Some say that any car built in the Reliant factory at Tamworth must have an in-built Trotter complex. Certainly, Ford’s contribution to the GpB party looked the part and promised to steal the show, but its results were those that you’d expect from one of Del Boy‘s special offers.
One of the last arrivals — it was homologated on February 1, 1986 after production delays — it made its debut on the Swedish. Blomqvist retired with a seized engine after a water leak and it was left to ex-fighter pilot Kalle Grundel to secure a promising third place behind a Peugeot 205T16 and a Lancia Delta S4. In Portugal, a works RS200 driven by Joaquim Santos hit spectators, killing 10 and, as a consequence, all the works cars withdrew, including the two Fords. The next event was the Acropolis where both cars retired.
Ford then decided on a rest period and released Blomqvist to drive two events for Peugeot (see panel opposite) before returning at the season’s end, with Group B already banned for 1987. Once again it was Grundel who saved face by finishing fifth overall on the RAC.
The RS200 was an optimal design: a mid-engined, longitudinal layout with the gearbox ahead of the engine. As a consequence there were two propshafts, but the weight distribution was almost perfect and gave the car great balance and neutral handling. Its suspension comprised twin coil-and-damper units at each corner and was excellent over the rough. But the downsides were too many: the engine layout meant it was prone to catch fire, the engine was a mere 1803cc thus giving away too much power to its main rivals, and it was devoid of significant aerodynamics. It needed an evolution, for which there was first no time, and then, after Henri Toivonen’s death in Corsica, no motivation.
The car here was used by Stig on the Acropolis and RAC.
Biomqvist’s view: After driving Audi and Peugeot, the RS200 was a step forward, a bit more modern. But that car, it never wound up fantastic. If conditions were consistent, all dry or all wet, then it was okay. But if they were changing, then the handling was very funny, unpredictable.
The engine was not more powerful than the others, but the Ford engine has always been a bit different to the others, feeling and sounding different. It’s more crisp and revs higher, a bit like a race engine: even with the turbo, you were pulling all the way up to 9000rpm. It was a nice engine with good power, but you felt the others were somehow stronger.
The suspension was fantastic with those twin dampers. In somewhere like Greece you could go like hell with it and the car just took it.