Group B Lives: The Gatebil RS200
Gone, but not forgotten

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.



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this is so awesome on so many levels!


I think you could sum up how crazy-ass Group B was with two pieces of data:
Mildly Upgraded 2.1L Evolution Motor
760hp, 860Nm
Yep, that's over 750hp from a mildly upgraded 2.1 liter turbo four-pot.


Pure car pornography. The RS200 never really delivered as a rally car, but its history in rallycross places it at the very top of my car wish list. One day...


Such an epic car...with integrated sandals for the co driver. Great article guys!


koko san Heheh - I've only just seen them! "Sit down, strap in, shut up". :)


koko san Heheh - I've only just seen them! "Sit down, strap in, shut up". :)


koko san Heheh - I've only just seen them! "Sit down, strap in, shut up". :)


what is the red knob beside the shifter? brake bias?


@Mike Assuming that it hasn't been changed from standard, I believe the red knob switches the car from 4WD to RWD. Ford believed that RWD would be an advantage in some situtations, so they included the ability to switch.


tbtstt awesome! makes me want one even more now!


Love love loving the rally theme.
I recall a couple years ago Dino did a post on one of these languishing under a thick layer of dust in a garage in Japan.  Did he ever get the story behind that?  If there was ever a time for a follow-up, now would be it.


@Mike tbtstt I know! I have read a few less than favorable reviews about driving RS200's though, so perhaps we're better off never meeting our heroes...
(Though even if it was a dog to drive I'd happily sit and look at it parked on my drive all day!)


tbtstt its swops it to 60/40 or 50/50 split


Simply P tbtstt That is tragic: even if I had no desire to drive it I would keep it clean!


GrahamCusack tbtstt I've always understood that it was full RWD? Just checked in the McKlein Group B book and that states it could be "switched to RWD". Perhaps they mean rear bias rather than full RWD though?

I have just asked on the RS200 owners club to see if I have misunderstood!


GrahamCusack tbtsttJust had it confirmed from an RS200 owner. The lever actually has three positions; 37:63, 50:50 or RWD. Apparently the lever was removed or locked in the 37:63 position in a lot of the road cars as an RWD RS200 is a bit of a handful!


ToyotaSupraMan wonder what else he did to the engine, as I recall reading something about the road-going homologation RS200s still needing an engine rebuild every 30k km or so.


"I personally was born at the beginning of the Group B era, and by the time it disappeared I was only a toddler."
Yeah. Me too, but I love the cars of this era though and this RS200 is mental! Thanks!


@Mike Thats so he can put it in 4 low. in case he needs to tow his boat across the beach or something


Thank you Larry, for my new set of wallpapers, replacing the MW 911 STR.
For anyone wondering how to get the banner as a wallpaper, open in it presentation mode, right click the image and save it, doesn't have a link like the rest for some reason.