Group B: 30 years on

by Joe Dunn on 31st October 2016

Joe Dunn previews the latest issue of Motor Sport, a Group B 30-year annniversary special

Even if you prefer smooth Tarmac to mud, grandstands to forests, and a glass of wine to a Thermos of tea, you will probably have a soft spot for Group B. It seems hard to credit that it has been 30 years since we last saw these machines roaring through rally stages as part of the World Rally Championship. With around 600bhp and little in the way of regulations to get in the way of sheer performance, they remain the apotheosis of the sport – even three decades since they were banned from competition. 

In this month’s issue of Motor Sport we pay tribute to these fearsome cars and fearless drivers. “I was never frightened,” says Juha Kankkunen, the Finn who won the last Group B title in 1986. “If you are frightened then you are in the wrong job.” 

The cars themselves are now highly collectible, but we uncovered a stash of them kept in pristine condition in Spain. Our stunning photographs from that day show the cars in all their glory: here’s a Peugeot 205 T16, a Ford RS200, a Lancia Delta and MG Metro 6R4 and over in the corner the daddy of them all, the 2110cc, five-cylinder, Audi Quattro S1 with a barely believable 590bhp. 

Despite murmurings about the new more powerful 2017 WRC cars being the spiritual descendants of those original Group B cars, it is unlikely we will ever see their like again. The same can be said of the Kiwi motor sport invasion, which included the late Chris Amon. We have paid tribute to him before, but this month we celebrate what he and other New Zealand greats did for the sport. Alongside Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, Amon was at the vanguard of a great migration of talent from the southern hemisphere to Britain and America during the 1960s. Mechanics, engineers and team managers made the journey, too, and their can-do attitude, make do and mend mentality as well as sheer talent and drive left an indelible mark on racing in Britain. It is a fitting – if rarely mentioned – legacy.    

Elsewhere in the December issue, we uncover previously unpublished photographs of James Hunt as a young man to coincide with the 40th anniversary of him winning his only Formula 1 title. They help paint a picture that is rarely appreciated. As Maurice Hamilton reports: “Everybody knows about the blond-haired lothario, the maverick World Champion who seemingly couldn’t give a toss about convention. Perhaps less well known is the story of James Hunt the grafter.”  

We speak to Neil Oatley, the quiet man of F1, who during his time as chief designer for McLaren was not only was responsible of some of the firm’s most successful cars but also had a fly on the wall view of one of the great racing feuds: Senna vs Prost. Simon Arron’s interview with him is unmissable. 

And before we forget: the vagaries of magazine publishing deadlines mean that this month also features our Christmas Gift Guide. Not quite as early as the John Lewis window display, but hopefully just as enticing for racing fans looking forward to unwrapping something petrol-flavoured next month. 

All this along with your regular favourites. Happy reading! 

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