The World Rally Championship, known as the WRC today saw the rise of fantastic machinery through the introduction of the Group B category by the FIA in 1982. Created to fill the slot of the previous Group 4 and Group 5 category, the Group B would be a mix of both resulting in raw and brutal cars and the WRC was to be their main playing field.
The minimum production requirement of the category was of 200 cars build within a year which would then authorize 20 of them for the homologation in the category as FIA Group B. It resulted in real prototypes with road registration and you can then understand why they were so brutal and all about raw speed and designs. The manufacturers went for it and even if requirements were costly for most of them it would permit them to showcase their technologies properly.
Audi and the Sport Quattro, Lancia and its 037 or Delta S4 as well as the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 were the big players but let’s not forget that others went for it, such as Citroën, Austin and of course, Ford with their RS200.
The RS200 was to be Ford’s weapon of choice for the championship, and it looked very good on the paper, 4-wheel drive, a mid-mounted turbocharged straight-4 engine and a compact chassis. Named as project B200 at Ford, the whole project was decided lately compared to the opposition, maybe because Ford was looking at the development of a Group B version of their 1980 Ford Escort Mk3, known as the 1700T. But anyway, Ford put the B200 project in working order through 1983 as Stuart Turner made his comeback to the competition service.
According to the plan, the cars were to be completed and entered in 1985. The Ford Ghia division based in Torino, Italy was in charge of the design and Filippo Sapino was the man behind. The Köln division responsible for the extensive aerodynamic wind-tunnel testing. Bodywork was made by the Reliant Motor Company because of their experience in composite panels, beside that, as for many Group B cars, a lot of components were sourced from other models already in production. For the RS200, the windscreen, mirrors and other equipments were sourced on the Ford Sierra production line.
Chassis side, it was the work of Formula One engineer Tony Southgate and John Wheeler. The construction was a monocoque chassis made of carbon fibre, steel panels and honeycomb aluminium with tubular subframes at the front and rear. Bag tanks were located behind the seats for better weight distribution. The particularity of the car and chassis design were actually the suspension, all corners of the car sported an upper and lower wishbone with double shock absorbers and springs in order to provide the best package and range of adjustments to the competition version.
Engine was the work of Ford Motorsport UK using the BD (Belt-Driven) straight-4/16-valves engine named as the BDT because of the turbocharger. The capacity would be of 1803cc because of the 1.4 coefficient as mandated by the FIA for turbocharged engine. It would deliver 250HP in road trim and between 350 and 450HP in race trim, depending of the configuration. It was fitted with a dry-sump and 4 in 1 exhaust manifold and Garrett turbo were used. The air/air intercooler was put on top of the rear bodywork using the roof air intake to cool it. Electronic ignition and injection were made in house and handled through the Ford EEC IV unit. All that package was put at the back of the car using a specific position and angle to get it in line with the front located transmission. Built by FF Developments, it was a 5-speed design putting the power to the four wheels through three (front/mid/rear mounted) Ferguson limited-slip differentials.
Five cars were built during 1984 and testing began at the end of the year, it would also be introduced to the public during November of that same year at the Torino motor show. 1985 was the heavy testing and production year for both the competition and road version. It was already late and the whole production was only completed the day before the inspection by the FIA for homologation, the 31st of January 1986..!
After the homologation, the drivers retained were Stig Blomqvist, Kalle Grundel, Stig Andervang, Mark Lovell, Joaquim Santos and Robert Droogmans. Their first outing was the Swedish round of the 1986 championship and Grundel would take a third place finish after Blomqvist retired, a great result for the team. The following round was the Portugal Rally and that would be the worst ever possible weekend for the team with local driver, Joaquim Santos crashing into the public causing the deat of 3 person and more than 30 injured people on the Blue Lagoon stage, the first of the rally… Ford would withdraw from the event as well as the following one in Corsica which also suffered a dramatic end with the loss of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto…
Ford would not score a single podium again that year and all these dramas would see Jean-Marie Balestre, then the FIA President putting an end to the category at the end of 1986… What would the RS200 have achieved if the project had been developed before, we will never know but surely the package looked good. A 1986 “Evolution” was planned but never happened, a new engine would be introduced , the 2137cc BDT-E developped by Brian Hart and capable of betwenn 550 and 815HP it was said. A dozen of them were built and they found their way in the rally cross world, the sole championships accepting them and Norwegian Martin Schanche claimed the 1991 European Rally Cross Championship with the RS200 E2. Not well remembered, a car found its way in circuit racing as well. Entered in the IMSA GTO category it only completed 3 rounds throughout 1990 and 1991, fitted with the evolution 2 and a revised aero package, it proved to be a complete disaster but at least, they tryed !
Below is a little extra with the twin-rotor barke-discs and the caliper that goes with it that Ford developped for the car and “Evolution 2” of 1986. Group B was pretty much very special as you can see..!