler Peugeot 205, a car that made good use of the full freedom provided by Group B regulations. With Ari Vatanen piloting it, the car went on to win 5 rallies between 1984 and 1985 seasons.
Later, the Peugeot 205 T16 also joined the fray, with Ford RS200 and Austin Rover MG Metro 6R4 also being part of the famed Group B legendary cars. The group’s premature death sadly came after a period of disasters around 1985 and 1986 that saw higher speeds and more dangerous driving killing more fans and rally crews alike.
All in all, it’s probably for the best that the group was dismantled in favor of more safe and regulated races. Still, those brief few years made our hearts pound and adrenaline flow.
And as the saying goes, the flame that shines twice as bright burns half as long.
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