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RS 200

Feb 08,2006 Julian

The Ford RS200 was a ‘one-off’ in almost every way. The development, design, planning and production of the RS200 had been different to every competition Ford thus far, in that the car was designed solely for rallysport use, rather than taking a road-going production model and developing it for motorsport as had been the case previously. Most manufacturers were competing in the Group-A arena, where 5000 units had to be produced to gain homologation (in which the RS Cosworth would later compete). However, a new Group-B principle allowed for a special rally car with only 200 units required to gain homologation.

With most of Ford’s competitive heritage coming from rallysport, it was clear that they wanted to be in on the act, although other manufactures had already developed Group-B cars to good effect, one of the first being Lancia with their RWD ‘037’ World Championship winning Group-B car. However, Ford was at a bit of a crossroads at the time. Development work on the RWD Mk3 Escort RS1700T was still proving difficult and more manufacturers were beginning to develop powerful 4WD Group-B derivatives.


After outlining a proposal to scrap development of the RS1700T to Ford management in 1983, Stuart Turner was appointed back to the British motorsport division to develop and produce Fords answer to Group-B… The RS200. The ‘blank-canvas’ approach to the RS200 allowed for the latest technologies to be incorporated into chassis and bodyshell design although many items had been lifted from other models where it proved constructive. The final engine lent itself closely to the RS1700T and several Sierra components were incorporated including the large Sierra windscreen, which it’s understood was specifically commissioned by Stuart Turner in order that competition drivers would be able to see where they were going before the designers got their hands on the final shape of the car!

The final result was a mid-engined Cosworth turbocharged BDT, housed in bodyshell made from the latest composite materials including kevlar and carbon fibre. Construction of the car had been contracted to Reliant Motors in Shenstone. In essence the decision had be made due to their expertise with composite materials, however, the added bonus was that the Midlands based outfit could obtain the vast majority of most parts within the locality and there was a plentiful supply of experienced labour.


Although nowhere near production, the RS200 was announced in 1984 at the Turin motor show, allowing Ghia – among the principle designers - to flaunt their wares. It was to be a further year before Reliant were in a position to begin production in the Midlands. However, the fate of the 200 cars produced in order to attain homologation was about to take an unexpected twist.


The RS200 finally took to the international stage in 1986 (with high hopes after RS200 test-driver Malcolm Wilson secured a  pre-homologation win on the Lindisfarne  rally). Kalle Grundel set some impressive times on the cars first official outing eventually bringing the car home in third overall during the Swedish Rally, though bizarrely, this was to prove the RS200’s best ever finish on a WRC event!


An unfortunate spate of accidents on the world championship platform, which started in Portugal and ended in Corsica, saw the unfortunate deaths of spectators and drivers alike. This in turn led to the feeling in some quarters that Group-B supercars were becoming too powerful, and in what many considered a knee-jerk reaction, the controlling bodies switched 1987 allegiances to Group-A competition, effectively banning Group-B overnight. No sooner had the RS200 got out of the starting blocks, and Ford were left with no option but to pull the plug on the Group-B programme - as were the likes of Peugeot, Austin Rover, Audi and Lancia. Although never fulfilling its ultimate potential, the RS200 had left its legacy by taking several European titles, with the late Mark Lovell and Roger Freeman taking the British Open Rally title in 1986.

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