RALLY GB TO BOAST HUGE GROUP B FEST
Organisers are assembling cars and drivers at Cholmondeley Photos: LAT, mcklein-imagedatabase.com, Writtle Photographic Black hungry for more outings after R5 debut
Next month’s Wales Rally GB will be graced by the biggest gathering of Group B cars since the category was controversially killed 30 years ago.
Motorsport News is working in partnership with the organisers of Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship to deliver a stunning display at the Cholmondeley Castle Rallyfest stage on Saturday October 29.
Two-time world champion Miki Biasion, who broke his WRC duck by winning Rally Argentina in 1986 in a fearsome Lancia Delta S4, is the first to confirm he will attend the Deesidebased event to help commemorate the Group B era.
Biasion said: “Obviously, I won my titles in a Group A car, but everyone always wants to talk about the Group B era. It was a fantastic period for the sport – the cars were powerful and very popular with the fans. People still talk about us like heroes.
“Sadly the team management often stopped me from driving on the RAC [Rally]. They thought Italians could not drive in the forests. That’s why I was so happy to be so competitive and prove them wrong – when I first went there in 1990, I finished on the podium.
“It will be a pleasure to come back to Britain in October. I have a lot of old friends there and I’m really looking forward to meeting them and the rally fans who, I know, really love the Group B cars.”
There has already been an incredible response with all frontrunning Group B manufacturers represented. The cars will form a static display at the Cheshire venue, with most also running in convoy through the stage ahead of the main WRC field.
Like this year, Britain wasn’t the final round of the championship in 1986 – but the RAC was the last mass gathering of Group B cars 30 years ago, with more than 50 starting the final European round of the series.
The finale, America’s Olympus Rally, was contested by the two title protagonists: Peugeot’s Juha Kankkunen and Markku Alen (Lancia). Toyota fielded a brace of Toyota Celicas for Bjorn Waldegaard and Lars-erik Torph. Callum Black gave a debut to his new Ford Fiesta R5+ on the Woodpecker Rally last weekend, finishing in fifth place but with a time query.
Black claimed he’d set a time 11s quicker than he was awarded at the end of stage five, which he double checked against the in-car footage. The deficit was enough to give Shaun Gardener fourth overall.
The Fiesta also shut down at a junction, costing the Northamptonshire driver over 15s. It was Black’s first event in a four-wheel-drive car after driving a Citroen DS 3 R3 previously.
“It’s actually easier to drive than the DS 3,” Black added. “That was tail-happy and the Fiesta is planted. It’s tempting to get it sideways out of the junctions for the cameras! I tried to keep it neat.
“BRC may be a bit optimistic next year but we’ll get up to speed with some BTRDA and maybe a couple of national Tarmac events. I’m pleased with how it went on the whole.”
After my column in MN last week, there was plenty of interest drummed up in the Group N ‘debate’ and where young drivers should ply their trade.
It was discussed at length on the Absolute Rally Podcast between Tony Simson, Ryan Champion and I, plus people like British Rally Championship frontrunner Tom Cave reacted through social media.
I suggested that Group N is the place to go to learn your craft if you want to step up and learn how to drive a four-wheel-drive car. And although entries are usually low, beating R5 cars overall can do a lot for your reputation. I named a few drivers like Wojciech Chuchala and Matt Edwards who’ve implemented some giant-killing acts in their respective championships this year.
However, after some thought, I realised it may need some more justification. A few of the comments seemed to be slating twowheel-drive rallying – particularly R2s and R3s. That wasn’t the aim at all.
Look at Callum Black. He debuted his Ford Fiesta R5+ at the weekend and you can read how he got on in the story on page 18.
If that’s not a convincing debut, I don’t know what is. Yes he had the ‘plus’ pack on his Fiesta, but that’s less of an advantage when not combined with the latest R5 Evo package, which Black doesn’t have. So fighting against an Evo’d Jamie Anderson, and the larger capacity two-litre cars of Charlie Payne and Stephen Petch, it was quite a debut to be trading times in such company. Yes there’s a way to go if he wants to challenge at the front of the BRC, but his learning in a front-wheel-drive Citroen DS 3 has done him no harm.
My attention then turned to this weekend’s Galloway Hills Rally where the Scottish Rally Championship will be decided. In his first full year in a four-wheel drive, Garry Pearson is in the prime seat, knowing only a win for rival Jock Armstrong will cost him the series.
Pearson has been brilliant in the series this year. Nobody in the SRC has any sort of doubt about Armstrong’s pace, and in the most part, Pearson has been the quicker of the two this year topped off with a mega eighth place against the BRC boys – who could recce – on the RSAC Scottish.
Pearson had no real four-wheel-drive experience before this year, but an R2 taught him fine.
Rallying in an R2 or R3 is fine, it’s a perfectly acceptable breeding ground for young talent. And talent almost always rises to the top.
So there’s nothing wrong with learning in an R2. In fact it’s almost neccassary now. But the Evo is a great step to make – at a suitable time – to learn the ropes of fourwheel-drive rallying. It’s not essential, but can be a cost-effective introduction to all-wheel power.