Group B RX revived at Lydden Hill

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In celebration of Britain’s first ever round of the new, exciting FIA World Rallycross Championship, demonstrations of fire-breathing monsters from the legendary Group B era took place at the historic Lydden Hill circuit. Alongside the record breaking 37 Supercar entries for the main event, a selection of the most successful Group B RX machines took to the track.

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Introduced in 1982, the awe-inspiring Group B formula spawned some of the quickest and most technically sophisticated rally cars ever created in the history of the sport.

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Quadruple European Rallycross Champion Olle Arnesson was on hand in one of the most iconic rally cars ever produced, the Audi quattro. The Ex factory Sport quattro was given it’s Evolution aero kit during it’s Rallycross career after being retired from the World Rally Championship.

In 1987, the first year of the so-called ‘Group B era’ of Rallycross, the quadruple European champion made use of the Audi Sport quattro S1 to claim the third place behind champion Seppo Niittymäki (Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 E2) and runner-up Matti Alamäki (Lancia Delta S4).

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Norwegian Stian Hafsengen piloted the infamous Glomma Papp RS200 E2, as campaigned by the late Jan-Arthur Iversen. A Papermill owner (Glomma Papp) from Sarpsborg, Norway, Iversen had a long lasting motorsport career. After teaming up with his son, Martin, the pair competed in two RS200 Evolutions for team Glomma Papp before swapping them for a pair of Ford Escort Cosworth’s in the mid-nineties.

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Arguably the most decorated era of world rallying, the Group B demonstration alongside the World Rallycross Championship allowed spectators both old enough to remember the era and those who had never seen the highly document heavy-weights in the flesh, to fully feel and remember the brutality of these cars.

Until Hafsengen’s RS200 Evolution developed an issue, both RS200E and S1E2 we’re side-by-side, including tandem-four-wheel-drive drifting for the thousands of fans who lined the circuit.

Lydden Hill owner Pat Doran had restored his Group B Ford RS200 nicknamed ‘Rosie’ especially for the occasion, the reunion was devastatingly short-lived as the infamous Q8 Oil backed machine spontaneously burst into flames during the first of two races. It was confirmed that Doran was not injured in the fire, and ‘Rosie’ is expected to make a return.

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After being banned from competition in world rallying at the end of 1986, it was far from being the end of the road for these ferociously fast extreme machines. Many soon found themselves in Rallycross, where a more more flexible rulebook allowed the cars to be developed well beyond their ultimate evolution in rallying. Horsepower levels often were boosted from around 450bhp to 650bhp which resulted in the addition of even more dramatic aerodynamic wings, in an attempt to harness all of the extra flame-spitting energy. The result was tense, fast-paced, exciting racing.

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Though relatively short-lived, the extraordinary era that allowed manufactuer’s to go ‘all-out’ for victory has seen Group B aquire legendary status among motor sport fans.

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The sight of Arnesson behind the wheel of the Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 he used in battle during the late eighties was sensational among the spectators. Despite it looking like the front dampers on the ferocious machine were shod, Arnesson continued to drive in true Scandinavian style – flat out!

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The Group B era for both rallying and rallycross saw huge crowds flood stages and circuits in their tens of thousands, a time when rallying was arguably more popular than Formula One.

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The immense number of spectators and fans at the circuit over the course of the weekend was reminiscent of that of yesteryear. The demonstration of the once most technologically advanced machines alongside the modern technology of today allowed spectators to see the development of the sport in albeit 30 years.

28 years have past since the flame-throwing, action-packed dramatic era of Group B was banned in rallying, yet the fearsome machines are still the favourite of many who both experienced the brutality and those who did not; a truly magical era.

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