Rallycross entered a boom period 25 years ago. Group B cars arrived en masse and, for the next six years, would dominate the sport. These monsters, exiled from rallying after a spate of accidents became faster, lighter and more powerful as, in rallycross, they found their ultimate form. It’s true that every cloud has a silver lining, for Rallycross the cloud over rallying didn’t just present an opportunity but opened a golden era, perhaps the best years the sport has ever known. To mark that anniversary RallycrossWorld will look back at the 1987 season in parallel with the 2012 European Rallycross Championship.
Group B cars starred on the fabulous Svampabanan at Tomelilla. © Tim Whittington/RallycrossWorld.com
A week after the opening round of the championship, the teams had made their way from Austria to the south of Sweden and the Svampabanan at Tomelilla. It’s difficult to think what a 21st century Rallycross driver might make of this track if faced with it now, this is Old Skool in the truest sense. The track weaves its way up and down the side of a steep hill, the descent from the top and into the last bend akin to dropping off the edge of the world – even in 1987 it was right out there, but that didn’t stop the ERC, its paddock newly engorged with Group B cars, from getting down to some serious business.
There were 13 Group B cars on the entry list, plus four ‘long’ Quattros, but not Martin Schanche whose RS200 remained at home while he raced his Argo Group C2 car at Silverstone, this being the period in which the Norwegian megastar explored sportscar racing in addition to his Rallycross programme.
Local star Rolf Nilsson was first out of the blocks and set fastest time in practice, but appeared to have peaked too early; after that there wasn’t much that anyone could do about Seppo Niittymäki. The Finn and his Peugeot 205 T16 E2 were fastest in heats one and two and rested up in the third heat where a Swede in an RS200 was fastest. This, however, was not Nilsson, but Mikael Nordström. Nilsson sat alongside Niittymäki on the front of the A final grid, Nordström sharing the second row with Matti Alamäki while the last direct qualifier was Will Gollop.
In his first ERC start, Gollop took the fight to the regulars and had been second fastest in the second heat. The new boy in the entry did not mess, and after the A final where there was an on-track meeting and difference of opinion with Alamäki, marched across the paddock and threw broken pieces of Metro 6R4 bodywork into the Finn’s trailer; “If you like the car that much you can have some of it!”
Gollop’s A final grid slot bumped Olle Arnesson into the B final, but the defending champ beat Kjetil Bolneset, Anders Carlson and Thor Holm here to earn his place in the main event.
Niittymäki led the A final from the start, finishing 1.2s ahead of Nilsson and Alamäki, the latter having survived his clash with Gollop while the Englishman brought his damaged Metro home sixth. Nordström and Arnesson placing fourth and fifth.
Former snowmobile racer Sven Lestander joined the series in Sweden, nominally his home event, albeit 2500km from his residence in the north of the country. Driving an Audi Sport Quattro S1 that had been built to the same spec as Arnesson’s car, Lestander scored points for 15th place on his debut and would become an ERC regular for the next few years.
Of those in ‘original’ Quattros, Bolneset was again the best, this time in seventh place, but the man who made his mark in the event was Thomas Wiren whose car suffered a jammed throttle at the start of the third qualifying heat and plunged through the crash barrier on the outside of the first bend. Fortunately the road from the paddock to the grid that ran behind the barrier was empty at the time…
Part one, Austria
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