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Last updated:
August 30, 2000

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The Group B Era

"Rallying has reached a point such that the speed limitation is the profile of the road. If everything goes right for the drivers, there is no more than two or three seconds of difference on a stage. Which means the judge is not the car, the tires, or the drivers - it is the road. They cannot go any faster!"

     - Maurice Guaslard, former head of Michelin's rally program, 1986.


Audi Quattro

Rallying today is growing in leaps and bounds; More manufacturers than ever are taking part in the world rally championship, and even more are participating in various national championships. Last year, 16.5 million people spectated at the 14 rounds of the WRC, the highest live attendance figure of any form of motorsport. The drivers are among the best in the world, and the cars are extremely quick and very entertaining to watch.

But there was a time when rallying was very different. The early 1980s saw a category created specifically for manufacturers who wanted to show off their engineering capabilities; Group B was born. The Group B rally supercars quickly evolved into 500+ horsepower, four-wheel-drive chest-thumping beasts with space frames, kevlar bodywork, and many other high-tech pieces. The cars reached a point where many wondered if the cars had reached a point where the drivers could not fully control them. For instance, the Lancia Delta S4 could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.3 seconds on a gravel road. Henri Toivonen drove an S4 around Estoril, the Portuguese Grand Prix circuit, so quickly that he would have qualified sixth for the 1986 Portuguese Grand Prix. Nigel Mansell sampled a Peugeot 205 T16 and said it could out-accelerate his F1 car. And, perhaps most impressive (frightening?), the driver's reaction times were cut in half compared with previous rally cars. The Group B rally cars and their pilots were the stuff of which legends are made.

This is their story.



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