Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Group B

Easter in the 1980s meant the Safari Rally and the Circuit of Ireland, epic 5-day adventures contested by voracious 4-wheel drive turbocharged monsters called Group B rallycars. Rallying has since been sanitised, the vehicles domesticated, and the routes emasculated, but in the 1980s rallying posed a remarkable test of endurance and speed. The Safari and Circuit of Ireland, in particular, provided twisting narratives of waxing and waning fortunes, spectacular driving, mechanical disaster, and fearsome accidents.

I'm currently reading John Davenport's retrospective account of this era, Group B: The Rise and Fall of Rallying's Wildest Cars, and it's a fine piece of nostalgia. Audi Sport Quattros, Lancia 037s, Peugeot 205 T16s, Ford RS200s, Metro 6R4s, Lancia Delta S4s, Opel Manta 400s, Ari Vatanen, Henri Toivonen, Markku Alen, Hannu Mikkola, Walter Rohrl, Stig Blomqvist, Tony Pond, Timo Salonen, Michele Mouton, Bjorn Waldegaard, and Juha Kankkunen. Brings a tingle to the spine, even at a distance of 20 years.


patrick said...

Ah, they were great, weren't they. I've got some truly terrifying footage of Walter Rohrl driving the Quattro in Portugal, doing a 'parting of the red sea' act with the crowd.

Saw the penultimate Gp B World Rally too - at Cirencester Park in 1986.

Happened to catch some guys rallying Metro 6R4s at a club event in the Scottish Borders a few years back - they're still spectacular.

Gordon McCabe said...

Rohrl was a fascinating character. I get the impression he was something of a recluse, but he won the 1982 Monte Carlo Rally in an Opel Ascona 400, the 1983 Monte Carlo in a Lancia 037, the 1984 Monte Carlo in an Audi Quattro, and was only defeated after an epic comeback by Ari Vatanen's Peugeot on the 1985 event.