Top 10 Two-wheel drive Group A Cars

Renault Clio 16S
Renault Clio 16S

Following the tragic loss of life at the 1986 Tour de Corse, FIA (rally’s governing body) decided that the Group B supercars were too dangerous to use in motorsports. Instead, the FIA decided to revert to Group A cars as rallying’s top class. Group A is for modified sports cars of which at least 5000 were produced. This required automakers who wanted to participate in motorsports to put their best sport models on the stage or build “homologation specials”. These “homologation specials” are manufacturer backed versions of regular road cars modified to better participate in motorsports. In this case rally racing. Some automakers already had cars in their respective line ups which fit well into Group A racing. Some were actively developing Group A cars as their Group B counterparts had gotten too expensive to develop. Many automakers saw the change in policy as an open door to show off what their more production based cars could do. It was also considered, in 1987, that 4 wheel drive Group A cars would be too heavy, complex, and expensive to homologate resulting in a plethora of 2 wheel drive cars to compete for top honors. This would prove to be false as various versions of the Lancia Delta would go on the dominate the early seasons of WRC. However, before it became apparent that success in rallying required 4 wheel drive, a number of 2 wheel drive cars graced the podiums. The WRC podiums are from the 1987 season (the year Group A cars began appearing on WRC stages as the top class) through the 1990 season. Beyond the 1990 season, 2 wheel drive cars would not be seen on the overall podium again until the Formula 2 kit cars began to dominate the tarmac rounds in the late 90's. The Formula 2 kit cars will not be included on this list as they are different beasts and a story best left to another time. I will score success based upon driver’s championship points as they are easier to follow; 1st = 20 points, 2nd = 15 points, and 3rd = 12 points. This list will actually have 11 entrants as some cars results tie. With that said, lets go back to the 1987 WRC season.

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9. Peugeot 205 GTi

Peugeot 205 GTi
Peugeot 205 GTi
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Peugeot dominated the latter seasons of Group B WRC with their 205 T16 car. Following the ban on Group B machines, Peugeot-Talbot Sport opted to take there supercar to the sands of Africa and compete in the Paris-Dakar rally. The 205 T16 was very successful at this also. While this was happening, Peugeot-Talbot Sport was also developing a Group A car for competition. The standard Peugeot 205 GTi is a front wheel drive hot hatch itself derived from the Chrysler Europe designed, Simca built, Plymouth/Dodge Horizon/Omni respectively meant to compete with the VW Golf GTI. Peugeot’s parent company (PSA) purchased Chrysler Europe (Simca in France and Rootes in the UK) in the late 1970's. From this change up in parentage is where the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus came from but that is a different story. It was available with either 1.6 litre or 1.9 litre guises in 1987. Peugeot-Talbot Sport naturally opted for the larger displacement, more powerful engine to use in rally. This version of the car used an 8 valve, SOHC (single overhead cam) layout to a production yield of 124hp with Bosch LE-2 jetronic multipoint fuel injection. The works car increased the compression ratio to 11:1 and added some longer duration cams to the tune of 175hp. Peugeot-Talbot Sport was so invested in the Paris-Dakar rally, the works team only focused on the 1987 and 1988 seasons before completely losing interest. In 1987 the team entered 3 cars in the RAC rally and 1 car in Finland. In 1988, the works team entered only 1 car in the RAC. All of these efforts were met with defeat and the cars failed to podium. The only podium the 205 GTi ever set foot on was in the 1988 Monte Carlo Rally at the hands of privateer Jean-Pierre Ballet coming in 3rd place overall and 1st place in two-wheel drive. The only two cars to beat him in the 1988 Monte Carlo rally were 2 works Lancia Delta HF 4wd(s).

Podium(s):

  1. 3rd Jean-Pierre Ballet 1987 Monte Carlo Rally (12 points)

Total points = 12 points

9. Toyota Supra

Toyota Supra MA70
Toyota Supra MA70
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Toyota, like many other automakers interested in rally in the late 1980s, were left without a proper rally machine after the demise of Group B. TTE (Toyota Team Europe, Toyota’s motorsport division for rally) was in the process of finalizing development on their 222D rally car when the FIA killed Group B. Toyota was under the impression the FIA would go instead to Group S. Group S was supposed to be the successor to Group B but had an even lower car homologation standards but increased the vehicle’s safety standards. After the disastrous 1986 WRC season, the FIA couldn’t decide which direction to take the sport and instead decided to go with the lesser Group A. With Group A’s 5000 car homologation requirement, Toyota was struggling to find a car in its lineup for which it could compete. The Celica GT-four/All Trac was the car of choice but it would take awhile for TTE to develop it into a proper rally machine. That left two cars, the AE86 Toyota Corolla and the A70 Toyota Supra. While the Corolla was lightweight and nimble, it was also underpowered. The A70 Supra had been Toyota’s choice for touring car racing with its powerful 7M-GE DOHC (dual overhead cam) inline 6 engine. The car was heavy however, coming in at 3,306 lbs. TTE decided to go with the A70 Supra as it proved to be the more attractive choice. The car only competed in African events in the WRC as those were the only event Japanese automakers were interested at the time. Japanese automakers liked to show-off the durability of their cars by specializing in the tough African rallys, most notably the Safari Rally and Rally Côte d’Ivoire, both WRC rallies, and the Paris-Dakar rally. The car was tough and fast producing 290hp with a modified naturally aspirated 3.0 7M-GE engine with 11.0:1 compression ratio. The Supra also offered a multi-link rear suspension, which gave the car a more planted and articulate rear drivetrain. The car led the Safari Rally at the hands for skilled rallyist and first World Drivers Champion, Bjorn Waldegard until the final day when the Toyota’s engine gave up the ghost. The team did land on the podium it’s only time at the 1987 Safari Rally with Lars-Erik Torph at the helm. Toyota would come back the next year with an even more powerful car, the Toyota Supra MA70 Turbo. This car was the same as the previous year except the compression ratio was lowered to a more boost friendly 8.4:1 and a Toyota CT26 turbocharger was added to the tune of 400hp. This car was TTE’s weapon of choice for African rallies until the final development of the Toyota Celica ST165 later in 1988. The MA70 turbo car did not finish on the podium in a WRC event but was a more reliable machine overall compared to its naturally aspirated brothers.

Podium(s):

  1. 3rd Lars-Erik Torph 1987 Safari Rally (12 points)

Total Points = 12 points

9. Toyota Corolla AE86

Toyota Corolla AE86
Toyota Corolla AE86
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Hachi Roku! Drifters everywhere rejoice! In 1986 TTE had two viable cars they could use as there Group A contenders. As stated above, TTE chose to go with the Supra. However, the Supra had a MSRP of $16,868 in 1986 which adjusted for inflation is $39,516.52. That’s a lot of scratch to spend on a brand new car you want to thrash in the woods. The Corolla, on the other hand, went for $10,688 in 1986 which adjusted for inflation is $25,038.69 which is much more attractive compared to the Supra......especially for privateer teams. That’s where the Corolla found most of its WRC use, in the hands of privateer teams and national level teams. Corollas were used in both Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno (hatch and notchback for both) body styles. The homologated Corolla featured the legendary 4AGE 1.6 litre DOHC inline four cylinder engine in naturally aspirated guise. The 4AGE is notorious for having a high rev limit and being incredibly durable. The rally 4AGE had its compression increased to 11.0:1, long duration cams, and Nippon Denso D-jetronic multipoint electronic fuel injection to the tune of 185hp. That doesn’t sound like a lot but considering the competition weight of 2028 lbs, the little Corolla had an impressive power to weight ratio. The Corolla, however, was limited by its geriatric live axle out back and overall lack of traction. The Corolla was a more common sight on European events as, at the time TTE was focusing on developing the Celica All trac and running the Supra in Africa. Since is was such a popular car with privateers, the Corolla was entered in many events, even going back to 1984. The car usually placed well in its class (first Group A during the Group B era, then the VISA 2-wheel drive cup during the early Group A era). The only overall podium the Corolla would ascend would be the 1989 Rally Côte d’Ivoire at the hands of privateer Adolphe Choteau. The Corolla would go on to compete in WRC until its homologation ran out in 1999 and is still a popular choice for people all over the world in both historic rally and as an entry level car.

Podium(s)

  1. 3rd Adolphe Choteau 1989 Rally Côte d’Ivoire (12 points)

Total Points = 12 points

8. Mitsubishi Starion

Mitsubishi Starion
Mitsubishi Starion
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The Mitsubishi Starion WRC story is a strange one. Mitsubishi’s backed works team RalliArt was developing a 4wd group B machine following the disappointing performance of the Lancer Turbo A175A. The Starion 4wd had shown promise but had a lengthy development. The car was still classified as a prototype when FIA abandoned the class. In order to compete in Group A, RalliArt would have to produced 5000 units to meet homologation. Andrew Cowan (founder and principal of RalliArt) had no interest in doing this as the 4wd version of the Starion was heavily modified over the production version. The 4wds 4G63 was also bored out from 1995 cc to 2140 cc which increased the output up to 350HP in the competition version. The production Starion would ,once again, have to homologate and subsequently produce the engine with the size increase if they wanted to use it in competition, which Mitsubishi had no interest in doing. The production version of the Starion came in two configurations, a 1995 cc 4G63 SOHC Turbo narrow body and a 2555 cc 4G54 SOHC Turbo wide body version. The wide body’s 2555 cc 4G54 engine was too big when the 1.4 forced induction multiplier was calculated which put the engine at 3577 cc, above the top tier’s 3500 cc limit. Therefore the narrow body 4G63 engined version was chosen. Andrew Cowen and RalliArt didn’t have much interest in developing a Group A Starion as the engine’s limitations essentially gave the car similar engine output performance to the Lancer Turbo rally car but with a larger body which was significantly heavier. RalliArt did produce one works car for Patrick Tauziac and the Group A Starion did manage to output 280HP. Tauziac mostly used the car on the Côte d’Ivoire Rally but since RalliArt homologated the car, other privateer teams could also use the car in competition also. The cars were frequently seen in early Group A on the 1000 Lakes Rally, RAC Rally, and the New Zealand Rally. After Tauziac finished using the car, according to the story (although not all the dates work out), it went back to RalliArt where the car ended up in Pentti Airikkala’s hands. Airikkala made setup changes to the car and went on to early success in the 1989 BRC (British Rally Championship). As he car became more successful in the car, Mitsubishi became more interested in providing engineering support. As the story goes, the more Mitsubishi’s engineers got involved in tuning the car, the harder the care became to drive. Eventually the car was crashed beyond repair and Mitsubishi / RalliArt moved on to the Galant VR4.

Podium(s)

  1. 3rd Patrick Tauziac 1988 Rally Côte d’Ivoire (12 points)
  2. 2nd Patrick Tauziac 1989 Rally Côte d’Ivoire (15 points)

Total Points = 27 points

8. Renault 11 Turbo

Renault 11 Turbo
Renault 11 Turbo
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Renault had always been two wheel drive specialists. Even their Group B car was two wheel drive (Renault 5 Turbo). This car, and its two/four door saloon brother (Renault 9) both share the same engine and transmission package as their Group B counterpart. That engine is the C1J Cleon-Fonte engine. Cleon being the town the engine was produced in and Fonte meaning cast iron in French. This car did not have some of the more bespoke features of the 5 Turbo Maxi like the variable speed turbo, anti-lag system, and water-meth injection as these features were not homologated in the Group A machine. The Turbo model did have a cast engine block with an aluminum head for increased flow and decreased weight. The interesting feature of this engine, however, was its OHV (over-head valve) valvetrain. This allowed for the already small displacement engine to have an even smaller overall size compared to its SOHC or DOHC competitors. The C1J only displaced 1.4 liters but was also super lightweight and durable. The lightweight package allowed Renault Sport (Renault’s motorsport division) to build the competition vehicle to only weigh 900 kg which is 1984 lbs. Given the C1J Turbo engine in competition trim made 185 hp, the Renault 11 Turbo was a seriously quick car. The car was so quick (especially on tarmac) that the car placed 4th overall in the 1986 Tour de Corse. This was against the powerful Group B machines. Bare in mind, however, that at that years Tour de Corse Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto died in a fiery crash which resulted in the withdrawal of all Lancia Group B cars and Audi had already bailed on Group B earlier in the season citing safety concerns. But 4th place behind the Peugeot 205 T16, Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, and a seriously (tarmac) fast, also Group A, Alfa Romeo GTV6 is amazing for this car. In Group A (as the top class) the Renault 11 Turbo was also fast on gravel. The car did undergo a face transplant late in 1987 to increase aerodynamics which did away with the quad square head light for flush dual beam models with integrated fog lights. The car was competitive in the 1987 season even against the more powerful and complex Lancia Delta HF and Audi 200 Quattro. The Renault 11 Turbo is best know for the giant killing act it put on display at the 1987 Rally Portugal where Jean Ragnotti placed 2nd only behind a Lancia Delta HF of Marco Alen by a mere 3 minutes and 55 seconds.....on gravel. Between Ragnotti, Alen Oreille, and Francois Chatriot, the Renault 11 Turbo could be found in the top 10 of every rally it entered. The FIA changed the minimum weight rule after the 1988 Monte Carlo Rally and the 11 Turbo was rendered uncompetitive.

Podium(s)

  1. 2nd Jean Ragnotti 1987 Rally Portugal (15 points)
  2. 3rd Jean Ragnotti 1987 San Remo Rally (12 points)

Total Points = 27 points

6. Renault 5 GT Turbo

Renault 5 GT Turbo
Renault 5 GT Turbo
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Ah, the Renault Cinq (that’s 5 to you and me). This is a car linage that almost comprises of every engine layout configurable (for a car this size). It has existed in electric, front wheel drive front engine naturally aspirated, mid-engine forced induction, and finally front engine front wheel drive forced induction. The Renault 5 started off in the 1970s as an updated replacement for the Renault 4. The Cinq was developed into a Group 2 and later Group 4 rally car by tuners Gordini and Renault’s sport division Alpine using the Renault Sierra C1J OHV 1.4L engine. Later, Renault developed a turbo version of this car, Renault 5 Alpine Turbo, and was somewhat successful (mostly in French events). As Group 4 continued, auto manufacturers and teams started developing vehicles specially for rally (Lancia Stratos) and Renault wanted their own version. From this desire is where the Renault 5 Turbo is derived. The Renault 5 Turbo is essentially the same at the Alpine Turbo but with a wider rear track, the engine moved midship and some special materials used in the unibody construction. Eventually a Group B version was developed, Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, which can be read about here. Following the Group B demise, Renault Sport (the new name for Renault’s sports division made up of Gordini, Renault and Alpine) decided to use the 9 Turbo as the sporting rally version. However, Renault had also been producing a turbo version of the second version of the Cinq, the GT Turbo. The Renault 5 GT Turbo was mechanically very similar to the Renault 9 Turbo car being used by Renault Sport but had a lower overall weight and a lower power output. The lower power output was likely due to the 5 GT Turbo never having a fully factory developed racing model and minimum power versus weight limits imposed by the FIA. The Renault 5 GT Turbo did manage a power output of 120 HP at 855kg (1884.95 lbs). This made the small car attractive to privateer teams where the car could be seen competing often. This also made the car very popular in Group N (Showroom Stock Class) where it was also very successful. The cars antiquated technology also made the car popular in Group A on rugged events where durability trumped outright performance i.e. Africa. These events led the Renault 5 GT Turbo to be one of the last successful two wheel drive cars in overall Group A competition. The durability of the car led Renault Sport driver, Alain Oreille (driving for Simon Racing), to a overall victory on the 1989 Rally Côte d’Ivoire. He would land a 3rd place finish the year later on the same rally. After that, the Renault 5 GT Turbo remained a popular choice for rally drivers and was a common sight on rallys well up into the F2 kit car era.

Podium(s)

  1. 1st Alain Oreille 1989 Rally Côte d’Ivoire (20 points)
  2. 3rd Alain Oreille 1990 Rally Côte d’Ivoire (12 points)

Total Points = 32 points

6. Opel Kadett E GTE / Vauxhall Astra GSi

Opel Kadett E
Opel Kadett E
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OK, this one is a little bit harder to follow. Before the PSA buyout/merger, Opel was GM’s European brand headquartered in Germany. For some reason, across the channel, Vauxhall was GM’s Great Britain brand. In the Group 4 days Opel used the Kadett C GTE with the 2.0 CIH (Cam In Head) inline 4 cylinder engine and Vauxhall used the Chevette HSR with a 2.3 liter Lotus developed 16V slant 4 cylinder engine. Both vehicles, although based on the same car, competed against each other in WRC. In the early 1980s GM thought it was ridiculous to support 2 dealer teams and combined them into Opel Rally Team. During the Group B period, Opel Rally Team became GM Eurosport. Just like the Group 4 era where Opel used the Kadett C GTE as there rally weapon of choice in the Group A period GM Eurosport chose to go with their front wheel drive Kadett E GTE and/or Astra GSi. GM Eurosport used an early version of the Kadett GTE/ Astra GSi to compete in Group A while Group B was the top class. This version featured the Single Overhead cam 1.8 liter 18FE. This power plant was good for 170 hp at 7200 rpm in competitive trim. GM Euroports next Group A effort came equipped with GM’s Family II 20SEH Single Overhead Cam Electronic fuel injected inline 4 cylinder engine to the tune of 190 hp at 7200 rpm. Both cars were basically the same and were rebadged depending on the market of which they were to be sold. The Opel Kadett GTE was sold mostly in mainland Europe and the Vauxhall Astra GSi was mainly sold in the UK. They were raced fairly interchangeably throughout the Group A period. They were pretty competitive in the early Group A days as the Kadett/Astra were both light weight cars weighing only 980 kg (2160 lbs). Later in 1988 both versions of the cars came equipped with their new 16v DOHC C20XE developed by Cosworth and manufactured by Coscast. Coscast is the casting and manufacturing wing of Cosworth engine developments. The resulting output in road going form was 150 hp. In race trim, the C20XE had the compression ratio increased to 11.5:1 and with its perfectly square engine was able to smoothly make 220 hp at 7800 rpm. The Kadett GTE/ Astra GSi cousins were also popular in the touring car world where they were used in WTCC. There was also a turbo version of C20XE un-unsurprisingly called the C20XET where power levels were available starting at 204 hp. The Kadett GTE/Astra GSi was also one of the first cars which used the X-trac 6 speed sequential transmission. GM Eurosport first landed on the podium in 1988 at the hands of Sepp Haider in that years running of Rally New Zealand. The next year GM Europort would have success again (3rd place) in New Zealand this time with the 16v car and at the hands of future M-Sport founder Malcolm Wilson. Cars like the Opel Kadett GTE / Vauxhall Astra GSi were the basis for the later Formula 2 category of front wheel drive, 2 liter or less, high revving, naturally aspirated machines which would later go on to rule WRC tarmac rounds.

Podium(s)

  1. 1st Sepp Haider 1988 Rally New Zealand (20 points)
  2. 3rd Malcolm Wilson 1989 Rally New Zealand (12 points)

Total Points = 32 points

4. BMW M3

BMW M3 (E30)
BMW M3 (E30)
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BMW has had a long and storied history in motorsports, mostly in touring and rally. BMWs M monicure in motorsport began with the Group B M1 supercar which although powerful was a handful to drive in rallysport. Next BMW’s M division transplanted the M1's powertrain and various drivetrain components into their midsize sedan and the E28 M5 was born. The M5 in this iteration didn’t see much action in the world of motorsports. The BMW E30 M3 was for the most part the next sporting evolution of the E28 M5. BMW took their smallest coupe and added their top of the line S14 four cylinder engine. This engine added a crossflow naturally aspirated DOHC (dual overhead cam) head to their otherwise pedestrian M10 block. This combination was good for 197 hp at 6750 rpm and 177 ft lbs at 4750 rpm. Coupled with a Getrag 265 close ratio 5 speed, the car was a sight to behold, at least on tarmac. And that where the cars would see most of their action and all of their success. This is where the Rothman’s backed Prodrive team comes in. Prodrive is a privateer racing company founded by former WRC champion co-driver David Richards. Prodrive’s first foray into rallying was in a series of modified Porsche 911 3.0 SC/RSs for use in Group B. Following the Porsche cars, Prodrive ran 1986 in an MG Metro 6R4. With the cancellation of Group B, Prodrive was back to looking for a sports car but this time it had to have a 5000 model homologation. Prodrive cam across BMW and it was a perfect match. David Sutton knew the car would not be competitive in the dirt, but had a highly desired layout of tarmac. Prodrive tuned up the engine to a competition ready 294 hp at 8400 rpm by raising the compression ration to 12:1 and adding some lobby cams. The engine retained its standard head and block along with its wet sump oiling system and Bosch DME Motronic electronic multi point fuel injection system. Prodrive also retained their ace french tarmac driver Bernard Beguin. In their first motorsport outing (the 1986 Tour De Corse), Prodrive entered two cars, one for the aforementioned Beguin and Marc Duez. Both car were a huge surprise to the WRC establishment. With dry conditions the Lancia Deltas struggled with understeer and turbo lag and the front wheel drive cars struggled to keep pace. The only real competition to the M3 was the Ford Sierra Cosworths but they all blew their engines with turbo relation oiling issues. The M3 proved to be the right car on the right roads at the right time. Beguin surprised everyone by winning the car’s debut with Duez in 6th place. Duez was at one point in third place but rain slowed him down. The M3 would go on to compete in tarmac rounds and would occasionally be found on smoother gravel rounds such as the 1000 Lakes Rally but its only successes would continue to be the Tour de Corse.

Podium(s)

  1. 1st Bernard Beguin 1987 Tour de Corse (20 points)
  2. 2nd Francois Chatriot 1989 Tour de Corse (15 points)
  3. 3rd Francois Chatriot 1990 Tour de Corse (12 points)

Total Points = 47 points

3. Nissan 200SX

Nissan 200SX SE
Nissan 200SX SE
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The Silvia S12, the unsung hero of the Silvia lineup. Although the S13, S14, and S15 Silvias are better known, its their older brethren which actually have racing pedigree. The first Silvia to enter into motorsports was the S110 Silvia in both FJ20ET powered 2 liter turbo configuration and the better known FJ24 2.4 liter naturally aspirated 240RS. Its the latter which saw action in FIA Group B rally. Towards the later years of Group B, the 240RS was starting to look antiquated in its design and Nissan wasn’t prepared to upgrade the model especially with the S110 chassis on the way out and the new S12 chassis on the way in. It is unknown if Nissan would have built a Group B version of the S12 but being as there weren’t any prototypes being developed when Group B folded, it seemed pretty unlikely. For Nissan to stay in rally, at the world level, they would focus on the more production based Group A. Nissan’s Group B track record (at least at the end) was so bad that if Group B wouldn’t have folded, Nissan may have left rally altogether. But Group B got cancelled and automakers scrambled to find vehicles they thought would be adequate for rally. Nissan’s first choice was their new 2 liter turbocharged FJ20ET powered Silvia 200SX RS-X. However, by 1987 the older FJ series engines were getting replaced by the more efficient but smaller CA series engines. So in 1987 the 200SX RS-X was fitted with the CA18DET engine. This version made 171 hp at 6400 rpm and 156 ft lbs at 400 rpm. There was an even more rare “Gran Prix” edition which came with factory box flares and a myriad of engines but was never seen on World Rally stages. Their was a little problem, however, with Nissan’s plan. That problem being the 5000 car homologation standard of Group A. This left Nissan in a bind, but they still had one option.......the North American spec 200SX SE. Nissan built a special North American version of the S12 for use on larger, more straight American roads. This version of the S12 was fitted with the VG30E from the naturally aspirated Nissan 300ZX. The Nissan S12 SE was a decent seller in the US and they were easily able to meet the 5000 unit homologation requirement. This version of the S12 put out 160 hp at 5200 rpm and 174 ft lbs at 4800 rpm in road going configuration. Nissan motorsports would crank up the compression ratio to 11:1 add some more performance based cams to the 1987 tune of 230 hp at 7000 rpm and 213 ft lbs at 5200 rpm. The key to the V6 configuration is the lack of turbo lag which was problematic in 1980s production based cars. That being said, the downside of a larger displacement V6 was the natural weight penalty. The motorpost version of the 200SX SE would weigh in at 1350 kg or 2976 lbs. The car was also strengthened in typical Japanese rally ways as the car was destined to pick up where the Toyota Celica TCT and Nissan 240RS left off, Africa. Japanese automakers in the 1970s and 1980s prefered rallying in harsh environments as a way to emphasize their superior designs and build quality. This is where the 200SX would see most of its action. Nissan would also take their cars to the Acropolis Rally which had the harshest roads in Europe but to little success. The 200SX would see action as a works rally car up until 1989 when Nissan left to develop their turbocharged AWD Pulsar GTI-R.

Podium(s)

  1. 2nd Shekhar Mehta 1987 Rally Cote d’Ivoire (15 points)
  2. 2nd Mike Kirkland 1988 Safari Rally (15 points)
  3. 3rd Per Eklund 1988 Safari Rally (12 points)
  4. 1st Alain Ambrosino 1988 Rally Cote d’Ivoire (20 points)
  5. 2nd Mike Kirkland 1989 Safari Rally (15 points)

Total Points = 77 points

2. Volkswagen GTI 16V

VW GTI 16V
VW GTI 16V
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The giant slayer. The first generation of VW GTI earned that nickname on the tarmac of the late 1970s European motorways and race tracks as the car’s light weight and decent power made it formidable against much more expensive vehicles which were hampered by emissions regulations. The MK2 VW Golf GTI picks up where the MK1 left off. VW never had a Group B presence as Audi (their wholly owned subsidiary) already had a strong presence there. VW instead focused on Group A. VW didn’t have any trouble meeting the homologation standards and when their MK2 GTI debuted in 1984 and it was quickly homologated into Group A. The VW GTI was so successful that it won the Group A championship in 1986, although at the time it was the second rung of rally competition. When the FIA cancelled Group B, VW found itself in an advantageous position as having experience at that performance level. VW knew that it would need more performance if it wanted to compete at the highest level. Lucky for VW motorsports, the company had recently introduced their KR engine. The KR was a DOHC (dual overhead cam) 16V crossflow version of there 1.8 liter EA827 inline 4 cylinder motor. The new engine output 136 hp at 6100 rpm and 124 ft lbs at 4600 rpm. The change in engine did result in an increase in weight from 920 kg (2028 lbs) to 960 kg (2116 lbs) but the change in engine dynamics more than outweighed any weight penalties. These engines normally came with Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection but it was not uncommon to see these engine with the much simpler and free flowing dual Weber side draft carburetors which not only increased throttle response but also performance. Later versions would be fitted with Bosch Digifant multipoint electronic fuel injection. In competition trim the VW GTI 16V could make up to 190 hp at 7200 rpm with 11.0:1 compression ratio. I’ve heard rumors of people getting these cars as high as 230 hp in naturally aspirated competition trim but that’s not confirmed, however probable. The MK2 VW GTI 16V would also become one of the first competition cars to be fitted with a 6 speed transmission. All of this would again earn the VW GTI the name giant slayer as it was competitive with the much more powerful 4wd vehicles. The MK2 VW GTI 16V was really only successful in the premier year of Group A as in the following years the FIA would alter minimum weight standards on cars and newer and more powerful competitors came onto the scene. Another contributing factor to the 1987 success of the VW GTI 16V was their number 1 factory driver Kenneth Erickson. Erickson led VW to become the 1987 VISA 2wd Cup champions and he was the highest non-Lancia driver in the 1987 driver standings finishing in 4th. There is a story where VW had supposedly developed an “unbreakable” drive shaft for the 1987 Safari rally and Erickson managed to break both of them with his aggressive driving style. Unfortunately he had just taken the lead in the rally and the equipment failure would lead to his retirement. His driving prowess would not go unnoticed as he was signed to Toyota the next season as they debuted their ST165 Celica. After 1989 VW would cease their works campaign for the VW GTI 16V to focus on their MK2 VW Golf Rallye. Privateers would continue to race the cars in every level of FIA rallying until the homologation ran out in 1996. The cars are frequently seen still rallying in historic and non-homologation events all over the world. The MK2 VW Golfs and GTIs remain favorites amongst rallyists and are considered to be among the best entry level racing cars of all time.

Podium(s)

  1. 3rd Kenneth Erickson 1987 Rally Portugal (12 points)
  2. 2nd Kenneth Erickson 1987 Rally New Zealand (15 points)
  3. 3rd Irwin Weber 1987 Rally Argentina (12 points)
  4. 1st Kenneth Erickson 1987 Rally Cote d’Ivoire (20 points)
  5. 3rd Irwin Weber 1987 Rally Cote d’Ivoire (12 points)
  6. 3rd Stig Blomqvist 1989 Safari Rally (12 points)

Total Points = 83 points

1. Ford Sierra Cosworth

Ford Sierra Cosworth
Ford Sierra Cosworth
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Like many other cars used in Group A rally, when the Ford Sierra was designed, it wasn’t meant for use in motorsports. Ford started development of the Sierra in 1978 as a replacement to the Cortina/Taunus. The Sierra went into production in 1983 in a variety of fairly pedestrian configurations. Many of the original drivetrain components did find their way into the Ford Escort 1700t but that a much different story. Just like everyone else, the collapse of Group B left Ford without a rally specified machine. However, unlike, many other competitors, Ford did have a motorsports model in the works. Earlier, Stuart Turner (head of Ford Motorsport Europe) realised that Ford had not been competitive in motorsport since the end of the MK2 Escort and tapped Walter Hayes and Ken Kohrs to get involved with producing a sport derivative of the Sierra. The team turned to the famed engine design team at Cosworth (which had worked with Ford on many of their motorsports ventures) to develop the sports version of the Sierra. Cosworth had had various experiences adding DOHC (dual overhead cam) heads on Ford production blocks to produce more sporting versions of their engines. That exactly what Cosworth did. They attached a DOHC aluminum head to the Ford Pinto block and named the engine the YAA. Turbocharging had come into motorsports a few years earlier and in order for the Ford team to have a winning vehicle it was determined that forced induction would be involved. Cosworth slapped on a turbocharger and the YBB engine was born. Street versions of the Ford Sierra Cosworth made 204 hp at 6000 rpm and 203 ft lbs at 4500 rpm. The engine was mated to the Borg Warner T5 found in the Ford Mustangs as it was the only transmission Ford had in their stable which could handle the Cossies power. The Sierra Cosworth version of the T5 would go through some changes as it became better equipped to deliver the Cossie’s specific power output needs. The Sierra Cosworth body was also heavily modified to make the car more stable at high speeds. The car had debuted in 1986 for use in Group A touring car racing, where it was very successful. Ford, without a ready to go rally machine, decided the Sierra Cosworth would also be a good fit on the rally stages. The competition version output up to 350 hp at 6500 rpm at 1.8 Bar (26.1 psi) at a weight of 1130 kg (2491 lbs). The only problem with this was the Sierra Cosworth rear wheel drive layout. This made the car difficult to drive competitively on loose surfaces and in the wet. Ford had a solution for this; they decided to use the 2 wheel drive Sierra Cosworth on fast gravel stages as well as on tarmac stages while they used their aging Cologne V6 powered 4x4 Sierra XR4x4 on the loose and snowy stages. They homologated both cars and set out. The season turned out to be a complete disaster despite having former World Rally Champion Stig Blomqvist in their driver stable. The Sierra XR4x4 proved to be too heavy (1200 kg,2645 lbs), under powered (220 hp at 5700 rpm), and too weak for use in competition and the one event where it looked like they were going to have some success, 1987 Rally Monte Carlo, they got disqualified over a homologation disparity (I do not know what exactly that means). The Sierra XR4x4 would go on to a second place finish in the 1988 Rally Sweden but that was with the Swedish National Team. The Cossie wasn’t without faults either. Due to the high tune of the YBB engines, the Cossie had a reputation of using copious amounts of oil usually ending in a blown engine. The beginning of the 1987 season was such a disaster, the team took a break from competition following the disastrous 1987 Tour de Corse to redesign some of the cars flaws and fired factory driver Kalle Grundel. The team returned later in the year at that year’s 1000 Lakes Rally having decided to focus the team’s effort on just one car and letting the Sierra XR4x4 slip into the annals of motorsport memory. Back was factory driver Stig Blomqvist now joined by also former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen having recently recovered from a horrific crash at the 1985 Rally Argentina in a Peugeot 205 T16. It is worth mentioning that Ari Vatanen had most of his motorsport success in the Ford Escort RS1600. At this event, the pair would finish 3rd and 2nd respectively and Ford could return to holding their collective heads high. The Ford Sierra Cosworth would also be the cars which elevated future world champions Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol into the motorsports zeitgeist. The Sierra Cosworth would go on to be a favorite car of both privateers and dealer teams for years. Following the signs of the times, Ford Motorsport eventually developed an AWD version of the Sierra Cosworth based upon the car’s Sapphire second generation. This car would too be fraught with design problems but would itself be replaced by the competitive and much beloved Ford Escort RS Cosworth. 

Podium(s)

  1. 2nd Ari Vatanen 1987 1000 Lakes Rally (15 points)
  2. 3rd Stig Blomqvist 1987 1000 Lakes Rally (12 points)
  3. 2nd Stig Blomqvist 1987 RAC Rally (15 points)
  4. 3rd Jimmy McRae 1987 RAC Rally (12 points)
  5. 1st Didier Auriol 1988 Tour de Corse (20 points)
  6. 3rd Didier Auriol 1988 1000 Lakes Rally (12 points)

Total Points = 86 points

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