Winning start for Group S Opel Astra

by Tim Whittington |

After Group B, Group S…
Fabled, surrounded in myth and legend, a breed of almost pure racecar destined for rallying, Group S was axed before it even got to the stages. Opel had been tilting for the new category with an Astra-based machine. That car was to have used Xtrac transmission and when the game changed Xtrac founder Mike Endean was key in enabling British rallycross legend John Welch to broker a deal to get the development Opel Astra into rallycross.

While rivals made hay in Group B cars, Welch spent the 1987 season racing the Xtrac Escort with which he’d won the 1986 British title, simultaneously securing Vauxhall/Opel deal and converting the prototype rally car into rallycross trim.

On 8 November 1987 Welch took his new car to the final round of the British Rallycross Drivers Association (BRDA) Championship at Cadwell Park.

Immediately competitive, Welch enjoyed a great day out with the Astra, beating the all-conquering Mark Rennison and his RS200 in the Formula A (now Supercar) final.


Rennison turned the tables to win the mixed-class Superfinal at the end of the day, but Welch and his Astra were the undoubted stars of the event.

The Astra would be Welch’s last rallycross car, his career winding down down over the following couple of years as attention turned towards the karting activity of his son, Daniel. Strikingly different from the Group B cars around it, the Astra was a firm fan favourite – once voted best rallycross car by Rallycross World readers – and always drew a crowd.


Like so many rallycross cars of the past, the Astra was recycled; Tommy Kristoffersson buying it for the transmission system which he used in his 1993 Audi S2.

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