Video: Essential Group B Rally Film

January 3, 2012

Most of us have seen our fair share of online Group B Rally videos (I recommend searching YouTube for the ‘pure sound- Group B’ volumes 1-3 for starters) and some of them are done rather well… yet most of them, err… not so.

Given the fact that 90% of all high-quality Group B footage was originally interspliced with period-era music or voice-overs/commentary, it’s a rare treat to be able to witness these monstrous engineering marvels ‘in the raw’ within decently-captured fan-videos that are properly re-edited and presented without all of the unnecessary fluff.

The excellent Lancia 037 - flapping its wings

YouTube user amjayes2, has once again ridden to the rescue with a fantastic 30-minute short-film documenting the 1983-86 Group B action within the stages of the legendary 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland – nothing but raw action and ferociously scary sounds and sights. And believe me, it’s worth making the time to watch…

-Blake J.
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Photo of the Day: Audi Quattro – Walter Rohrl – 1984 Monte Carlo Rally

December 22, 2011

The Rally where Walter Rohrl first finely-tuned the beneficial skill of left-foot braking the Audi Quattro, Walter would also go on to win the 1984 Monte Carlo Rally in the phenomenal ‘A2’ Audi Quattro. As the 1984 season wound to a close, Stig Blomqvist would go on to beat defending champion and Audi teammate, Hannu Mikkola, for the Driver’s title while the all-dominating Audi Team would eventually be crowned with the Manufacturer’s Title in 1984 for the 2nd year in a row…

Short highlights-vid of the 1984 Monte Carlo…

-Blake J.
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The Saab Story: It’s Over Now

December 19, 2011

A sad day today in the motoring world: Saab has officially filed for bankruptcy after former owner, GM, refused to allow the sale of the company to Chinese investors. GM big-wigs had previously noted that they were concerned about protecting the technology that they were still licensing out to the Swedish automaker.

The original Saab - the 1946 92001 Ursaab

Saab CEO, Victor Muller, personally handed-in the bankruptcy application himself, of which is expected to be approved by the district court in Vanersborg.

In a statement from Saab – “After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to complete the reorganisation of Saab could not be concluded” and added, “The board subsequently decided that the company, without further funding, will be insolvent, and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors”.

It’s sad to see this as the official end for the struggling firm as it has been responsible for creating some of the most intriguing cars on the planet. Saab started building automobiles over 60 years ago and for myself (and many others), their most memorable moments were found on the various Rallying stages of motorsport where it shined for many many years – just ask Stig Blomqvist or Erik Carlsson.

Below, is a hodgepodge of just some of their unique creations and some rallying moments, mostly involving the iconic Saab 96…

The iconic Saab 96

Saab 99 enjoying a forest stage

 

Erik Carlsson - Monte Carlo Rally

 

Carlsson again - a familiar scene, often found pushing the 96 to its limits

 

The uniquely quirky Saab Sonett

 

Saab 99 - still a cool car

 

The Saab 99 Turbo - good fun

The iconic 96 doing what it did best...

...and shone when in the hands of this man

-Blake J.
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A.I. Coffee Break: 1980 Scottish Rally Video

November 23, 2011

An excellent-quality 2-part video here with outstanding footage and sounds representing the era just prior to the 4WD revolution in Rallying (spearheaded by the Audi Quattro) and the subsequent introduction by the FIA of the famed Group B regulations for 1982.

Witness the flying Finns, Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatanen, slinging and slithering their tail-wagging Ford Escort RS1600’s throughout the rugged Scottish forests and highlands. Stig Blomqvist showing his spectacular driving aplomb in his front-wheel-drive Saab 99 Turbo. Tony Pond reining-in his vicious, V8-engined Triumph TR7. Henri Toivonen writhing his Talbot Sunbeam Lotus throughout the stages despite mechanical failures and punctures… Toyotas, Opels, etc… The intimacy of the captured footage is eye-opening to say the least.

Yet what I love most about this era of Rallying is the general lackadaisical approach to interviews, interactions with fans and the various mechanical maladies – these drivers would soon be propelled onto the International scene with increased pressure from big-budget sponsorships and manufacturer commitments. In a way, these pre-Group B years just prior to the massive 80’s Rally explosion almost come across as a parting glimpse of a more innocently cloaked time of fun and friends before everything became a lot more serious. Enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

-Blake J.
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Bentley: VW’s ‘hand-me-down’ Motorsport Brand…?

November 8, 2011

Bentley to enter the Paris-Dakar Rally – Sounds a bit daft, doesn’t it…? Like your Auntie dropping the knitting-sticks and taking up Bull-riding full-time… But in the case of Bentley’s situational outlook on parent-company VW’s radar, it doesn’t seem all that unlikely nor out-of-place. A few key (and historical) points to take into consideration:

1. Bentley is developing a new, gargantuan W12-motored 4×4 SUV based on a shared Audi/Porsche/VW platform that will see it rise to the cream of the price-crop when it’s unveiled in 2015 – and so it should be… It’s a Bentley for heaven’s sake. Yet, with all of this platform and technology sharing within the many halls of Poppa Veedub, a full-force rally attack utlising the Bentley badge could be considered perfect timing considering….

Coming soon..! A Bentley doing this...!

2. VW is re-focusing its sights on the WRC Rally stages now with a bespoke VW Polo to tackle it with. This means, in all likelihood, that the Touareg they’ve been successfully campaigning (and winning) with over the last few years or so (in the Dakar, etc) might be retired. In its place could be the new/next Bentley SUV which, as mentioned, will be based on a VW/Audi/Porsche platform yet badged as a Bentley… see how this is all working out…? Because…

3. Bentley has been here before… not long ago. Remember the 2003 Le Mans win with (from-out-of-nowhere) Bentley taking the chequered flag in the menacing British-racing-green Speed 8..? Said racecar was actually based rather extensively on the dominating Audi R8 race car… adorned with Bentley badges.

The 2003 Le Mans Winning Bentley... based on the *ahem* ...Audi R8

There we go – Brand engineering and exercising done with ease…!

Yet it does make one wonder how longtime Bentley employees and life-long devotees feel about the Bentley brand/name/heritage being utilised as a marketing exercise to prop-up and re-glitz the technologies and motorsport know-how that their parent company has already adopted and achieved prior successes with…? I’d feel like the middle/bottom kid in the family that eventually receives hand-me-downs from the siblings – it all works, but it was never really yours to begin with.

-Blake J.
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POTD/Spotlight: Audi Group-B Rally Quattros Gassing-up and Flying

November 3, 2011

Before the collective (and competitive) madness of mid-80’s Group B Rallying, Audi dominated the Rally stages for a number of successful years after the introduction of its 4WD Audi Quattro 80 ‘A1’ (or ‘UrQuattro’) in 1980. With the new rules in Rallying allowing all-wheel-drive variants onto the scene, Audi was the first to capitalise (and win – even on the Quattro’s very 1st Rally in ’81) with their 4WD monster.

Three iterations of the Rally Quattro evolved during Audi’s foray into Rallying during the mid-80’s, culminating with the flame-spitting, demonic-sounding, 600 bhp Sport Quattro ‘S1’ of 1985 (below). Along with the artillery-grade power output, it also featured a wheelbase that was noticeably shortened from previous versions and gained a plethora of wings, scoops and vents to aid in keeping this gnashing beast hunkered to the ground. It was also the most powerful Rally car ever built…

I'm not sure how far (and for how long) my jaw would drop if this scene greeted me at the local petrol pumps...

Yet, by the time the Sport Quattro ‘S1’ hit the exciting Group B Rally scene in ’85, serious competition from the likes of Peugeot and Lancia (piloted by such amazing drivers as Markku Alen, Ari Vatanen and Walter Rohrl, mind) gave the ageing Quattro a good run for the title. The Sport Quattro ‘S1’, though massively capable, only achieved a single victory – the San Remo Rally in ’85.

Precursor to the bombastic ‘S1’ was the Quattro ‘A2’ of 1983 (below, leaping) that helped Hannu Mikkola clinch the Driver’s Championship for the ’83 season. Despite a string of impressively successful first few years on the Rallying scene with its game-changing (yet heavy) 4WD tech-fest in 81, Audi was, as mentioned, beginning to feel the competitive pressure from other factory teams – most noteworthy being Lancia, its talented line-up of drivers and its emerging rear-wheel-drive 037 that helped Lancia win the Constructor’s Title in ’83.

All I can think of is "WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!"

By the time of Group B’s banning in 1986 for safety reasons and concerns, Audi’s influence on the entire Rallying scene had been made… and then some. The machines themselves became instant icons and the (brave) Drivers were immortalised – Audi had left a mark in Motorsport’s illustrious history that will forever remain legendary… and missed.

-Blake J.
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Pic of the Day: WRC Ford Focus vs. Frosty Hairpin

October 27, 2011

Back in 2007 Marcus Gronholm and co-driver Timo Rautiainen, both from Finland, embarked upon their final farewell season in the WRC after being paired-up with each other since 1990 – one of the longest and indeed, the most-successful pairing ever in the history of Rallying.

Grönholm’s arrival in the WRC came later than most had predicted. After winning the Finnish Rally championship four times, he eventually made the switch over to the WRC in 1999.  One year later he won the Drivers’ Title Championship on his first attempt and then won again in 2002 (both in a Peugeot 206).  He joined BP-Ford in 2006 and after claiming victory on the first two events in Monte Carlo and Sweden, he then went on to post a personal-best seven wins to help Ford achieve its first Manufacturers’ Title since 1979.

Marcus Gronholm is noted as being one of only two drivers to have won 30 rallies in the WRC. As a result, he will go into the history books as one of Rallying’s all-time greats…

-Blake J.
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