1980s in Focus

by Simon Arron on 7th August 2018

By Simon Arron

It was a decade of contrast, conflict, controversy and change. Punk rock ceded to New Romanticism, John Lennon was assassinated in New York, America and others boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics (in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) and, four years on, Russia stayed away from Los Angeles. Britain drifted from urban riots to the miners’ strike via the Falklands War and seethed about Diego Maradona’s  ‘Hand of God’ goal during a World Cup quarter-final,  while eastern Europe acclimatised to the gradual erosion of Communism – precursor to the collapse of The Berlin Wall and Germany’s eventual reunification.

News headlines were a plentiful commodity.

Antibes 1985

In motor sporting terms it was a decade that began explosively yet ended becalmed. Introduced by Renault in 1977, the turbocharged F1 engine came into its own and evolved at such a rate that teams weren’t sure quite how much power they had because their dynos were incapable of measuring it. Turbos were banned beyond 1988, ahead of a return to natural aspiration.

Group B rally cars were a popular cocktail of flame and venom, but the loss of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto – in an accident on the 1986 Tour de Corse – led to the adoption of tamer machinery by the start of the following year. The outlawed kit found a new home in rallycross... which became more popular than ever before. Jaguar won at Le Mans for the first time since the 1950s, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost became the best of enemies, Ford’s Sierra morphed from humble repmobile into the world-beating RS500 Cosworth and racing in general retained its customary diversity, as it had yet to be consumed by the one-make mindset.

What follows in 1980s in Focus is but a taste of the above. There are many well-known photographs in the LAT Motorsport Images archive – but equally it contains a trove of hitherto unseen treasures and, where possible, we’ve selected those to offer  a flavour of an age that remains fresh in the memories of all who were there. It’s hard to accept that 30-odd years have since passed.

Were these the best of times? The worst of times? Neither, really. They were just different times.


1980s in Focus is the fourth photographic special from the editors of Motor Sport and available to buy from the shop now. 


1980s in Focus


Preview some of the stunning images within 1980s in Focus taken from the LAT photographic archive.



March 2019
The latest issue of Motor Sport: Racing rebel – Lewis Hamilton, by those who know him best.



Sign up to our newsletters
The latest news, straight to your inbox – click below to sign up to the newsletter list.



The Motor Sport App
Carry Motor Sport with you, wherever you go. On iOS, Android and Kindle.


Need to get in touch?

Contact Us