Meeting Your Heroes.</br>Inside a Group B Legend
A personal history

What are your earliest memories? I’m not talking about your literal first memories here, but rather something that stayed with you throughout your life. Can you think of one?

I can. I don’t know what age I was, but I remember sitting in front of the TV, watching a VHS of ’80s rallying whilst playing with my small Matchbox cars. There was one car in particular that I treasured over all the others though: a 1986 Ford RS200.


Over twenty years later, that very same car sits on my desk. A reminder, if ever one was needed, why I love doing what I do. This ‘dinky’ though formed a special bond between a younger and more impressionable version of myself and Ford’s Group B supercar. It’s a bond that has lasted my whole life, and created a special sub-conscious relationship with the car.


I’ve been fortunate enough to come across some of the most pristine examples of the RS200 on my travels.


From immaculate production cars to this particular and more modernised car that Larry and Mike featured last year at Gatebil.

Now I’m sure you’re asking – I know Rod raised an eyebrow – why are we featuring another RS200 if Larry has just featured one? Aren’t they all the same? Of course not. Whilst the RS200 is extraordinarily rare, they all have their own stories to tell. Whilst I can appreciate C200 JJN (above), its more modern touches leave me a little cold. It’s an absolutely fantastic car, and I would do anything to have it in my garage, but it’s not the car I fell in love with as a young boy.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-6

C200 MNO on the other hand, is the car I fell in love with…

The history

Funnily enough, this was one of those cars that was right under my nose for many years. As part of the Mondello Park Collection, I can’t even recall how many times I was in its presence whilst shooting other cars. It was late last year, one Friday night when I was going through my catalogs when I stumbled upon this picture. As you do, when you see an RS200, you stop and admire.

I’ve looked at this photo quite a lot but this time something caught my eye which I never noticed before. There were no door cards. I started googling for RS200 interiors and quickly started noticing other little details. The seats and harnesses were different too.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-46

Then the more obvious things began to stand out, like the side scoops on the roof and the exposed hinges with a quick release on the front clam. A quick google of the registration and subsequently uncovering of its chassis number, and all of a sudden, my eyes were wide open.

As it quickly revealed, this wasn’t just any RS200. This was a bonafide ex-works Group B car which enjoyed quite a lot of success in the hands of famous Belgian driver, Robert Droogmans. In fact, in 1986, the car won six out of the eight events it entered, including the Ypres 24 Hours rally, then a round of the European Rally Championship. With Droogmans behind the wheel, the RS200 took down its competitors with apparent ease, including the Lancia S4, Peugeot 205 T16 and Metro 6R4.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-47

In 1986, Droogmans only competed in four rounds of the FIA’s ERC. He won them all. Whilst the RS200 struggled to deliver on the world stage, it was at least making its own mark on home turf.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-5

Fortunately, someone at Mondello Park realised this too and they set about having the car re-liveried in its iconic Belga colours. It has taken me all of my life to reach this point, but finally, here I stood before my hero.

A genuine and all-but-untouched-since, Group B Ford RS200.

Step inside
Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-9

You can read the spec list of a rally specification RS200 anywhere online, but it doesn’t really mean anything until you open the door to one and sit inside.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-12

Once you plant your rear in the driver’s seat, you’re immediately aware that this is a product of an era where health and safety was a bit of a loose concept. The cabin is cramped. The firewall over your shoulder only emphasises this fact.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-18

With the carpets and door cards removed, it’s surprisingly quite civilised inside.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-15

In fact, the dials and gauges are almost identical to what was offered in the homologated production car.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-10

One of the things – if I’m honest – that terrified me the most, was the fact there was zero side impact protection. There’s no door bars or even reinforcement within the doors themselves.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-17

The roll cage itself doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. Once you realise that these bars are all that you have to protect the passenger compartment in case of a roll, you begin to have a better appreciation of just how brave the drivers in the Group B era were. Sure, it was the done thing at the time but it doesn’t change the fact how little protection the driver and co-pilot were offered.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-11

There were some safety devices installed. Five point Sabelt harnesses would be of some comfort.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-23

A plumbed in fire extinguisher system was also present, which sat just behind the navigator’s head and could be activated from inside the car.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-28

Not far from the extinguisher was the car’s ECU which was bolted directly to the bulkhead.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-19

What really impressed me though was the fact that this was still a car, and not just a tool for motorsport. It needs a key to be started. Can you imagine Séb Ogier frantically running around the service park trying to find the keys to his Polo WRC?

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-30

This being the ’80s and Ford being Ford, there was a raid on the parts bin to re-use items from other Fords of the same era. For example, the windscreen and door glass are the same as those used in the Sierra, only the latter has been modified to fit the smaller RS200 door.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-27

When we think of Group B, we always think of the era as the pinnacle of rallying. It’s quite strange to see just how civilised these cars were – almost as if they were trying to disguise the fact that they were absolute monsters on the stages. For what the interior may have been trying to conceal, once you get into the oily bits, it becomes all too apparent what this car’s true purpose in life was…

Beneath the skin
Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-3

There remain a lot of misconceptions about the Group B cars. As the years have gone on since the class was banned, the cars appear to have gained more horsepower and become faster year after year. It’s fair enough that we like to look back at the era with a certain amount of fondness, but it does make it difficult to uncover the facts.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-31

The beauty of this particular example is that it has been left unmolested since the 1980s. As the car is stored away, the battery has been removed but other than that, it’s exactly as it should be. Warts and all.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-42

This particular car, like its other Group B RS200 brethren, runs an 1803cc turbocharged four cylinder engine, known as a BDT. The BDT was based on the design of Ford’s famous BDA, an engine which preceded the BDT and featured in the world-dominating works Escorts.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-51

Ford had originally planned to build an RS1700T Escort to compete in Group B, but it proved to be too far behind the competition in development. They scrapped that car but were left with 200 BDT engines which had been commissioned for the RS1700T project. So, the RS200 was designed and built around utilising this engine. It shows too, when you see how compact the complete package is and the fact that all significant weight is well within the front and rear axles (the gearbox was mounted in the front for 50:50 weight distribution).

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-39

In road specification, the RS200 production cars made around 250hp at 0.8 bar, fed through a Garret T04E. The same turbocharger in works rally application was first used to produce around 350hp at 1.2 bar and later 450hp at 1.5 bar when coupled with different and higher lift camshafts (after a relaxation in the regulations surrounding the homologated camshafts). It was only after Group B had been banned, that the 2.1 Evolution engines made their appearance, capable of 950hp.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-35

The suspension is similar front and rear, double wishbones with twin concentric coilovers with adjustable ride height. The use of twin coilovers allowed mixed units to be installed to allow for an increased rate and damper settings depending on application.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-36

With the battery removed, it gives us a better look at the front limited slip differential set-up. You’ll often read reviews saying how the gearshift in an RS200 was quite agricultural. It all makes sense when you discover that it was Harry Ferguson’s (better known as the father of the modern tractor) company that was responsible for the three LSDs.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-14

Whilst not present on this particular car, there’s usually a second lever which connects directly to a simple dog clutch selector at the front of the gearbox. This selector would allow the driver the choice of a 37/63, 50/50 or 0/100 front/rear torque split.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-43

Ease of servicing was one the biggest priorities when it came to designing the engine and transmission package. In fact, for its apparent complex-looking nature, a gearbox could be changed in as little as ten minutes.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-38

Other things of note include the position of the fuel tank. That is, right behind the driver’s seat.

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-49

Whilst the chassis is primarily aluminium and stainless steel, the outer body is a mix of aramid, carbon and glass fibre composites. The result was a package that weighed in at just over 1,000kgs (2,315lbs).

Ford RS200 Belga C200 MN0 PMcG-1

When you’re dealing with a car with history as illustrious as this, it’s always a challenge not to start rambling. When the car in question just happens to be one of the few to survive arguably the greatest era in motorsport, I have to force myself to stop. There’s so much to talk about with this car. For instance, and in a wild case of coincidence, C200 JJN (the car Larry shot) once needed to borrow the bonnet from this car to continue in an event. There’s even a picture of it. See, I’m off again…

If there’s one thing you take away from this story, aside from how brave and heroic the drivers and co-drivers of Group B were, it’s this: find your heroes and shake their hand.

You won’t regret it.

Paddy McGrath
Twitter: @PaddyMcGrathSH
Instagram: speedhunters_paddy



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Hey! I just (a couple weeks ago) bought a 1:18 Begla RS200 model by Ottomodel!! It was raced by Droogmans in the '86 Ypres Rally. So I use bought this car! I've never seen or heard of the Belga RS200, or Droogmans, or the Ypres Rally, but once I bought the scale model the real one shows up on here. That is crazy.

boost me till i burst

It's sad that Group B hasn't made a come back of sorts.... as it only failed, well in part because of poor spectator safety and control. Rallying could still be dangers in a 30mph (Flat out) race if people stood right on the edge of a wet rutted gravel hair pin etc.. Ok some of Group B's cars did have some scary design/safety problems, but that safety evolution could have been forced by better management/rules instead of just banning it. BRING BACK GROUP B, FOR THE LOVE OF FUN AND DANGER...


EricSeanDelaney  We saw you made that purchase so figured we'd track the actual car down, it's just something we like to do... :)


Speedhunters_Bryn EricSeanDelaney  I knew there was a reason this was one of my most visited sites! A little creepy, but it's all good :D haha


Awesome machine. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut the Delta S4 is better. In my opinion at least....


Robert Droogmans is a local to me. Was even present at my uncle's birthday bash last year. A true rally hero here in Belgium and very loyal to Ford as he continued rallying the Sierra Cosworth and Escort Cosworth afterwards (I even repainted my own Escort Cosworth RC car into the Boxy colors he last raced)


I know this is crazy but what does the word "BASTOS" stand for in the Belga rs200? The reason I asked is because it exactly translates to "PERVERT" in my native language.

Ok I'm sorry, i'm going to stop now.


Are those the tyres they would have used?


I had almost the same model as a kid. Still have it today, in fact.
That and a Sierra Cosworth had many hour-long battles on the rugged racetrack known as my floor.


I had that EXACT toy car when I was younger, and still have it today, coincidentally, on my desk :)
Mine's in much worse condition though, when my Dad was putting a new driveway in, I made my own rally stage in the dirt for that and my matchbox mk1 escort. I actually only found them both in the garden quite recently, some 20 odd years later...


Dat opening shot!!!!!


Larry Chen  Yaaaaaaaa!


I've never been so interested in every single picture in a Speedhunters article. THIS IS WHAT I COME HERE FOR!

It's hard to find detail shots like this of the RS200. Thanks for posting, great work.


boost me till i burst  Apart from the engine placement the WRC cars aren't that far from the group B in terms of being wild. Also the rule to build 200 pointless road cars that nobody wanted to buy was ridiculous and would be hard to sell for manufacturers if you compare it to WRC rules. The leaps in transmission and suspension technology would have eventually made the group B cars more sophisticated (read boring) just like the WRC cars of today. Group B just happened to exist in unique place in time where the available technology and surrounding society allowed the cars and the sport to be outrageous and it will never happen again.


Great photos better than any uk magazine photos so much more detailied pics..


That Matchbox RS200 has a lot to answer for: I had many Matchbox cars as a kid, but the one I remember above all others is the RS200! It was the cars success in rallycross that cemented my love for the RS200, but I think Matchbox sowed the seeds. 
Some excellent shots. I never tire of looking at these cars, please ignore Rod's eyebrow and continue to publish as much RS200 content on Speedhunters as possible!


Vittorio Jano boost me till i burst Useless Fact (apologies if you already know!): Before they were hurridly banned, the Group B regulations had been scheduled to be replaced in 1987 by Group S. After the incident(s) which triggered the banning of Group B, Group A was instead selected as the regulation car rule for the 1987 World Rally Championship. 
Group S regulations were shelved at the time, but were later used as the base for the World Rally Car regulations which came into effect from 1997 onwards (and are still in use today). So the 2.0 World Rally Cars are really the modern descendant of the Group B monsters!
Although I love the Group B cars, I agree with Vittorio in that they are unique product of many different elements. Ultimately I don't believe Group B was sustainable; for example consider how hard it is to get manufacturers involved in WRC today, and that is when they don't have to have any reflection of the competition car in the showroom. Now imagine trying to get them to participate when they have to build 200 cars just to go racing!


Great article!


JG6  Glad you enjoyed it :)


aussieANON  I can relate to that :)


Pancakes  No, they're stock RS200 Motorsport wheels for basically moving it around. It would have run on a variety of tyres depending on conditions when competing (slicks, inters, gravel etc.)


That first shot - stunning. Another great article!


Love these articles, I always learn from it!


Another one who had the Matchbox RS200!


Nice car but not quite Carlsberg !


just to keep you right 061 is C200JJN


Chalk me up as another one who has the Matchbox RS200! I recently rediscovered it during a move. For the longest time I thought it was something Matchbox made up because it was so unusual-looking (RS200s were virtually unknown in the US until Playstation and the Internet showed us otherwise). It looks great next to the Hot Wheels version of my favorite rally car, the Stratos.


Jaye Jordan  Good spot, had 061 on my mind!


I loved my RS200 Matchbox cars!!