Max Attack

Max Attack

1984 Audi Sport Quattro S1E2, 1985 Lancia Delta S4,1984 Porsche 959, 1985 Ford RS200. These all are examples of what manufacturers are capable of when there is only one rule: There are no rules. 


Rally (also spelled rallye), as a whole, is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “automobile competition over a specified public route with a driver and navigator attempting to keep to a predetermined schedule between checkpoints. The course is generally unknown to contestants until the start of the rally.”


Group B was a set of regulations for sports car racing that was introduced in 1982 by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of most non-American motorsports. The FIA introduced Group B as a way to attract more manufacturers by giving full reign to the designers. Crazy aerodynamics, all-wheel-drive, insanely powerful engines, and numerous exotic materials were only a few of the potentially limitless modifications that the rules allowed. According to “a Group B car could accelerate from 0-60 mph on a gravel road in just 2.3 seconds.”


Group B is often considered the golden age of rallying, despite its short lifespan of four years. The sport was physically demanding for drivers, with races taking place in stages ranging from sweltering deserts to freezing tundras. To quote Juha Kankkunen, a four-time World Rally champion, “WRC is for boys, Group B was for men.”


Group B brought some of the most spectacular cars and some of the best drivers in the world. Timo Salonen is number one because of a simple reason: he is the record holder for wins in the Group B era, winning seven times and becoming the 1985 world champion.


But no driver is complete without their car. For Salonen, that car was the 1985 Peugeot 205 T16, the specs of which are listed below:

424 Horsepower @ 7500 RPM

362 ft/lbs of torque @ 5500 RPM

2.4 Liters/151 Cubic Inches

Curb weight of 2,424 lbs

All-wheel drive


If you watch any Group B footage, you’ll notice that many of the spectators stand on the track and that the spectators would only move out of the way once a car moves through. Group B commonly raced on public roads, meaning anyone could spectate the race as close as they wanted to. However, it meant that many got extremely close to the cars. Occasionally, people were hit, but it was considered part of the challenge for the drivers. They had to keep their foot on the gas and hope that the fans would move out of the way. 


The fact that the sport was extremely dangerous cannot be ignored. The cars were too powerful and too difficult to drive, as well as the fact that not enough emphasis was put on the safety of the drivers and the spectators. The main issue was the minimum weight rule, which stated that the cars could weigh as little as 1,960 lbs (the average weight of a street car today is around 3,300 lbs). To be as competitive as possible, manufacturers did anything they could to cut down on weight, creating a generation of cars that were very fragile and didn’t protect the driver in a crash. A commonly thought solution was that if the minimum weight was raised, more strengthening would be added to better protect the drivers. 


Many bad crashes did occur. During the 1986 season in Portugal, Joaquim Santos arrived over a crest in his Ford RS200, losing control and going off the course, horrifically injuring 31 spectators and killing three. All the other teams immediately pulled out of the race to prevent further mishaps, and left Group B hanging on by a thread. The final blow would come only a few months later.


Lancia Racing’s driver Henri Toivonen, who was a championship favorite, lost control late in a fast turn. He was winning by a large margin when he and his co-driver Sergio Cresto came flying off the road and down a steep hill. The impact ruptured the fuel tank, spilling fuel all over the car and drivers, both of which went up in flames. After the incident, the mangled and twisted steel could hardly be recognized as a car anymore. This led to many manufacturers pulling out and the FIA ending the Group B class the following year. 


But Group B was not entirely a loss. The legacy that Group B had left behind is a space that modern rally cars still try to fill. The technologies and techniques used then are still common practice today, such as complex turbocharger systems and all-wheel-drive. If it weren’t for the advancements and feats accomplished, who knows where rally would be today without Group B.