Group 5 or “Special Production Cars” as the FIA defined it back in 1976 and up to 1982 is well known or remembered for the all mighty Porsche 935, BMW 320 and Ford Zakspeed Capri to name a few that battled all around the world in either the World Championship for Makes, Deutsche Rennsport Meisterchaft or the IMSA Camel GT Championship. Wide, brutal and spectacular are the three words that come to mind when looking and remembering these beasts.
In terms of history, Group 5 actually started back in 1966 as the FIA defined it back then as the “Special Touring Cars” category in its Appendix J. It was more or less a set of regulations which allowed the Group 1 and 2 principles with a lot more freedoms and which was used to rule the British Saloon Car Championship from 1966 onwards but also at European level for 1968 and 1969.
Then and in an effort to get its regulations more straightforward in an effort to try and clean them up, the FIA reviewed its whole classification and Group 4 cars of the previous years became Group 5 cars from 1970 onwards or so-called “Sports Cars” with the likes of the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 being classified as such.
For 1972 and onwards, Group 5 rules as they were known for 1970 to 1971 got dropped and the name was transferred to what used to be “Prototype Sports Cars” with the introduction of a 3.0L engine capacity limit and production minima being dropped. This period would be best remembered for the Ferrari 312PB and Matra MS670s battles of the World Sportscar Championship.
Back to the Group 5 and wide arches we here started to talk about, Group 5 or “Special Production Cars” got introduced back in 1976 when the FIA splitted the World Sportscar Championship and decided to run it in two separate forms. The World Sportscar Championship would continue on its own with previous Group 5 cars being re-classified as “Two-Seater racing Cars” while the rest would battle eachothers in the World Championship for Makes from 1976 to 1982 included, even if in the later years, both got amalgamated again in the World Endurance Championship.
On the cars, Group 5 was the free world, all principles for Group 1 to 4 were applicable and if to consider two words as a summary of the regulations, you can consider “free” and “shape” which created some very large interpretation by the manufacturers. In essence and if you consider the whole era, it started with true production based cars but in the later years it got wider and wilder if considering the construction of the cars and with the likes of Zakspeed or the Kremer brothers producing cars which in essence were a spaceframe construction covered with a production coachwork if you consider the Capri or 935 K3 and K4 models.
Also and with multiples Series or Championship running these cars, either in Europe, North America or Germany, interpretations got to particular extents with the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterchaft allowing cars which were not really compliant to anything Appendix J or the Americans producing the GTX cars which didn’t really have anything common with the production car other than some of the shape and probably the badge on the car.
The truth is that it produced some fantastic races in dull years for sports car racing. Splitting flames and turbo disco were not bad to witness I’m sure and who cannot say he doesn’t like them wide ? Also, some of the liveries produced back then were just fantastic, look at the Jägermeister colors either on a Bimmer or consider the “Moby Dick” 935/78 and Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo with Martini liveries, iconic seems to be the word here and looking at todays’ scene, those days are missed.