1977–1986: REVOLUTIONS

Motor Sport News - - Retro: Rallycross At 50 -

Martin Schanche won the last of his six Euro­pean Rallycross ti­tles in 1995, and re­tired from the sport in 2001, but it was in 1978 that the Nor­we­gian claimed his first crown, in an Es­cort RS 1800.

GT cars were a ma­jor part of the sport’s make up in its se­cond decade, Swede Olle Ar­nes­son win­ning back-to-back GT ti­tles in a Porsche 911 in 1979 and 1980, be­fore Matti Ala­maki, who would later star in the more pow­er­ful Porsches and the Group B era, claimed his first crown in 1981.

Brands Hatch in Kent be­gan host­ing the sea­son-clos­ing MSA Bri­tish Rallycross Grand Prix from 1982, the in­au­gu­ral event be­ing won by Rolf Nils­son in a Porsche 911, a car that still com­petes in Bri­tish RX to­day.

While the Euro­pean Championship con­tin­ued to grow, the Grand Prix was the high­light of the year, at­tract­ing the best driv­ers and cars from across the con­ti­nent, with reg­u­lar gi­ant-killing acts per­formed in the sin­gle-cat­e­gory for­mat by Bri­tish driv­ers in far less de­vel­oped ma­chin­ery.

But, devel­op­ment was also rife. The 1984 sea­son was a turn­ing point for rallycross, and motor rac­ing. In a project be­tween Schanche, Mike En­dean and Gar­trac, the revo­lu­tion­ary four-wheel-drive Es­cort Xtrac was cre­ated to take on the best in the sport, driven by Schanche and John Welch.

The Nor­we­gian won the Euro­pean crown in 1984 and the Grand Prix, and only just missed out on the se­ries ti­tle in the fol­low­ing two years, while Welch claimed the GP spoils in 1985, be­com­ing the first Bri­tish driver to do so, and then added the Bri­tish ti­tle too in ’86.

The foun­da­tions built in rallycross were enough for trans­mis­sion firm Xtrac to de­velop into the ma­jor mo­tor­sport con­cern it is to­day. Back in the Euro­pean se­ries in 1985, Ala­maki wres­tled a bi-turbo, four-wheel drive ver­sion of Porsche’s 911 to glory, be­fore ’86 brought an­other revo­lu­tion to rallycross, but not mo­tor­sport.

Banned from the World Rally Championship, Group B cars sud­denly be­came read­ily avail­able, and for achiev­able amounts of money. Mark Ren­ni­son was the first to ac­quire a Ford RS200 in early 1986 (and won two Bri­tish ti­tles with it), but just 12 months later the sport would be flooded with the Group B mon­sters. An­other Bri­tish driver, Will Gol­lop, made the step up to four-wheel drive with the sport’s first Metro 6R4 at the end of the same year.

Will Gol­lop was an early con­vert to Group B cars

Schanche starred in Xtrac

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