Group B Worship: Ford RS200 and Audi Sport Quattro - CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Uploaded by drive on 01.02.2012

The RS200 was designed to be nothing other
than a rally car.
It didn't have to look like a Sierra or an Escort or
something that had to be sold in the showrooms.
Much like the Lancia Stratos and the 037, it was designed
to win rallies.
It was a prototype in the correct sense of the word.
But of course, through those homologation rules, Ford had
to build 200 of them.
So they had to be road cars as well, leading to those
extraordinary street versions.
This is one of them.
And I'm going to drive it.

I've always wanted to do this.
What a rattle box.
I think we're gonna have some fun.

Good God.

So, Stig Blomqvist, Kalle Grundel, the people that kept
me awake at night when I was a kiddie watching
rallying on BBC Two.
Finally get to try and be you.
Look at this driving position.
Look at this cabin.
See if we can not stall it.
Oh, that's hilarious.

I can't actually see too much out of it.

Oh, it's just a collection of really nasty noises.
But you know what?
Nasty noises in the context of a Group B car, good noises.

The RS200 was designed to be functional.
It had short overhangs and enough intakes to ingest
massive amounts of air.

About the easiest car to stall I've ever driven, though.
I've got a handbrake.
Does the handbrake work?
Handbrake works.
So as I try and kangaroo through southwest London's
suburbs, maybe time to think about the
specification of this car.
The engine, and this is where we're going to be a bit geeky,
is 1.8 liters.
As a child, I got this all a bit about face.
I thought this had a Sierra Cosworth engine.
Two-liter with that famous Cosworth block that went on to
fire everything from Sierra Cosworth, Sapphire Cosworth,
Escort Cosworth.
You know, the definitive four-cylinder engine.
This is different.
This has got a BDT, for the geeks out there, and it's
based on the famous BDA, which was the engine made famous in
the Mark II Escort.
So it's immensely strong and can produce enormous power.
As many of you will know, the RS200 had a very short rally
life that we'll discuss in a minute.
But it went on to do many other things, including Pike's
Peak and RallyCross, mainly.
And the BDT apparently, legend has it, can produce up to 800
But this one is a stock road car.
It's owned by Ford in the UK.
It has about 250 horsepower, maybe a little less, about 200
foot-pounds of torque, and it weighs about 1,150 kilograms.
So it's not that heavy, but it's no great fireball.
Top speed, they claimed a little over 140 miles an hour,
but 0 to 60 in five seconds because of the four-wheel
drive system.
The four-wheel drive system.
This is where the RS200 is fascinating.
So, much like the Stratos, Ford decided it wanted a
mid-engine car with a short wheelbase to be
able to change direction.
Rallying is, after all, about direction changes in a car
that's agile, easily agitated.
So it went down a mid-engine route.
But for weight distribution, it put gearbox
ahead of the engine.
So underneath this gear lever here,
there's a great big lump.
You'll see it in a second.
That is the gearbox.
The gearbox is there and the engine's behind me.
It's an in-line four cylinder.
So what happens in the RS200 is that the power is taken
forwards to the gearbox and then taken
back to the back axle.
Now how can I described this to you.
It's like a Nissan GTR going backwards.
So an RS200 going forwards is almost identical in terms
layout as a GTR going backwards.
It does mean there's quite a bit of transmission noise and
clonk and rattle, all the half-shafts and prop-shafts
trying to get power to somewhere odd where it doesn't
want to go naturally.
It just makes it the most fascinating bit of history.
I love it.
I absolutely love it.
And I wish videos did smells.
Because this just smells of motor sport.
Smells of motor sport goodness.

Today the RS200 strikes an interesting shape on the road,
and here on its own.
It doesn't actually look that old.
Partly because many modern performance cars now have
gaping mesh-covered holes like this 26-year-old car.
The machine itself was assembled
at the Reliant factory.
Yes, the same people that built the famous
And the finish was-- how can I put this--
rough and ready.
But it was designed to rally, not to win a panel gap

The interior on the 200 road cars was a smash and grab raid
on the Ford of Europe's parts bin.
But it kind of worked.

The rest was pure motor sport fantasy.
Twin coilovers at each corner and a vast, single-piece rear
clamshell that gave excellent access to the engine bay.

The RS200 appears dumpy to those who don't know, but
beautiful to those of us do know.
It's a fascinating car to drive now, the RS200.
Terrible at low speed.
But once you get it up on its toes, the inherent rightness
of the size and weight distribution shines through.

The four-wheel drive system makes it want to understeer.
But trailing throttle into a turn sorts that out.
Then full power brings it straight again.
It feels like it could handle 750 horsepower, which is
exactly what it ended up doing at Pike's Peak with Stig.
But the RS200's story is one of pain and mistakes.
Its development was painfully slow.
It didn't manage to compete in a world championship event in
1985, debuting in '86, by which time Peugeot's 205 and
Lancia's Delta S4 were unbeatable.
And then came Portugal.
scenes as spectators lined the roadside and attempted to
touch 500-horsepower cars as they drifted past them.
It was only ever going to end one way.
And tragically for Ford, it was Joaquim Santos involved in
an accident that would kill three spectators.
Group B was done for.
This is the great fascination of the RS200.
It was late arriving.
It only ever scored a third place on Rally Sweden in '86.
And it was actually a little too heavy to compete with the
French and Italian teams.
But to many people, me included, it still kind of
defines Group B, a form of motor sport that captured the
imagination so profoundly that companies like Ford felt
compelled to drop millions developing a car that didn't
even offer tangible marketing crossover into
a production car.
As a competition machine, and as a sales tool, the RS200 was
sadly a failure.
A magnificent failure that we should all be thankful for.

The same could we said of this lump of green loveliness.
The Audi Sport Quattro was Germany's answer to the
Lancia, the Peugeot, and the Ford.
Audi's position within rallying couldn't have been
more different to Ford's.
The Quattro had profoundly changed the sport
in the early '80s.
But the company had lost the initiative and needed a car to
compete with the new prototypes.
But Audi's approach to rallying was more pragmatic.
It was building a brand on the back of four-wheel drive and
the inherent safety it provided in road cars.
And it insisted that its rally car at least resemble the
stuff it sold in showrooms.
It needed a more powerful, agile machine, so it chopped
320 millimeters from the wheelbase of the standard
Quattro, added wider wings, and took a 2.1-liter,
five-cylinder motor out to 306 horsepower.
Like the RS200, Audi had to build 200 road version to
comply with the regulations.
But this was a fully trimmed road car with all the luxuries
you'd expect from something that was twice as expensive as
a regular Quattro.
The problem was, the Sport Quattro was now so nose-heavy,
it understeered like a 911 on 2CV tires.
This is one of the 200 Sport Quattros built for the road.
In fact, there might have been a few less.
There's a bit of conjecture out there.
But I don't want to get involved in
that particular argument.
It feels incredibly special.
To a rally obsessive like me, this is a very special moment.
I've never sat in one of these, let alone driven one.
Immobilizer, a good '90s-style immobilizer.
Key in there, no throttle.

Rumbles a bit.

What's it like to drive a Sport Quattro?
First of all, it feels very contemporary Audi to me, and
that's in a good way.
I love the typefaces on the dials.
It feels tiny in here as well.
For the first and perhaps last time, the seat, for me-- a
massive 5' 7" of me--
is almost at the back of its reach in terms of leg length.
Gearbox throw is quite long.
Engine is lovely.
It's laggy.
But it's torque-y and, oh, wow.

So the gearbox, the throw is quite long on the lever.
And it's got turbo lag, 3,000 RPM it just starts to build,
boost gauge flickers.
It's quick, you know, properly quick.

I like it.
I really like it.
Odd sensation in through this quicker stuff, it's actually
quite nice and stable.
As it naturally wants to understeer because of all that
immense weight out front, ahead of the front axle.
I love it.
What did it feel like in period?
306 horsepower, 260 foot-pounds of torque, a
little over 1,250 kilograms in weight.
It must have felt like a lunatic.
I think we tried to work out how many cars have gone
sub-five seconds to 62 miles an hour from a standstill on
piston heads, and it was about five.
This was one of the world's fastest
cars when it was launched.
Still feels quick now.

It's actually quite hard trying to think about how to
describe the differences between the two cars.
And even to flip on its head, I'm trying to find the
The RS200 was just a prototype.
It is just a little body shell with amazing suspension and
components designed to go fast that happens to have a couple
of seat in it.
This is a proper road car.
It's beautifully trimmed.
The seats are comfortable.
It's got heated seats, electric windows.
It's lovely.
I could imagine getting in this car, driving it to Geneva
for the weekend.
I really can.
I'm surprised at how usable it is.
I read that it was a bit of sort of turbo lag nightmare.
Yeah, it's got some lag.
But that just adds to the experience.
If you're gonna get in the sport quattro, I want lag.
I don't want some super-responsive, normally
aspirated engine.
I can get that in a modern car.
This is different.
And then there's the [INAUDIBLE] noise.

I love it.
I love it.
I want it.
I want it.
But it's 149,000 pounds.
It's impossible to compare these two as road cars today.
One is a competition car with license plates, the other, a
staggeringly fast street car contorted to go rallying.
As competition cars, neither of these machines quite lived
up to the investment and care lavished on them.
But that doesn't matter now.
Because they remind us of when rallying was great.