Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Killer Bs

1982 through 1986 will always be fondly remembered by rally enthusiasts. The ephemeral existence of Group B brought a level of excitement the sport had never seen before, and will never see again. When lightweight materials and no technological (read: boost) restrictions mix, you get lethal (literally) road rockets. The following are my favorites Group B cars.

1. Ford RS200. As a teenager in the late 1980s, I bought a large coffee table book creatively entitled The World's Fastest Cars. In it was a white RS200. I had never seen it before. It was beautiful. When I read that a 650hp version reached 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 2.1 seconds, I knew this was special. To this day, this is one of my top five favorite cars. Ever.

2. Lancia Delta S4. For some reason, whenever I think of 80s rally racing, the Martini Racing Lancia Delta S4 immediately pops into my head. Meant to replace the 037, infra, the Delta S4 was advanced in many ways. But most curious of all was the fact that it had a supercharger for low rpms and a turbocharger for higher revs. It was on course to dominate the sport when a Delta S4 crash killed its driver and navigator. This tragedy led to the demise of Group B, as safety advocates, and sane people, finally realized these cars were too fast and too dangerous.

3. Audi Quattro S1. Audi revolutionized rally racing, and treacherous roads to ski resorts in North America and Europe, with the Quattro all wheel drive system. Audi perfected its Quattro racers by pluncking down the most powerful engine in rally racing history-- a 2133 cc turbocharged five banger capable of 600hp-- and by chopping its wheelbase by more than a foot. One of these nimble and quick cars even broke a Pikes Peak climb record.

4. Lancia 037. The 037 was like nothing else. Though it looked cool and menacing, it was slow and rear wheel drive. It was not cutting it and was replaced by the Delta S4.

5. Renault 5 Turbo. 1983's unofficial Bond flick, Never Say Never Again, featured a red hot Renault 5 Turbo. Its ridiculously wide track and powerful engine mid-ship made it look, sound, and move like a beast, even though it's only slightly larger than a Yugo.

For the sights and sounds of Group B racing, go to youtube. The Group B tribute, with Metallica playing in the background, rawks.


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