Ask motorsports fans about the greatest era in racing and rallying, and you´ll get a number of answers. A rally fan will likely name the epic (and eventually deadly) Group B battles of 1983 to 1986. A Formula 1 fan might consider the turbo area of the 1980s or the early days without wings the best. A touring car/ GT racing guy might prefer the Group 5 days of the 1970s. To me, as a car guy, the best time for touring car racing and rallying where the Group A days, and I’ll tell you why.
Group A, introduced in 1982 was the successor to FIA’s Group 2 Modified Touring Cars class. Group A was quite restrictive in the modifications that were allowed, and while this somewhat limited the performance of the cars, it also led (in my opinion) to a huge plus for car lovers. Group A rules required a minimum of 5,000 cars to be produced in one year (reduced to 2.500 in 1991), with 500 cars required for homologation of certain changes to a car. This meant that
- The cars that were used for races and rallys were close in both appearance and technology employed to actual production cars.
- The relatively large numbers required for homologation meant that you could buy a car that was pretty close to a race/rally car, e.g. performance oriented.
This is in stark contrast to today’s race and rally cars, which are often either silhouette cars (dedicated race cars with only a body shell that bears some resemblance to an actual production model) or differ hugely in the technology employed from the production cars. World Rally Cars e.g. may look somewhat similar to their production equivalents, but use engines and four-wheel-drive drivetrains that most likely are not even available in the production car. Let’s take two examples:
- BMW’s DTM M4 is a silhouette race car with a 4l V8 engine, the production model uses a turbocharged six-cylinder engine.
- Volkswagen’s Polo WRC rally car used a 1.6l turbocharged engine and four-wheel-drive. The “homologation” production Polo WRC had a 2.0l engine and front-wheel-drive.
Some GT3 and GT4 race cars come pretty close to the race equivalents, but these are expensive cars. The group A 500 car-run models weren’t cheap either, but the price tags on the 5,000-run cars weren’t too bad as they wouldn’t have sold otherwise.
While this freedom in using race and rally cars that are completely different from production cars is great for the manufacturers, as it saves them a lot of money they’d otherwise have to spent on expensive limited-production models, it sucks for us car lovers. We only get watered-down models that bear some resemblance to, but are actually far removed from The Real Thing. So lets take a look at some of the greatness that came out of group A.
Group A cars