Rally cars of Goodwood: All the world's a stage

Ah, just when you thought it was over. For the three or four individuals who have yet to tire of our 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed coverage, you’ll be pleased to know that I have a swollen bag of images and things to release in dribs and drabs over the coming weeks. This’ll be my last mention of the FoS as an event, for a while, though. We’ve established that it’s awesome; now we can concentrate on what really makes it. Yes, the catering. It’s delicious.
The cars are pretty spectacular, too. The supercars, bikes and racers thrusting their way up the hillclimb are a treat to behold, but not, through my eyes, as spectacular as their off-road brethren. The Goodwood rally stage, a ten minute ride away in a suspensionless tractor-hauled trailer with slatted wooden seats, offers a different kind of excitement. And an awful lot more dust.

Images can be clicked on if you’d like them to grow a little bigger

So, a quick run through of the most interesting machines I managed to get half decent shots of. We’ve already seen the AMC AMX and the Austin-Rover Metro 6R4, next up is the Porsche 911. In this case it’s an ’84 911 SC RS, purpose-built as a rally machine from the outset, and showing every bit of swagger you’d expect of a cross-country sprinter from Stuttgart. That ear-splitting air-cooled flat-six scream had already reverberated from the hillclimb, and here it was again, only slightly muted by the trees and foliage that lined the rally stage.
It wouldn’t be that long after this machine was built than Porsche’s rallying efforts would concentrate on the four-wheel drive 959, but I can’t imagine many owners of those would willingly subject them to these rigours purely with the aim of entertaining the public.

The Mk1 Ford Escort is an altogether more familiar face on the clubman rally circuit, and a pretty sought-after one itself, especially numbers-matching genuine works Escort Twin Cams like this one. Essentially the Ford Lotus Cortina powerpack squeezed into the smaller, lighter Ford Escort frame, the Twin Cam was a distant precursor to what would happen at the turn of the ’90s, when the four-wheel drive Sierra Sapphire Cosworth floorpan, engine and transmission were clothed with a modified Ford Escort shell to create the Escort Cosworth, with considerable rally success to follow.
Thing about Escort rally cars is that familiarity breeds contempt. When closed-road rallying came to my village back in April, Escorts made up as much of the field as E30s and Miatas do at LeMons. Their agility, noise and sense of determination, though, means they never, ever get boring.

And nor was this, the fascinating Gartrac Escort G3. Don’t let the Mk3 Ford Escort bodyshell — similar but not the same as the American issue that launched at around the same time — fool you; there’s no front wheel drive and transverse engine here. Instead, that modern suit of clothes concealed a rear-wheel drive layout and North-South Ford Cosworth-headed 2.1-litre BDA ford Pinto twin-cam engine. Essentially, under the skin the mechanical parts were interchangeable with the MK2 Escorts that many privateer drivers really didn’t want to move away from.
In an interesting turn of events, the RS1700T rally car that Ford was developing at the time, is said to have disappointed when tested against the Gartrak at its Boreham motorsport skunkworks, and this fact, along with the growing popularity of four-wheel drive, led to the RS1700T’s development being cancelled.

And then, of course, came Group B. Motorsport in the ’80s was nothing if not exuberant, with an ‘anything goes’ ethos surfacing in both the wildly turbocharged Formula 1 cars of the era, and the insanely powerful Group B rally cars whose very potency would ultimately prove their undoing. For a brief, glorious period, though, these flame-spitting monsters did more to progress rallying in three years than their contemporaries had managed in decades. And none moreso than the Audi Quattro S1.
Demonstrating the sheer lengths that car firms would go to in order to make their road cars more competitive in rallying, Audi took the already fearsome Quattro coupe, sliced 320mm from it’s middle section and then fitted a colossal turbocharger, producing a brutally quick machine that could virtually turn in its own length. It was a car that immediately sent rivals back to the drawing board, and the Ford RS200 and my beloved Metro 6R4 might never have existed without it.

Speaking of legend-makers, here’s a Subaru Legacy. In a time before Impreza was even a word, it was the Legacy that really established Subaru as a name to be reckoned with in international rallying. With four-wheel drive, plentiful turbocharging and an uncanny sense of balance, the Big Subie positively danced its way through the forest, eclipsing established rivals in every way — including exhaust note.
It was particularly threatening when there was a young Scot behind the wheel, whose name would come to dramatically raise the profile of international rallying to an extent that Paddy Hopkirk and Roger Clarke could never have dreamt of. Sadly, as we know, Colin McRae couldn’t be with us to watch the Legacy cavorting energetically around the track…

…but his brother Alister could, as could his dad, Jimmy, and both had a turn behind the wheel to show the assembled crowds just what the Legacy could do, well over two decades after its final WRC appearance.

And just to emphasis the sheer variety of machines that makes rallying so colourful, here’s a Mercedes 190E 2.3-16. Perhaps panicked by Audi — still a relative upstart with upmarket ambitions in the ’80s — Mercedes decided to have a go at rallying itself, with less than sparkling results. The rear-wheel drive Mercedes 190e, forerunner to the C-Class, was pretty ill-suited to rough terrain, lacking much in the way of ground clearance or suspension travel, and it didn’t exactly set the pace on flatter ground, either.
As if to prove the point, of the two examples running at the weekend, one crashed out after becoming rather too determinedly airborne, breaking its propshaft on re-entry.
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2018)

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20 responses to “Rally cars of Goodwood: All the world's a stage”

  1. outback_ute Avatar

    Thanks Chris.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      More than welcome. Alas, my Landcrab action shots didn’t come out at all well.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        You mean they have complex visual effects included?

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

          OOOooo… I would not resist.

        2. Zentropy Avatar

          That is COOL. Never, ever seen one before, even in pics. Jump on it!

        3. outback_ute Avatar

          I feel like I’ve seen that car before. Surely any 6-cyl landcrab variant is rare by now, but especially a Wolseley.

        4. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Someone on this side of the world could still get you a 2.6 litre ‘big block’ version of that engine for you if you wanted. They were fitted to Leyland P76s and Marinas, and have a longer stroke that pairs them with the 1750 E4, in the same way that the 2200 E6 is paired with the 1500 E4.

        5. Vairship Avatar

          Not much of a LANDcrab, given that it seems to be located in Smith Lake!

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Yeah, it does seem somewhat self-defeating to attempt to obscure the car’s location on the map by referencing a lake in Portland but at the same time to show the car clearly parked a block away from Jefferson Middle School in Eugene (says the guy who was born in Eugene).

  2. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Legacies used to be very common here in NZ. That model was the largest selling car here for a while. About half were wagons too. They’re mostly gone now. Even with Subaru build quality they couldn’t last for ever being driven hard and fast. They were one of the first Japanese cars that bought European standards of ride, steering and handling to the public. They make a nice contrast to the W201, one of the best Euro cars and in some ways, not as good as the Legacy.
    A friend of mine described them as ‘the thinking man’s Sierra Cosworth’.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    Can never feature too many rally cars.
    Are Mk 1 Escorts easy to find outside of the U.S., and are they pricey?

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      They have largely rusted away so the price of survivors is going up. If you want one of the performance models this applies x4.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Or even X 10.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          Yeah, though as many rally folk these days are going to fit a Millington and other radical upgrades, I kinda think you have to be a period diehard to pay the premium. Even at a lower level, I know someone doing autotesting (autocrossings nerdy older brother) in a four door escort using a hotted up pinto engine and lots of scrapyard engineering like an RX8 gearbox. Keeping it stock isn’t the true ‘scort experience I reckon.

    2. crank_case Avatar

      MK1 and 2 Escorts are pretty pricey due to their popularity in rallying for sure. I think the MK1 looks better, but the MK2 is the better car and a more popular choice for club level rallying here Ireland, with some incredible high budget builds – check out this well known Irish specialists site to get an idea of the level of builds people put into them now: http://cbradleymotorsport.co.uk/car-build/
      Even though they are (relatively) pricey, they are still a popular base for a rally car because they’re like the rally miata (well, technically you could rally a miata, but lack of permanent roof is a problem for many classes I believe, even if you fit a hard top). They’re simple, and loads of people do go faster bits. Arguably you could easily build an Escort killer out of lots of similar vintage cars – Skoda MB1000, Hillman Avenger, Vauxhall Chevette, Toyota Starlet etc. but try finding bits for them. You do see the odd one out there, but the Escorts outnumber everything in classic RWD rally cars by far.
      That applies in Europe though, not sure how easy it would be to get parts into the US, so why not work with what you’ve got? An E30 BMW or Toyota AE86 are great alternatives, and probably better cars to boot, but if you want that 70s euro rally car vibe, why not take inspiration from its rival the Chevette HS?
      You got the Chevy Chevette which was basically the same as the cooking versions of the Vauxhall Chevette. Clean up the shell to prep it to rally spec (which isn’t cheap of course, it’ll need to be stripped, restored and seam welded usually), fit a cage, then fit the running gear from a Saturn Sky (but you’ll possibly want an aftermarket mechanical rear diff) to keep it in the family and viola, you have an american take of a classic euro rally car that’s more potent than the original.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I’m pretty open-minded about car marques, in that I don’t adhere myself to one brand and defend it to the death. However, as the son of a Ford enthusiast who was a son of a Ford enthusiast, I’m not sure I can get too enthusiastic about a Chevette. Not so much that it’s a Chevy (my dad and I spent months restoring a ’50 Sport Coupe), but that it’s a Chevrolet Chevette. Perhaps in the UK, the Vauxhall version was something interesting, but here in the US, it was a dog, and an ugly, underpowered dog at that. I’d need to be a bowtie diehard to even consider it.
        The AE86 is very appealing, but finding an unadulterated one in the US is nigh impossible, and the drift scene has made prices ridiculous. And I’ve burned many miles behind the wheel of an E30, which I loved but never considered as anything more than a fun commuter. I eventually became a parent and sold the BWM for new carpet. Really.
        I was just always interested in the old Escorts, but never see them on our shores.

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        In the rest of the world outside the US, there are now not enough Bedford CF vans around to take the 2.3 four from. But the Rover V8 fits, and it’s (sort of) a GM engine.Plenty of derelict Range and Land Rovers around.

        1. Zentropy Avatar

          Well, RWD, V8, and hatchback check a LOT of boxes. You almost have me convinced…

          1. crank_case Avatar

            I had typed a reply yesterday and Disqus ate it.
            My dad had a 1.3l Vauxhall Chevette, it was equally rubish as its US counterpart, standard non-RS MK1 escort 1100 popular which made up the bulk of cars were misery econoboxes to, and even a lot of the rally/modified escorts being built now are usually from non RS shells or non-orignal replacement shells. Many of the rally cars of the period have their origins in small economy cars that would have been uninspiring in the form most people bought them – e.g. Opel Kadett, Talbot Sunbeam. It’s easy to over-glamorize the Escort if your only exposure is rally footage and RS models.
            With Saturn Sky running gear, a Chevette would have 3-5 times its original power, if anything, it’s going to feel overpowered without some modification to the shell/chassis. 😀