The Engineer Behind Ford’s RS200 Rally Car Gave It The Future The Factory Never Could


The Model T and the Mustang, the GT40 and the Escort… Ford has created much more than a couple of game-modifying automobiles in excess of the final century, and the RS200 is totally integrated on that checklist. It was only unleashed into the WRC on the 1986 Swedish Rally—late on the scene in contrast to its rivals—but with a season of growth beneath its belt, it was anticipated to come to the fore and shine throughout the up coming season in 1987… It wasn’t to be even though, as the two Group B and its proposed successor Group S have been dropped by the governing entire body in favor of the manufacturing-auto-primarily based Group A, and so right after just 3 Globe Championship rallies, the functions RS200 venture came to an abrupt finish. As Ford moved to operate on the Group A Sierra that would be its flagship auto for the rest of the ’80s and into the early ‘90s, what could have been the twond generation of the promising RS200 remained just styles on sheets of paper.

The creating was presently on the wall for Group B in the spring of 1986, and it was clear that in its present kind it couldn’t carry on, but producers have been keen on a security-modified model of the proposed Group S idea as it would let the freedom of technological growth the Group B monsters have been famed for, but with electrical power limited by the use of engines from the five,000 minimal unit manufacturing Group A class. Ford was amid these that started brainstorming and evaluating this kind of a mutt for competitors. It may possibly sound a tiny counterintuitive to recommend placing a street auto engine in the back of a supercar, but Ford had the capable YB destined for the Sierra Cosworth RS500, which undoubtedly wasn’t a lethargic lump.

Several teams pressed for this security-enhanced Group S (apart from Lancia) and we would have noticed some quite progressive automobiles in action that alternatively have been doomed to exist only in the depths of motorsport mythology and imagination. The retro revival is now in total swing even though, and a couple of many years in the past the two the Toyota 222D as nicely as Audi’s un-named Group S idea have been proven off, and are now regulars at large traditional events—so also is this auto, the “RS200 Group S Evolution.”

The guy who created the styles for the 2nd-generation RS200 was John Wheeler, the identical guy who brought the unique auto to daily life in 1983… and for him the Group S auto was often the excellent unfinished venture, and a single that he more and more wished to carry to daily life as he approached retirement. With the procurement of a broken donor chassis and aid from a lot of of the unique companion firms, he place his styles into actuality. The venture was sitting on its wheels by 1990, but took a lot of many years of totally free time and totally free funds to full. All really worth it of program, as the completed machine is a sight to behold, and a uncommon glimpse into the could-have-been.

From the outdoors, it is not that all that a lot diverse from the frog-eyed Fords that lit up the WRC phases in 1986. These acquainted with these Group B RS200s will recognize that the roof scoop and “ears” are gone from the Group S auto, as the intercooler that utilized to be mounted there—not undertaking also a lot to advantage the car’s center of gravity— is now mounted lower down at the rear of the engine with air-ducting beneath the display from a quite shallow opening in the roof. The outcome is a a lot reduce roofline, producing it a bit sleeker than its predecessor. This signifies the clean airflow in excess of the entire body can pass down to a slimmer aerofoil-shaped rear wing. “If this had been carried out as an official Ford venture, we’d have taken it to a wind tunnel and refined it much more, but it is plainly a much more effective design and style all round,” John says. Of program, it is beneath the iconic entire body shell that most of the genuinely exotic operate has been carried out.

The unique framework and framework was primarily based on then-present Group C race technological innovation, and the car’s tubular framework was bolted with each other in sections. On some of the rougher rallies even though this kind of as the Acropolis, the bolted-joints could operate themselves loose, and an emergency answer at a single services level on the Acropolis was to merely weld some of the joints sound. John’s Group S model has that made away that weakness in the kind of a completely welded upper framework integrated with the roll-cage framework with just the front and rear sub-frames removable. This is equivalent in idea to a lot of of today’s Dakar automobiles, which are generally prototypes but with manufacturing engines, so are primarily Group S automobiles themselves in that sense. The simplified design and style also saves virtually 150kg, which is a massive sum percentage-smart for a machine that weighs 1180kg, and it is a single of the causes John had this kind of substantial hopes for it back in the ‘80s.

Arguably the most progressive idea on the factory RS200 is the front-mounted transaxle gearbox with a double propshaft design and style that offers the auto an amazing 49/51 front-to-rear fat distribution. John delights in explaining the imagined procedure right here: “If you believe about it, when you throw the auto at substantial pace into a corner you are controlling the stability with the steering so that the minute of inertia is centered on the front finish. A traditional mid-engined race auto design and style with lower polar minute of inertia and 65% of the fat on the rear axle in fact has a quite substantial minute of inertia, and a pendulum-impact about the steered front axle. This disadvantage of also a lot rear mass also can make itself evident in the vertical plane, top to many nicely-documented finish-in excess of-finish accidents in excess of substantial pace bumps. That is why we conceived the automobile layout with 80kg of 4WD gearbox and transmission in the front of the auto and 110kg of engine in the back.”

The unique RS200 had a 5-pace canine ‘box, but John often wished a motorbike-type 6 or 7-pace sequential gearbox. “No a single had had anything at all like that back then, but I knew it could be done… but the resistance came from the drivers who imagined it would be unattainable to get down from sixth to threerd. But I stored speaking with Mike Quaife for many years about what we could do for an RS200, and he ultimately agreed to commit to the venture. And I enjoy it. It transforms the driving of the auto to have the  fast shifting and the spread of 6 gears.”

A mid-mounted engine is much more challenging to preserve great, and so Group B automobiles typically had a plethora of intakes, constructive stress scoops, and loads of auxiliary oil coolers. These have been a large weak level in terms of security, as it wouldn’t consider a lot of an accident to pull a pipe off of a single and begin a fire, so to deal with that concern John designed a sophisticated but nonetheless outdated-college cooling method for his Group S RS200. The most effective setup is to use a big radiator at the front and get as a lot cooling from that feasible.

John, once again: “Water is pumped in the standard vogue from the engine’s water pump by way of the block and head and piped to the front-mounted radiator, which in this situation is the big Acropolis rally unit. At the front there is a tiny bypass circuit serving the interior heater. The port from the back of the cylinder head, which generally serves the heater circuit, is split into two subsidiary circuits, a single of which passes by way of the Modine oil cooler, and the other by way of the water-jacket intercooler, prior to joining back into the return pipe from the radiator. Consequently the charge air from the turbo compressor passes by way of the water-cooler, which operating among 80 and 90 degrees celsius is enough to get the 180-degree turbocharged air down to 120. That then goes by way of an air-to-air cooler and the ambient air at 25 or thirty degrees is adequate to get the charge-air down to 45, which is what you want for optimum functionality.”

For a person like me—who is not also mechanically-minded, or at least not to the degree above—it sounds quite challenging, but John assures me that the method is as basic as feasible, the two for servicing and security concerns. “The unique auto had a fuel tank in closed compartments in the framework behind every single seat, but mine has a single 65-liter security tank in the correct side compartment, and all of the pumps’ filters are sealed and protected in the left-side compartment. The only issue protruding is the filler cap.”

Any individual can inform this is a specific auto from hunting at it, but it is at large traditional rally occasions exactly where folks know the story behind it that it will get the total sum of respect it deserves. It is with a smile that John says, “It’s quite rewarding to see how a lot interest the auto will get, specially right after so a lot operate goes into it. You can not drive an unprepared auto, you want to go by way of every little thing at least after a 12 months. There was a slight odor of petrol each now and once again, and sometimes the gearbox went by way of two gears at after on the downshift, so in excess of the winter I wished to strip it down to have a appear at that. And the engine bay no matter how a lot you appear right after it it nonetheless will get total of mud, so I dismantled and rebuilt all the rear finish and did the identical with every little thing in the water method as nicely.”

But that is adequate speaking about it time for a check drive. This was shot throughout a previous edition of the Eifel Rallye Festival (exactly where no much less than 7 RS200s have been taking component, with no much less than Stig Blomqvist and Kalle Grundel behind the wheel of the real automobiles they did the ’86 RAC Rally in. At a tiny airfield a couple of miles away everybody was going up in convoy for the RS200 group photograph shoot, so we determined to go a couple of minutes ahead and have some time alone.

The very first issue I observed on opening the Sierra-shaped door was an overpowering sense of sadness about how a lot of households of Smurfs had to die for their furry blue skins to cover the dashboard. The 2nd concerned me remarking that I did not believe the total 5-level harness was essential for just a fast trip up the street. “Yes, it is,” John advised me quietly.

The engine vibration comes correct by way of the auto and it ends in your teeth. At a specified RPM it turns into an amazing drone, but as we inch along providing way to oncoming site visitors in the town center, it is clear how simple it is to drive this auto. Quickly we pulled in excess of at the foot of a prolonged hill to allow some automobiles go previous: “We’ll give it a bit of a blast for a programs examine,” he explained as he turned the large red knob in the centre console from “1” up to “3.” “Are you are about to scare me?” I asked. “Probably,” he smiled. It was a large gap out to the automobiles that had gone in front, and even with loads of expertise in quickly automobiles and a functioning expertise of the laws of physics, it was nonetheless a excellent shock to me how rapidly we caught up.

A quick examine at the airfield workplace to make certain that absolutely nothing was preparing on landing on leading of us and we had the runway all to ourselves. The runway crests about half the way along, and with a -60 in the area of 3 seconds, it is not quite prolonged at all prior to we have been in the dead zone: the pace at which if you hit anything sound your probabilities of survival will not be that excellent.

When we acquired in excess of the crest with the speedo in the triple digits, the finish of the runway looked awfully shut and the hedgerow at the finish of the discipline had some relatively significant bushes in it, but John waited till the level a scream was about to burst totally free, then hit the brakes so difficult that my headphones slipped off and with them my glasses. As I fumbled to uncover them there was a violent movement and in a minute of utter confusion I noticed that we’d just spun 180° and have been heading up the hill once again. This time even though John utilized the plane landing marks as chicanes to show the managing. The lateral g-forces have been far also a lot for me to bother striving to brace myself with my legs, so I just allow my hips crush into the sides of the bucket seats alternatively. The mechanical grip was downright incredible, and it in fact feels like a bit of a cognitive dissonance to believe that this is primarily a thirty-12 months-outdated auto.

Back into the services park in the center of Daun, Germany—which was crowded with spectators, their interest flitting each which way—John had to focus on not stalling or jerking forward also rapidly, hoping that the members of the crowd would phase aside after they’d taken their pictures. It is quite a lot towards human nature to drive by way of folks like that, even even though they are tempting the Darwinian principle by standing there. “Could you picture undertaking this at total pace listening to the tempo notes since you can not see the street by way of the forest of legs?” I couldn’t. And in spite of the tragedy in Portugal in ’86 that assisted finish Group B for great, even just trundling along at strolling tempo it appears amazing that much more spectators weren’t harm in the time period.

At the minute, John’s incredible RS200 is a a single-off but with continued and increasing curiosity in nostalgic functionality automobiles, he thinks there is scope for an additional manufacturing run. I believe 200 of these would get snapped up straight away.