Some might say that the heyday of rallying was always the Group B phase in the early to mid nineties, but that’s purely due to the unprecedented power levels, controversy and outright excitement. It’s important to remember that rallying always keeps time with the march of progress, so while modern day machines might not exhibit quite the same obscene levels of power, they more than make up for it with chassis dynamics and grip levels that put the past to shame. While the infamy of ploughing into crowds makes the Group B era famous for all the wrong reasons, a bit like having Jack the Ripper around for tea and letting him stay in your garage, there can be no doubt that modern WRC cars are all the more advanced, just as fast point to point, and able to maintain flat out pedal to the bulkhead speed more of the time.
Here’s our all too brief rundown on the rally cars we loved. It’s touchy and controversial subject, as many will only revere the Group B as hallowed works of automotive art, but new age machines deserve a look in too.
Audi S1 Quattro
For many the pinnacle of all rally cars remains the S1 Quattro SWB. The five cylinder noise, the wastegate and dump valve flutter, the oversteer, the excess of turbocharged drifting, it really did have it all. Rumour has it 0-60mph on gravel was achievable in around 3-seconds dead, so it’s was essentially as fast as modern day rallycross machines but without a chassis that could realistically cope with the power. Walter Rohrl said of the Audi Quattro S1, “I have to adapt myself to the car, not expect the car to adapt to me. The car can develop incredible speed, so I have to be prepared to slow down in time. The technical possibilities offered by the Audi factory are absolutely critical in the cars development.” Making in excess of 500bhp in it’s highest state of the tune the S1 literally danced between bends and was so exciting to watch as it kicked up dirt and drifted between each bend seamlessly that it’s little wonder crowds flocked into to watch Group B events. The 2110cc turbocharged five-cylinder engine is an all time classic amongst petrolheads and its architecture is still sort of relevant today in the form the latest 2.5-litre TFSI Audi five-pot. Yet it was the unique soundtrack and outright pace that probably stick in most viewers and fans minds as it plundered forest, gravel and tarmac stages all over the world.
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The Lancia Rally (Tipo 151, also known as the Lancia Rally 037, from its Abarth project code 037) was another all time rally classic, mid-engine sports car and rally car built by Lancia in the early 1980s to compete in the FIA Group B World Rally Championship. It was the last rear-wheel drive car to win the WRC and was driven by Markku Alén, Attilio Bettega, and Walter Röhrl, the car won Lancia the manufacturers’ world championship in the 1983 season. A supercharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine (Based on the long stroke twin cam which powered earlier Fiat Abarth 131 rally cars) was rear / mid mounted and was a car born from the collaboration between Pininfarina, Abarth, Dallara and the project manager, engineer Sergio Limone. Prior to its first participation in the 1982 World Rally Championship season, 200 road-going models were built to comply with Group B regulations. Abarth, now a part of the Lancia-Fiat family, did most of the design work, even incorporating styling cues from some of its famous race cars of the 1950s and 1960s such as a double bubble roof line. Loosely based upon the Lancia Montecarlo, it was a silhouette racer – they shared only the center section with all body panels and mechanical parts being significantly different. Steel subframes were used fore and aft of the production car center section, while most of the body panels were constructed from Kevlar. Lancia also chose a supercharger over a turbocharger to eliminate turbo lag and improve throttle response. Initially power was quoted at 265hp (198 kW) but with the introduction of the Evolution 1 model power jumped to 300 with the help of water injection. The final Evolution 2 model produced 325hp (242 kW) thanks to a displacement increase to 2,111 cc.
Peugeot 405 T16
Ari Vatanan’s Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 was a two door coupe built by Peugeot Talbot Sport, derived from the road going 405 as well as the all-conquering Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 in 1988 for the African rally raids. It was successful in the Paris Dakar rally and won in 1989 and 1990. Most significantly though it won the Pikes Peaks International Hill Climb in 1988 in record-breaking time and the globally renowned Climb Dance was made at the famous Colorado hillclimb. It had four wheel steering, a feature never before seen on a rally or hillclimb car. The engine sat very low in front of the right rear wheel with the turbo charger on the opposite side. It had a very good power-to-weight ratio with more than 600 horsepower for a car weighing barely 900 kilograms and could accelerate from zero to 200 km/h in under 10 seconds. The car was rumoured to be backed by a $1 million-plus budget from Peugeot. The revised 405 chassis was fully tubular and based upon the 205 T16, albeit stretched to fit the required dimensions. This new longer chassis allowed for bigger fuel tanks. The XU8T engine’s displacement was increased to 1905cc and fitted new techologies such as dual variable valve timing and a variable geometry turbocharger. While the claimed horsepower the later XU9T engine was around 650, Vatanan later stated in an interview that his car had around 800bhp. A centre-adjustable differential allowed for the torque split to be modified on the move.
Unfortunately we don’t make an off the shelf systems for a 405 T16, but we do offer custom made airfilters as part of our Custom Fit range.
555 Subaru Impreza
The word iconic is dished out like greasy burgers at a grass roots motorsport event. In terms of outright rally car fame the Colin McRae era 555 Subaru Impreza is probably the most iconic of them all. With many of his one-liners and quotes making for awesome press material, McRae was both a fan favourite and a hero amongst rally drivers, and his 555 Subaru Impreza was equally as famous. This Impreza based, Pro-Drive operated car featured the familiar 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine and the distinctive warble that goes with that horizontally opposed layout. The 92mm x 75mm engine made between 320 and 400bhp with a powerband between 2500 – 6000rpm and anywhere between 325lb.ft to 409ft.lb. As per FIA regulations at the time it weighed no less than 1230kg and was exceptionally capable in the hands of Didier Auriol, Colin McRae and Richard Burns, securing numerous FIA world rally championships at the hands of some of the planet’s most skillfull drivers.
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Loeb era Citroen C4
This vehicle was arguably as much about the driver as it was about the technology, the Citroën C4 WRC was a World Rally Car built for the Citroën World Rally Team courtesy of Citroën Racing to compete in the World Rally Championship. It is based upon the Citroën C4 road car and replaced the Citroën Xsara WRC. The car was introduced for the 2007 World Rally Championship season and took the drivers’ title each year since in the hands of Sébastien Loeb, as well as the manufacturers’ title in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The C4 WRC and Loeb maintained a 100% record on asphalt events during its WRC career, winning all 13 pure asphalt rounds of the World Rally Championship.
The 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo engine produced 315bhp@5500 and 425ft/lbs of torque at 2750rpm, although the overall styling was maintained, the car had to be adapted to international regulations and performance requirements. This is where the design office of Citroën Sport stepped in. The project working group came up with a first rolling model of the Citroën C4 WRC that was already a long way from the original concept. The roof, for example, was no longer made of glass, since this is banned in rally racing. The front and rear wings, bumpers and spoiler were modified to satisfy regulations and performance criteria. To save time and money, a number of body parts were studied in wind tunnels on a scale of ¼ before validation of the full-size parts at the end of the project. Developed from the XU7 JP4 engine it went on the dominate the WRC with Loeb at the wheel for consistently in the late noughties.
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