Group B (4WD): 1982 - 1986
As the World Rally Championship rolled into the 1980s, the rear-wheel-drive cars such as the Ford Escorts, Fiat 131s and Lancia Stratos were pushed aside to make way for a new era: Group B.
Group B welcomed some of the most spectacular rally cars the world had ever seen, boasting four-wheel-drive and in some cases over 500 brake horsepower. Sources at the time claimed that a Group B car could accelerate from 0-60mph (96km/h) on a gravel road in just 2.3 seconds.
Although the FIA had made four-wheel-drive legal back in 1979, many manufacturers assumed that it was simply too complicated and would not be competitive. However, in 1982, Audi wheeled out its brand-new Quattro and enjoyed immediate success.
The extra power from its turbocharged engine in addition to the traction gained from its four-wheel-drive system were clear advantages. As a result, the German firm enjoyed success with Manufacturers’ titles in ‘82 and ‘84 as well as Drivers’ titles in ‘83 and ‘84 at the hands of Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist respectively.
As other manufacturers cottoned on to the Quattro’s success, the fight for the World Rally Championship became even more heated. Ari Vatanen was a force to be reckoned with during the 1985 season and looked set to take the spoils in his flame-spitting Peugeot 205 T16. However, a terrifying incident during Rally Argentina caused the Finn some serious injuries, essentially handing the victory to his teammate Timo Salonen as Vatanen recovered on the sidelines.
The battle resumed in 1986 and a long list of rallying royalty took to the stages across the globe. Names including Toivonen (Lancia), Alén (Lancia), Röhrl (Audi), Salonen (Peugeot) and Pond (MG) all set out to challenge for the title.
Lancia edged an early lead at the beginning of the season thanks to strong performances in Monte Carlo and Sweden from their drivers Toivonen & Alén. At the third round in Portugal, the Italian firm looked strong once more as they held a 1-2-3 after stage 3.
However, disaster struck when the Ford RS200 of Joaquim Santos lost control during the next speed test and collided with a crowd, killing three and injuring over 30 spectators. As a result, many of the teams withdrew from the remainder of the event.
Toivonen was victorious once again in Italy and asserted his dominance as the title favourite. But, at the following round in Corsica, the World Rally Championship was turned on its head.
During the 17th stage of the event, Toivonen’s Lancia Delta S4 left the road and plunged down a mountainside before bursting into flames. He and his co-driver Sergio Cresta were killed instantly.
Following on from the tragedy, the FIA announced that it would ban Group B cars after the end of the season, deeming them simply too fast to compete safely. At the end of the era the results from the San Remo Rally were declared void, leaving Juha Kankkunen to take the crown with his Peugeot.
|1982||Walter Röhrl (GER)||Opel Ascona 400||Audi|
|1983||HannuMikkola (FIN)||Audi Quattro||Lancia|
|1984||Stig Blomqvist (SWE)||Audi Quattro||Audi|
|1985||Timo Salonen (FIN)||Peugeot 205 T16||Peugeot|
|1986||Juha Kankunnen (FIN)||Peugeot 205 T16||Peugeot|