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Friday, November 5, 2010

Killer B (Part 1)

Being a twenty-something, technology has always been prevalent in everyday life.  Growing up with two older brothers and an uncle who always had the latest gadgets meant hand-me-downs like Apple IIs, Walkmans, and Atari.  Today, everyone has an Ipod, cell phone, and/or a GPS at any given time.  Sadly, this type of technological proliferation has made its way into racing.  Today, races are won by complex launch control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, computer aided design, and computational fluid dynamics.  What ever happened to simple "run what you brung" racing?  It's time to revisit those days when victory could be achieved by big wings, big turbos, and big cojones.

This is Group B rally, the most terrifying yet awe-inspiring motor racing showcase of the past 30 years.

The Group B class of rallying was officially declared in 1982, with a prologue starting in 1979 when all-wheel drive was admitted into the series.  The rules that dictated Group B were pretty simple.  There must be 200 production versions of the race car to meet homologation and the engine size determined everything else about the car.

There were four basic engine sizes of 4000cc, 3000cc, 2500cc, and 2000cc.  Those are the displacements for naturally aspirated engines.  They competed against cars that had forced induction and were a factor of 1.4 smaller in displacement.  These engine sizes also equated to minimum car weights of 1100 kg, 960 kg, 890 kg, and 820 kg, respectively.

All of this was thrown out the window when engineers exploited the rules to great effect.  By using a smaller motor and a turbo, the engineers found boundless possibilities when seeking out horsepower.  For instance, Peugeot's 205 T16 produced upwards of 400hp from a 1.8 liter four-cylinder turbo.  Neither boost pressure nor turbo size was mandated and all hell broke loose.

This set the stage for the most spellbinding era in rally history.

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