Top Gear Live to relive the magic of Group B
Lasting just four years, the Group B era of rallying was an adrenalin shot of blistering pace and fierce competition. In this short time, a handful of driver's lives were sadly cut short when some big crashes highlighted how the sheer speed of the cars could be too much. Sure enough, the category was soon abandoned.
These cars will be unleashed once again in a head-to-head clash as part of the Top Gear Live performances in November. The display will involve some of the most iconic Group B cars taking each other on in what promises to be a high octane tribute to when unbridled power was the very essence of rallying.
So what can you expect to see?
The 'King' of Group B, the Quattro was a shock to the system as it tore up the tracks with a stonking great turbo and healthy dose of sideways action. The Quattro managed to churn out more than 500bhp and was an instant hit, easily winning the seasons in 1980 and 1981. The potential of four wheel drive was unlocked when Audi shunned the nay-sayers and showed the world that 4WD could be much, much faster than anything RWD. The Quattro S1 is still considered to be the most powerful of the Group B cars and has a massive cult following. Visitors to Top Gear Live can expect the pops and bangs of the recirculating turbo to provide a thrilling aural assault.
Peugeot 205 T-16
After Audi's success, Peugeot were determined not to let their efforts go unnoticed. A beefier 205 Turbo 16 was unveiled, mid-engined and 4WD with over 400bhp. It was a formidable match for the Audi in the final years of Group B, ably matching the Quattro's brawn in a smaller and lighter package. Peugeot took home the Constructor's titles and Driver's titles in both 1985 and 1986 before Group B came to an abrupt end.
It was a Metro but not as we knew it. The end result of development by Williams GP Racing, the 6R4 was on steroids with massive arches and swooping spoilers. A mid-mounted 3 litre engine and permanent 4WD were wrapped in the tubular chassis and it looked formidable. Unfortunately, after initial success with third place in the Lombard RAC Rally 1985, it was not to be. The engine suffered a number of gremlins and bad timing resulted in a scarily powerful car that was shuffled into history before it had its heyday.
Another mid-engined mentalist, the Lancia holds a very special accolade, being the last RWD car to win the WRC. Similar to the Metro, Lancia enjoyed initial success in 1983, winning the Constructors title. However, the almighty Audi was hot on its heels and proved that 4WD was the future. Despite an increase in power, Lancia lost out on the championships in the next two years. The deaths of Attilio Bettega and later Henri Toivenen at the wheels of their 037 and Lancia Delta S4 also signalled the demise of Group B.
When the RS200 hit the scene, it was like nothing else out there. Common underpinnings were evident, with 4WD, an engine in the middle and a space frame. But it's buggish looks and unique features such as adjustable torque split and dual shocks for each corner could have made it one of the best. It was not to be. The RS200's history is plagued with the memories of two horrific crashes; one in Rally Portugal where Joaquim Santos' Ford ploughed into spectators, killing three and injuring dozens while in 1986, co-driver Michel Wyder was killed instantly when Marc Surer's RS200 hit a tree.
Other legendary rally cars set to battle it out will include the 1964 Mini-Cooper S, 1970s icons the Renault Alpine A110, Fiat 131 Abarth and Ford Escort RS1800 – plus the incredible Ferrari 308 GTB rally special.
As well as the Group B rivalry, a host of stars will hoon around in the reasonably priced car and Sabine Schmitz will be pushing a prototype Bowler to the limit!
Top Gear Live is at Birmingham NEC on 11-12 November and London's Excel on 24-27 November. For more information, or to buy tickets to the show, visit the Top Gear Live website.