Remember the first time

by Hal Ridge |

In the late 1980s, rallycross was the direct beneficiary of Group B cars being banned from rallying. Barred from international level rallies after a spate of serious accidents, the machines were largely redundant for their intended purpose, but represented a source of almost ready-to-race cars that was pounced upon by rallycross drivers across Europe.

Sils in Spain hosted round four of the 1987 European Championship. © Whittington

From 1987 to 1992, the Group B machines dominated in both quality and quantity. Many consider that period to be the golden era of rallycross, and only now with the introduction of the FIA World Rallycross Championship is the sport beginning to surpass the popularity it experienced then. In the first year of the Group B dominance, the FIA European Rallycross Championship visited Spain for the very first time, on a brand new track at Sils, around 20km inland from Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava.

Pekka Rantanen, here chased by John Welch, won the B final. © Whittington

The country didn’t stay on the championship schedule for long, the last event held in 1989. But this weekend, with World RX in its second year, top flight rallycross returns to Spain; this time to a new rallycross track constructed inside the stadium section of the famous Formula One and Moto GP venue, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. To mark the introduction of a Spanish event into the modern era of the sport, Rallycross World looks back 28 years to the first European championship event held in the country.

Olle Arneson started from the front row of the A final. © Whittington

Sils hosted round four of the 1987 European Rallycross Championship in early June, where notable among the absentees were RS200 men Mikael Nordstrom and Rolf Nilsson. Martin Schanche did make the trip with his RS200, but was out of the event after Saturday’s free practice in which a camshaft broke in the Ford’s BDT’E’ engine. The early pace among the ‘Supercar’ field was set by Jukka Pelttari who was helped to fastest in his Porsche when Will Gollop lost time after a huge two-wheeled moment in his MG Metro 6R4. Unbeaten in the first three rounds of the championship, Seppo Niittymaki was third fastest but ran into his first problems of the year in the second heat when gearbox trouble left him at tail end of the order and out of action for the third heat. The result of that was a starting place in C final, in which he failed to beat Thor Holm who took the win in his RS200. Norwegian Holm then climbed to second in the B final, which was won by the similar car of Pekka Rantanen, the Finn passing Sven Lestander when the Swede’s Sport Quattro S1 faltered in the third lap.

Niittymaki suffered gearbox problems in the heats. © Whittington

The first three events had been difficult for Matti Alamaki but the Finn showed up in Spain in a determined mood and, having tried his Lancia Delta S4 on Pirelli tyres in the first and second heats, reverted to Avons for the third in which he set fastest time. Olle Arnesson had been fastest in the second heat with his Audi Sport Quattro S1 and the started from the front of the A final grid. Alamaki led the final from the start, Arnesson powerless to make any serious challenge to the Lancia driver and having to keep a watching eye on his mirror where Gollop appeared large having climbed to third ahead of Anders Carlsson’s Quattro Sport S1, Rantanen and Pelttari.


Rallycross is now ready to return to Spain, more specificially to Catalunya where a spectacular new track at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona awaits the World RX field and their 21st century Supercars this weekend.




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