There was a time when one had to have gigantic lead balls to get behind the wheel of a works rally car. I’m not asserting that today’s crop of rally drivers are a bunch of pant-wetting ninnies still dreaming of mum’s Scandinavian nipple — they’re not, when it comes to driving these guys are the kind of supermen Nietzsche regularly had wet dreams about. But their huevos simply don’t stack up to those of the few, fine men (and women) who shredded the earth in the works rally cars of the early- to-mid-1980s.
It’s been said that motor racing is a battle between man and machine. If this is true, the rally machines of the short lived “Group B” were nothing less than Greco-Roman monsters of myth screaming high on PCP. Today’s WRC class cars are mere hood rats in comparison. Please, allow me the pleasure of substantiating this absurd analogy. Lancia’s official 1986 Group B entry, the Delta S4 Stradale, could hit 60 mph from a standstill in 2.3 seconds. On gravel. Ponder that for a moment. Sort of destroys your life perspective, doesn’t it?
It must’ve been the cocaine in the air. It was the ’80s, everybody was hitting the nose candy and shaking their shoulder pads until the sun rolled back into the sky. Is it so hard to envision automotive engineers in these scenarios? Maybe it was a combination of cocaine and sexual frustration. . .
Whatever it was, it wouldn’t have had a practical application had motorsport governing body F.I.S.A. (now the F.I.A.) not unveiled Group B in 1983. This rally group gave manufacturers the green light for “Beyond Thunderdome” insanity. In this period each rally group was divided into a series of classes based on engine displacement (with a 1.4 equivalence factor for cars running forced induction). There were 2000cc, 2500cc, 3000cc and 4000cc classes. Weight restrictions were minimal and high-tech composite materials were allowed in vehicle construction across the four Group B classes. F.I.S.A at the time felt that displacement restrictions would be more than enough to keep power output sane — forced induction was still a new frontier in the ‘80s. It didn’t take long for those tweaked engineers to figure out that forced induction made their engines nearly impervious to the laws of nature. In fact, at the height of the Group B game, Audi tested a prototype 3000cc (2142.8 cc when factoring in the forced induction 1.4 equivalency rule) S1 Quattro that made around 1000hp. Conversely, today’s World Rally Championship spec cars are limited to 300hp. I shouldn’t even have to mention how much more manageable these cars are after 20 plus years of leaps in tire, suspension and chassis technology. Gigantic lead balls, bro.
Every Friday for the next few weeks we’ll feature a spotlight article on a Group B rally car that raged the rally stages back in the mad 1980s. So dawn your best Members Only jacket, pull up Genesis on iTunes and follow us into the depths of turbocharged lunacy. But don’t think for a second those aviator sunglasses will shield your eyes from the gravel spray.