Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 30-years on

by Tim Whittington |

The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth made its first appearance in FIA rallycross 30 years ago, but it took until September 1987, just a few weeks after the August homologation of the RS500 ‘evolution’ of the car, for the Sierra to fully hit its stride and begin five years of domination of FIA rallycross events.
At the time there were two categories in the FIA European Championship, Division Two was the equivalent of today’s Supercar in which Group B cars were at their peak, and Division One which was for two-wheel drive Group A cars. Saab’s 900 Turbo and Volvo’s 240 Turbo had become the class leading Division One cars, but with the arrival of the Sierra the writing was on the wall for the Swedish cars…
The Sierra was quick from the start, but it took a while for those who campaigned it to get to grips with the sometimes wayward handling and to define a workable rallycross setup. While progress was made during the year, the tried and tested Volvo, and even the best of the Saab 900 Turbos in which Anders Norstedt had won the 1986 title, remained best of the pack.
In August Ford managed to get homologation for the RS500 upgrade; longed for by the Sierra drivers and dreaded by the rest, the increase in power along with some extra tweaks, proved the killer blow.
In the RS500’s first event, at Lydden in September 1987,  Trevor Reeves claimed the car’s first win. It was too late to deny Volvo driver PeO Davidsson the ’87 crown, but the defences had been breached; between 1988 and the end of 1992 there were 54 events, 42 of which were won by RS500 drivers.
Young Norwegian star Bjorn Skogstad had been, together with Reeves, an early adopter of the Sierra. In 1988 Skogstad won in Spain, France, Belgium and at home on the Lyngas Motorbane in Norway to claim the title. Reeves won again at Lydden while another Norwegian, Evind Opland took the sixth RS500 victory of the year at the Estering in Germany.
The following year the Ford horde rampaged across Europe, a quartet of RS500 warriors winning all 11 rounds of the championship. After two formative seasons on the European trail in a Volvo, a young Swede called Kenneth Hansen got himself an RS500 for 1989. Victories in Austria and France, together with what would become trademark consistency, underpinned Hansen’s first championship success.
Skogstad won four times (Spain, Sweden, Holland and Norway) but could not match Hansen over the year. Reeves won in Belgium and Ireland and Roger Sandberg (having switched from a BMW M3) claimed victories in Britain, Germany and, after a spectacular first corner tussle with Skogstad, at Hammenlinna in Finland.

The new decade opened with a ten-round championship and seven event wins for the RS500. Opland won in Germany and Skogstad claimed France and Belgium but wins in Finland, Ireland, Holland and Norway made Hansen best of the bunch once again.
Hansen knocked the rest into a cocked hat in 1991, seven event wins bringing him a hat trick of titles. After Hansen had won in Portugal, France, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Holland and Norway, there was not much left for the rest of the pack.
Skogstad managed to take wins in Finland and Germany and Tom Einar Aaserud took a hugely popular victory in Britain.
With rule changes in the air for 1993, the ’92 season was the last for the now highly developed Group A cars. As at the beginning of this period the most successful drivers were Hansen and Skogstad who claimed three wins each.
Hansen was again best, the Swede taking his fourth title in as many years after wins in Finland, Ireland and Norway.
Skogstad won in Britain, Belgium and Holland but could not match his rival on points. Opland returned to the winner’s circle in Portugal while Michael Jernberg claimed his first event win in Sweden and then closed the year with victory in Germany.
Five short seasons in which an iconic car came to dominate. Despite the many drivers who raced the Cossie Sierra only seven won events, and just two of them managed to win the Championship – perhaps in part because the lifespan of this undoubtedly great car coincided with the emergence of one the greatest practitioners of this sport.
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