Do We Ever Want To See The Return Of Group B?

I was barely three months old when Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto were tragically killed while contesting the 1986 Tour de Corse rally.

As such, I missed the most phenomenal class of world rallying by a figurative breath. Still, that didn’t lessen the impact that Group B had on my formative years, sat in front of a VCR rewinding and re-watching countless hours of footage recorded off the TV by my father or purchased VHS tapes of each season.

Not much has changed over the years, although I’ve replaced my VCR with a YouTube account, for better or worse. The fondness which I have for Group B still remains. I don’t think we will ever see an era quite like it again, although to be honest, I don’t think I want to. There’s a couple of reasons for that; some are selfish, some less so.

As motorsport fans, I sometimes think we often don rose-tinted glasses when looking back at the ‘better’ times. We seem to remember things a little better than what they might have actually been. In my own lifetime, one period of motorsport in particular stands out as a perfect example. As Michael Schumacher won Formula 1 world championship after world championship, at the time I can distinctly remember nothing but people complaining about how boring and predictable the sport had become. Except maybe Schumacher fans and the Tifosi. Nowadays, it’s remembered as a golden era of V10s and the sheer brilliance of Schumacher. I wonder if history will repeat itself in how we remember Mercedes current F1 domination? I digress…

jean-pierre-nicolas-peugeot-205-t16-tour-de-corse-1984

I say this because most seem to remember only a handful of the 40 or so cars that were homologated for Group B. They remember the heroes, the icons, but not the majority, which is a curiosity in itself. As time has passed, the cars seem to have exponentially increased in horsepower too, which must come as a surprise to the engineers of the time.

Almost all however would be aware of how lax the safety was during the ’80s, but to see it first-hand is another thing. Have you ever sat in a bonafide Group B car? I have. Compared to modern safety standards, the cars are laughable; they wouldn’t be allowed even near a scrutineering bay today, let alone the start line of an event. Roll-cages made of aluminium, zero side impact protection and fuel cells sometimes located directly under the driver’s seat. A ‘better’ time it most certainly was not.

RS200 Rally Car (UK)

From its first full season in 1982 until its ultimate demise in 1986, six people lost their lives during the Group B period with over 30 spectators injured in a single incident during its final year. Three of those who died were competitors, three were spectators. Later in the same month that Toivonen and Cresto were killed and when Group B subsequently was banned, Marc Surer’s navigator Michel Wyder was killed in a Ford RS200 on a German rally that was televised. Group B’s end couldn’t come into effect quickly enough.

Nonexistent spectator control was a huge problem due to the popularity of the sport, but one that can’t be blamed on the cars. It remains an issue today, and there are no other sports where personal responsibility and self preservation are of the utmost importance for spectators. Listen to the marshalls, or ignore them at your peril.

LHA133 - Delta S4 Gruppe B 1985A

For all I love about motorsport, I can never accept that even a single loss of life is worth it. I just can’t. It’s a constant inner-struggle that I feel like I’m having with myself all the time, because the other side knows that a life without motorsport probably isn’t worth it. Knowing competitors and friends who’ve been killed or left with life changing injuries has only emphasised the reality that motorsport is dangerous. It’s not just a catchphrase on the back of your ticket. The thing is, those who survived still love motorsport as they did before. If I could ask those who have passed away, I’d wager that they’d probably still have that same passion as before.

It’s because of Group B’s legacy that modern rally cars have never been safer. Strangely, they’ve never been quicker either, although their speed is sterile compared to the wild style of the mid-1980s. Sadly, as if a reminder was needed, a spectator’s death on the inaugural Rallye Monte Carlo of the new WRC era – which was completely avoidable, if reports are to be believed – immediately drew comparisons with rallying’s most infamous era. Unfairly, in my opinion.

I still love Group B. I am perfectly happy to relive the experience of the era through video, first-hand accounts or even legacy events like Rallye Eifel. But truth be told, I’m perfectly content for Group B to stay where it belongs, in the past.

We’ll always have the memories, and the lessons learned.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
Facebook: Paddy McGrath
paddy@speedhunters.com

Photography by Ford, Lancia, Peugeot & Audi

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1

Jesus, what a pussy. I read your article, where you were "terrified" to even sit in a car without side impact protection. Gotta love Millenials

2

I miss this the 80's and 90's because they gave us 'Homologation'. You could go out and BUY an Audi Quattro. Or a Sierra Cosworth. 
Can i buy a road going version of the current crop of race and rally cars? No. And that's a problem because without attainable 'halo' models car enthusiasts (and car buyers in general) lose a vital connection. A connection that makes cars more than just a vessel to transport you from A to B. So we end up with soft roaders, crossovers and other more mundane things.

3

J45ON The issue with homologation with regards to producing a number of similar road cars is the exponential cost involved for the manufacturers, which puts them off completely and results in having no competition. It's not so bad today because at least the likes of Ford and VW have fast 4WD production cars as well as their ST and GTI limeups on offer, although the others could definitely be doing more. 

I'll quite happily take the current crop of WRC cars without production variants if the alternative is a smaller field of competitors.

4

The need for change is for speed and power. I think we can all agree that safety cells and other safety related items should continue to be developed. F1 has a similar issue, the layman can buy a street car with more power.
Safety yay.
Low power (under 600hp) boo.

5

Kondor999 Well, some of us live in the real world where there's no 'reset' button if it goes wrong. We can also engage in discussion without resorting to childish insults.

6

Happy Camper Power doesn't automatically equate to outright speed in competition, even the previous generation of WRC cars would have left the Group B cars for dead on the same stages. 

I think we should wait and see how the new cars fare before demanding they have more power, initial impressions are that they are very, very fast as it is. Not that I ever considered WRC cars to be slow in the first place.

7

Whilst I agree about the safety aspect particularly for spectators, if a driver is happy to get in and risk his life then I have no issue with it, look at the Isle of man TT, there is fatality almost every year but it will be a sad day if it were to be banned because of that imo, so I'm not sure it's really any different for any other form of motorsport, yes make it safe but don't over sanitise it. 

The bad thing for me in the day of group B (which I loved) was the utter stupidity of the crowds, one thing to kill yourself but to have to live with killing someone else due to their ignorance is completely unacceptable.

8

crafty72 That stupidity is still alive and well today, unfortunately. 

I absolutely agree with you're saying and the comparison to the TT is perfect. I sort of touched on that towards the end, that I don't think anyone I know who has been affected by an accident lost any love for the sport. It's what we do. I would just like to live in a world where the risk of death or serious injury is completely eliminated from motorsport, but then it maybe loses some of its appeal?

9

Paddy McGrath crafty72 It saddens me to say it but yes I think it would, as an example of my/others double standards on this issue, I was shouting at the tv the end of last year watching Max Verstappen in F1 at Spa thinking how dangerous it was but at the same time I moan that F1 is too sanitised, reality is Max has injected some danger and got me interested again BUT I think there is a big accident coming where someone might get killed again because the youngsters have no fear, Nico got out at the right time imo, Massa should have hung up his lid too, but I also respect the fact that he wants to carry on.

10

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. - Oscar Wilde (actually writing about Group B:-) )

11

Reasonable points, didnt know thy had fuel cells under the seat hahah, I've read about extra fuel being put inside the rollcage tubing though. 

Nowdays we know more about safety and the engineers could be given more freedom, but the main concern are spectators because you cannot keep every stage 100% safe for fools.

Freedom in aero design and power output could provide more interest in the sport without increasing risk too much.

12

Paddy McGrath Happy Camper I am not familiar with the rule book but I guess creative ways of making power are forbidden and there is a cap on hp and various properties of the engine without which we would see more creativity in the cars. I want to see crazy inventions like F1 ground suction from Murray, maybe even some electric motors assist, crazier aero like in time attack... 
You could still make it reasonably safe.

13

crafty72 playing dare with those gasoline bombs should've been punishable with years in prison.

14

I wonder if you've ever been in a car with a roll cage, let alone one like one of these group b monsters. I'll be honest, I haven't, but if I'm going 50-60 mph on a tiny little dirt track only inches away from a hundred foot cliff, I'd want as much protection as I could get. Funny how "milennials" always get called crazy risk takers, careless, and stupid but 5 minutes later get called pussies. I digress. Group B was awesome, while also being one of the most dangerous motorsports ever. Let's just agree on that. The real debate should be Audi vs Lancia vs Ford or whatever car combo you want.

15

Worth remembering that WRC rules have long been developed in close cooperation with the teams, whose main concerns are cost and keeping a level playing field.
Current rules have quite a lot of freedom but within limits - aero devices have maximum dimensions, but they can do pretty much whatever they want within those dimensions.
And the real advances in speed have come from suspension, tyres and particularly differentials. Group B cars little more sophisticated than a tractor - most couldn't even do a handbrake turn which gives an idea of the skill needed to drive one

16

Bringing back Group B wouldn't mean bringing back the same level of safety and policing standards. There's no real reason why they couldn't make it conform to current WRC standards or better, while also policing the spectators to avoid deaths. As far as the homologation requirements, That would be a bit of an issue. That being said, I'd love to see what Porsche could do to make a New group-B entry. Sort of a modern 959. Maybe Ferrari could do the same? And how cool would it be to see a Group B-spec Bentley Continental GT?

Seriously, though, I completely understand why Group B had to be cancelled. It just seems that, with our modern tech, it would work out better now. And I don't think the Homologation models would hurt companies all that much. Look how sought-after the Group-B models are now....

Anyway, just my $0.02

17

Paddy McGrath Kondor999 Sorry, having a bit of fun at your expense.   I found it amusing.  Of course, anyone on the Internet can claim anything, but I was (briefly) a Trans Am driver in the 80's.  I didn't feel like I had the luxury of raising safety concerns during contract negotiations.  Young drivers pretty much took what they could get.  I got a single try-out in the car, and I was mainly concerned about not putting it into a gravel trap.

In any case, here's some fact-based info for you re: side impacts. The problem is that anything over 100km/h isn't survivable anyway.  But Yes, new side impact regs at least give the drivers some protection.    
Google this:  1209_ARPRO.pdf

It's obviously more of a concern with rallying than with what I was doing.  But yes, I had plenty of time in cars with roll cages.  But I never did rallying. We didn't know a lot about it in the USA in the 80's, really.  

Looked dangerous ;)

18

J45ON ah sort of, I wouldn't blame the lack of connection you cite for the rise of the "soft roader". I think we'd still have them alongside the fun stuff if homologation was still a thing. Firstly, a lot of people simply don't care about cars as much as we do -  A-B is all that's needed for them, so boring is the way forward. 
Soft Roaders and crossovers came about because people wanted them, though if you ask me there's no accounting for taste. People loved the "commanding view" a 4x4 gave but the 90s and early 2000s, 4x4s were a little unrefined. After they sorted refinement out, next came getting rid of the redundant driveshafts which damaged fuel economy, and hey presto, here we are with the soft roader. Hindsight is fantastic - I remember how much the motoring journalists derided the Rover Streetwise (that awful 25 covered with black plastic bumpers) but now they're all at it.

19

For me personally group A has alot more to offer than group B. The cars were still fire spitting 400hp turbocharged monsters, only with less grip, better handling and a body of a road car. I love group b cars but that's about it, the driving especially on tarmac wasn't that exiting and no (usable) handbrake made hairpins a pain to watch (drive as well, I assume) 



This interview with Markku Alen gives us an insight into the situation in 1986: https://youtu.be/cvIQiMkceiM (turn subs on)

So to answer the question: No, I don't want to see the return of group B. I'm satisfied with wrc as is but if they should bring anything back it should be group A.

20

Happy Camper "
"The
need for change is for speed and power. I think we can all agree that
safety cells and other safety related items should continue to be
developed. F1 has a similar issue, the layman can buy a street car
with more power".

https://youtu.be/2ZkQII5ZB2I

Yep. The new WRC cars are definitely too slow.... *sarcasm*

21

TPLC2 Yes, plenty of time in cars with roll cages.  And Yes, Millennials seem to veer between extremes of caution and recklessness. It's all good, we Gen X'ers took a lot of shit too ;)

22
lockedoutofacount

tbh if we just upgraded the safety and lowered the power till the saftey caught up I'd say bring it back

23

Love Group B, but we don't need it back. We move forward.
I would like to see the current WRC continue to develop in the direction they are going. Faster faster faster, with enhanced safety.
Lastly, for top level WRC, I don't want to see homologation. Road cars are so lame and constricting. I want to see the best drivers in the world pushing purpose built race machines to the absolute limit. Homologation is fine for WRC2, RGT, and other lesser classes - but i don't want to see the top dozen or so guys in anything the resembles a road car.

24

They'd ruin it, so no. I also don't know who 'they' are, but they'd ruin it lol.

25

I'll personally argue that Group B is in a sense back. The current crop of WRC cars are insanely fast and while no they don't have upwards of 800hp they do have loads of torque and the new aero body work is very reminiscent of the bygone era. What is far more impressive now than back then is the suspension and tires. Honestly, I really wish we could get a former Group B car to run along with the current cars so we can see just how they stack up against each other. 

Of course they are working within a driver safety box so there will be some limitations to them.

26

Safety is an unavoidable consequence of performance development, Im sure we would all love to keep seeing our favorite drivers race, and I would hazard a guess that most people prefer to see a driver climb out of a serious wreck and cheer him on instead of seeing an ambulance and paramedics cut an unconscious driver out of a mangled car... Granted, a crash is intrinsically exciting, but relief is always better than the unknown. That being said, im finally excited again about the current crop of WRC cars. While as spectators we cant quantifiably understand the "speed" of current vs vintage race cars its the aggressive purposeful looks and sounds of Group B cars which i think captured peoples emotions at the times, and I think im not the only one to think the new 2017 WRC cars are the closest cars visually to those iconic Group B monsters. Have you seen the boxed rear fenders and stupidly massive rear wings?! So much win! This should be a good season! And Cheers Paddy for the very nice retrospective, killin it as always.

27

lockedoutofacount THats whats happened for the last 30 years. They dialled Group B's speed back til safety caught up, now the cars are safer yet faster than group B.

28

Kondor999 TPLC2 I say they veer between Risk-taking (because Mommy raised them nicely protected from everything in the world) and being pussies (because they are too chickenshit). Taking risks because they are too stupid to know better, and not taking risks because they are lazy, and expect the world to come to them.

29

maaaaaaaaaaaaan, I just want an african safari rally again

30

It seems a father who raises their child on VHS tapes of Group B cars spawns an all out petrol-head. We had very similar upbringing in that sense at least.

I think it's all about finding a balance.  Having the pure evocative excitement of the Group B era, mixed with the variety (and funding) of the Mid 90's WRC/Group A era. For me this is the biggest problem.  Group B had the power and visual stimulation.  90's WRC had 7 or 8 works teams, plus the Kit/Maxi cars terrorising them on tarmac.  Now whilst we have great technology, meaning a Ford Fiesta is now as quick as an old Group B car (can't believe I just wrote that), and finally we have the excitement back in terms of the new rules, we're also now missing the the variety we once had.

It's so hard to find the balance, but like many, I'm now as excited about rally (and it's future) as I was in the era of McRae, Makinen and co.

And finally whilst safety is paramount, I think that's why I, and so many love rally and motorcycle road racing.  It's so accessible.  It's man, machine and road, all just a few metres away.  The sense of risk and danger is in itself both an appeal and a peril, that deserves respect.

31

"Too Fast to Race" by Duke Video, best VHS ever

32

Thats what motorsport is all about. You roll hard and people die. simple.

33

It shouldn't return. Rallying and honestly the entire world has changed a lot, calling a new rally-class Group-B would be a bad choice since it wouldn't be representative of the old Group-B. I'm not saying the rallying would be bad, but people would have unreal and impossible expectations. 

The current generation WRC cars might be very quick, they might even be faster then the old Group-B cars. But 30 years ago 500 horsepower  was just insane, it was 100 more then a Ferrari Testarossa had, they also didn't weigh anything.The point I'm trying to make is that Group-B cars were insane for their time, but the current WRC cars aren't.

One of the things I personally also miss in WRC is homologation models (not just in WRC but in motorsports in general). Homologation has lead to many of the most loved cars we have, not just in group B. Also in WRC we had cars like the Evo, Impreza, Delta and Celica. The current Polo WRC doesn't really represent a Polo GTI does it?

Another reason why not to do it is because of how people look back on Group-B. It was something that was loved by many people but then quite suddenly ended, which is probably the reason the hype is still going. The fact that we are talking about Group-B 30 years later is proof that the hype is still going. We humans look back on things we liked and then make it even better in our heads...

34

I was just thinking the other day... wrc cars are starting to look good again. More box and flare and progression than what we have seen in recent years. Group b is a for another time left behind. Look forward and see where the current sport goes.
C'mon who doesn't think the new toyota or hyundai look amazing and would love to drive one? good things are happening! 
We don't need crazier cars... we need more manufacturers getting involved making it more competitive!

35

reistje Couldn't agree more with the idea of homologation models. it should just be required. even if its only 200 road cars..

36

Bring back Group A


Make homologation 2000, 1000 or 500 cars a year... or 300... And have SUV's/Hatchbacks with the same engine and gearbox... Maybe a few different ratios, for... different wheel sizes.


As long as the engine is rigid, the head flows good, with iron sleeves... and the gearbox can withstand 600hp or 900hp for a few drag passes, then all is good.



With Brembos... Cant forget Brembos.

37

I smell the exuberance of youth...

38

I'd personally like to say that this is an amazing article but I would like to point out that without death in motorpsorts then there wouldn't be such a surge in progression towards safety and the like. Death is not something that we should take lightly but it is bound to happen in such a dangerous sport.
Obviously Group B will not be brought back but then again men don't have balls that are heavier then their cars anymore do they?

39

When bros say Group B was for men with giant balls.  This lady had bigger balls than the likes of ya.

40

With today's safety technology, it would not be much of a problem for Group B to return, although today's rallycross machines are as close to the good old Group B days.

41

I remember my dad taking me to the rallying in Sutton and Donnington Parks when I was younger - Amazing! I could never believe the places people would stand though...

42

i want to see group B cars re-tour along with the team backing.
give Rally a kick in the butt and get the classics back. sure bring the cages, seats and belts up to current safety rules but this would be sick to see 3-5 stages of say 6 rallies around the world with classics from the 60s 70s 80s and 90s!  Holla

43

Matt Kay  This sounds like Fast&Furious-spec; technical talk.

44

TomRich Matt Kay TomRich Matt Kay  Well...
Stock evo 1st gen gearboxes can handle 600hp at least.

People use the vr4 final drive for a higher trap speed.

People go 2.4L using chariot or hyundai blocks, or use a 2L crank for a high rpm 2.1L

Vr4 heads are big port. vr4 shortblocks handle 500hp.
There's the mitsubishi rvr in case you blow your evo engine...

A libero or mirage to make an evo wagon or hatchback coupe.

a lancer gsr, mx or diesel model for people to do evo conversions...

Then there's the DSM world.

45

You're right, i had a similar thought after they unveiled their cars for this season. And the cars are getting more powerful again.

46

In short: no. The cars of the Group B period were awesome, but that is just one part of the picture. The competition? Sure, there were some close battles, but a lot of the rallies of the period were won through attrition. It was expensive and, even before disaster struck, it was already clear that it was not sustainable. 
I'm so glad that the cars of Group B are getting the recognition they deserve, but the increase in attention that Group B has got on the internet over the last few years seems to have spawned a generation of rally "experts" who claim anything other than Group B is rubbish and the sport never has, nor ever will be, as good again: a statement which really proves how they little someone understands about the sport
As others have already said in the comments, Group A is the period I would most like to see return, where the regulations required the manufacturers to mass produce showroom versions of the competition cars. Group A had the drivers, the close competition and it spawned numerous icons which were within the reach of the average rally fan. I am not naive enough to think that is a viable ruleset in the current financial climate though.
I applaud the direction the FiA have taken with the 2017 cars: the performance is up and the cars look wild. In that sense the current rules are embracing some of the best aspects of Group B.

47

Makes a nice change to read a sensible comment like yours JamisonBritton, get so tired of reading "Group B is best!" comments by people who clearly know bugger all about rallying beyond a headline they saw in a Facebook article!

48

Mechanophile Paddy McGrath Happy Camper There isn't a cap on BHP. Turbos must run with a restrictor in place and, as a consequence, the maximum power attainable normal settles at a certain level. 
In truth BHP is an irrelevant figure with regards to rally cars: torque is the real measure and this is the figure that is often difficult to ascertain with the WRCars as the teams won't state them!

49

I am a HUGE Group B fan, as a matter of fact, the inspiration for my logo was the original KKK turbo insignia on the Sport Quattros. I will agree that the cars became entirely outlandish and not even remotely close to any production variant in anything but name, but I understand the correlation between 'homologation' and sales.

I would say the closest modern equivalent we have are hillclimb cars, which seem to have very little technical regulation aside from safety basics. Some of the machines are plain bonkers and on par with Group B madness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR9XhQow1Qc

50

Im sorry but i disagree. You all can hate me all you want, but i think only a trully passionate racer would agree that putting his life on the line is a part of the experience. When i go all out, i know that there is a chance that something might happen and i might die in the process. If you cant accept that then you are not a racing driver and cannot be the best...

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