Rallying is without a doubt one of the most challenging, most mentally demanding and most dangerous motorsports on the face of the earth. It’s also one of the most visceral. A Formula 1 car taking a corner at comic book like speeds is visceral. A nitro dragster burning its tires down the quarter mile is visceral. But rallying is on another level.
Is there any scene more full of energy than a professional rally machine coming over a crest at ridiculous speeds or being pitched through a hairpin sideways, backfiring like a demon and throwing gravel all over the place? I’d say probably not.
Depending on your age and where you come from, your image of rallying will be different. You might picture Sébastian Loeb or Ken Block in their modern machines. Maybe it’s a legend like Colin McRae or Richard Burns in their World Rally Blue Subarus. Maybe you go all the way back to the 1960s and imagine a Mini Cooper at Monte Carlo.
But when speaking of rally’s highly visceral nature, it’s impossible to top the insane Group B machines of 1980s. The Group B cars were incredible feats of engineering and today they serve as symbol of the days when rallying was king and motorsport was truly adventurous.
With more horsepower, more aerodynamics and less weight than ever, Group B competition was faster and more dangerous than rally racing had ever been. After accidents which claimed the lives of several drivers and spectators, the FIA infamously put an end to Group B after just a few short years.
Just as quickly as they had come, the Group B cars were gone. They were too fast for their own good, and despite the infamy that surrounded these machines, many rally fans would forever see the Group B years as the golden era of the sport.The spirit lives on
While the original era of real Group B rallying only lasted for a blink of an eye, it’s not as if the cars and the memories vanished altogether. In all corners of the world, dedicated rally enthusiasts still restore, maintain and drive legitimate Group B machine, hoping to pass on the legend to a new group of fans who may not have been around to see them during their prime.
We encountered one such machine this year at Gatebil in Norway, a Ford RS200 owned and driven by a rally maniac named Bjorn Viko. Gatebil, as you all know, is one of the world’s biggest car culture events and is best known for the extensively modified, home-built machines that come out to play.
It might be strange to imagine a legitimate ex-works RS200 taking part in Gatebil, but Bjorn is a regular participant at the events. That’s the first sign that tells you the kind of life this restored rally machine is living.
This is no museum piece or a car that’s trailed around so it can sit and look pretty. Instead, Bjorn makes great use of the mad engineering that Ford put into the RS200 back in the 1980s, driving the car at Gatebil and other events around Norway.
History says this particular RS200 chassis was originally sold to a customer in Sweden and was then campaigned by Ford of Holland. With Stig Andervang as its pilot, the car claimed the Dutch Rally Championship in 1986.
By the time Bjorn got a hold of the RS200, the years had taken their toll on the car and he began the process of a 10-year restoration. It wouldn’t be your typical historic race car resto though.Rally refresh
While the primary goal was to bring back the car to its former glory, there were a few upgrades made along the way. The goal was to keep the nearly 30-year old RS200 running at its best whenever it was taken out to events.
The car is powered by a 2.1-liter Evolution-spec motor, and although it hasn’t strayed too far from its original spec there’s still a decent power upgrade here.
With boost pressure set at 2.1bar (30.8psi), the car outputs 750 horsepower and generates 860 Newton meters (634 pound feet) of torque.
By the standards of Gatebil that might not be a huge amount of power, but when you consider the light weight and aerodynamics of the car, it’s impressive stuff.
The engine is mated to an Xtrac gearbox with a Tilton clutch, and up front you’ll find an Xtrac differential helping to put the power down as efficiently as possible.
The wheels on the RS200 are OZ Racing Ford Motorsport items, and they proudly wear their battle scars from the various events Bjorn has driven in.
Behind the spokes of the wheels are a set of AP Racing brakes, six-pot up front and four-pot in the rear.
As for the exterior of the car, it doesn’t look much different than it did in the ’80s. It’s equipped with Ørlins bumpers, and you can tell from the choice of slick tires that the car is presented in tarmac-spec.
Inside, the car also looks very original, but safety equipment has of course been upgraded with some more modern items.
There are Sparco bucket seats for both Bjorn and his navigator (or anyone else with the courage to ride shotgun in this Group B monster), along with all the other necessary equipment.
For now, Bjorn’s plan is just to keep driving and enjoying the car. Among his goals are entries into upcoming Norwegian hillclimb events.
I personally was born at the beginning of the Group B era, and by the time it disappeared I was only a toddler. Thankfully there are people like Bjorn out there who have dedicated themselves to keeping the visceral madness of Group B alive for years to come.