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Road going Group B legends head to head with Harris at the wheel
It would seem the best way to drive the cars of your dreams is to write the immortal words ‘I have never driven’ and some kind person will emerge and alter the situation.
I did this in reference to a Spotted piece about an Audi Sport Quattro a few weeks back. Luckily Andrew Donaldson of Oakfields, who is selling the gorgeous machine in question, was reading and sprang into action.
Sport Quattro discovered in a Spotted piece
Now I do not have an especially large list of friends-with-a-Group-B-car, but I did want to add a little context to the Sport Quattro by adding something else from rallying’s finest hour, so I phoned a man at Ford. He’s called Paul Wilson and has a reputation of conjuring miracles. He said that Ford still owned an RS200 and that I was welcome to use it to compare with a Sport Quattro. At this point thoughts turned to collecting every Group B car together for one vast celebration – they then receded quickly as the enormity of such a task sank in. Although at this point I should like to mention that I do know where an example the rarest of the rare, the Citroen BX 4TC, currently lives. I wonder what the collective noun for Group B cars should be? A mate suggested ‘tumescence’, which I thought wasn’t bad.
As for the cars: remarkable, both of them. The RS200 as a single-purpose prototype built by the company that, at the time, made the Mk3 Escort; the Sport Quattro as a surprisingly polished road car intended, with some big wings, to stop Peugeot and Lancia winning the whole time.
RS200 is an acquired taste
The RS200 is horrid at low speed. The transmission winds itself up, it needs great pushes of throttle to get it off the line and the motor is gruff. But set it moving and it suddenly feels light and agile. It was designed to change direction. Unsurprisingly, it wants to do this the whole time.
The Quattro couldn’t be more different. Faster, more finished, more like a road car, I was completely taken with it. Before driving the thing it was in my all-time top 10, now it’s climbed even further up that imaginary list. And it looks so damn cool in the raw. The green paint has sunk into the Kevlar’s grooves over the years, and it even has the original, optional harness belts, which clip into extra buckles already attached to the seats, in the boot. It has turbo lag, it porpoises under power, it feels lazy after the Ford. But I could easily imagine driving it to Geneva and back. In the RS200, you’d need a lobotomy to attempt something similar.
"Be careful, it's worth a fortune..."
Ultimately, these were the two great failures of Group B: one delayed and almost obsolete when it did arrive, the other battling a mechanical layout demanded by the marketing department, but which could never really compete with mid-engined prototypes. Perversely, that makes them the two most interesting of the type to me 25 years later.
And to finish: “I have never driven a McLaren M8F”.