If there’s ever a short-lived motoring event, yet proved to capture the hearts and imagination of motorsports fans and enthusiasts, arguably nothing can compare to the FIA Group B rally championship.
The Group B was introduced by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) in 1982.
Having almost no restrictions in terms of technology, weight, and power that can be implemented to a competing car, the tournament immediately became a proving ground in testing the limits of performance automotive engineering in the subsequent seasons.
In just a few number of years, from championship rally cars that possessed just around 250hp of power before the introduction of Group B until 1986 (the last year of Group B’s brief existence) when some cars reached in excess of 500hp the increase in the power possessed by these competing automobiles had increased more than two-fold because of the relative technological freedom in the rules of this particular competition.
The tournament immediately gained massive popularity. At the peak of its fame, spectators packed certain parts of the course just to get an up-close experience with the engineering marvels that the Group B was showcasing.
It even produced some crazy behaviour from fans treating the onrushing cars like bulls in where they tease and try to dodge the vehicles right before the moment of impact.
Such were the risks that the competition posed that accidents did indeed happen with some of them very serious, not just involving the drivers and cars, but even fans.
The year 1986 would prove to be the last of Group B after a series of serious incidents capped with the death of Lancia’s Henri Toivonen and navigator Sergio Cresto in an accident, finally gave FIA no other choice but to cease the tournament the following year and cage the meanest monsters of the automotive world for good.
Although marred by its dangerous existence, Group B in retrospect, turned out to be a fantastic five-year ride ushering the golden era of rallying that will never be forgotten.
It introduced cars that became iconic in the world and lore of motorsports such as Lancia Delta S4, MG Metro 6R4, Ford RS200, Peugeot 205 T16 and the Audi Sport Quattro S1.
The drivers involved in Group B reached hero status in rallying such as Stig Blomqvist, Juha Kankkunen, Michele Mouton, Timo Salonen and Henri Toivonen to name a few.
Never in the history of rallying will ever come close to the popularity and the legend created by Group B.
The question is, is it still possible to revive this competition?
The FIA could resurrect Group B, but it will never be the same as the first and original iteration.
But with the current advancements in technology and overall safety in motorsports, including crowd management, maybe it’s time to dust up the idea of a revival and bring back these mean machines of rallying.
Will there come a time, in the very near future, when the FIA finally revives the sleeping ‘B’easts?
We can only wish.