Plato famously said that necessity is the mother of invention. For the automotive world, nowhere has invention and innovation been as crucial as it has in motorsport.
Most groundbreaking technologies we take for granted at everywhere from Grand Rush to in our cars can trace it’s lineage directly back to motorsport in one way or another. Semi-Auto gearboxes, all-wheel drive, active suspension, ABS, disk brakes and even something simple as a rearview mirror, can all be traced directly back to their motorsport days. For a condensed version of this, you need look no further than rallies most prestigious era, Group B.
What Was Group B?
Group B was a new rally class introduced which was intentionally very relaxed on the restrictions front. The idea was to attract manufacturers, allowing them to really bring their A-game. Probably the most important of the rules to be relaxed was the homologation numbers, Group A required 5000 homologation cars to exist where Group B required only 200.
Less homologation cars made it easier for manufacturers to justify the risk and try something revolutionary, not to mention the rally car’s relation to the homologation version was more relaxed than ever. This was a true time for technological development and evolution, and boy, did we see it. Group B only lasted four years, from 1983 to 1986, but the impact on the motoring industry will never be forgotten.
All-wheel drive did exist before Group B but was only considered usable in Jeeps and trucks. The thought was that no rally or road going car would ever need this technology. According to experts at the time, all-wheel drive would only serve to slow rally cars down in additional weight and complexity.
Audi took the gamble and brought the first all-wheel drive rally car into existence with the S1, a change which revolutionized rally and future road cars. Since the introduction of the Audi S1, only one two-wheel drive car has ever won an international rally championship, the Lancia 037, After which, even Lancia realized it was time to change drivetrain formats.
After the surge of all-wheel drive turbocharged monsters, Lancia had realized that it had no real chance of fielding the 037 again and turned to create a new car. To keep the competitive edge, they couldn’t just do what everybody else was doing, they needed to do something special.
The Lancia Delta HF Integrale was just the trick. Like cars fielded from other manufacturers, the Integrale was also a massively turbocharged all-wheel drive monster, except Lancia had found a solution to a problem the other manufacturers were still facing. With a big turbo and high boost pressures came a lot of lag and a high boost threshold, Lancia saw fit to fix this problem by having a twin charge system.
A supercharger to supply boost at low RPM where the turbo didn’t have enough air to properly spool, and a huge turbo that spooled at high RPM where the supercharger supplied diminishing returns. This was the first instance of twin charging in any form and was hugely successful for Lancia.
Group B saw a lot of changes in suspension geometry and how manufacturers used aerodynamics to change how a car handled, no longer was it simply to push a car into the ground, but change how the car reacted to the ground. Active suspension was also first designed for Group B, but sadly, it never saw the race time it deserved.
Due to the insane nature of Group B, safety standards were never at the forefront. After many driver and spectator deaths, Group B was finally cancelled in 1986.