Opel Ascona (B) Profile

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Opel Ascona (B) General Information

Despite their old rally heritage, this was easily Opel's most serious attempt at the WRC ever. But the Ascona 400 could have even been a much bigger success than it was, a dominator for years! There seemed to be two basic problems with the program.

1) The car was a little late in its design. Opel was eyeing towards Escort RS and Fiat 131 when they created the Ascona 400. The Ascona had a 2.4 litre engine rather than a 2.0, but otherwise it was a conventional front engine RWD layout just like the Escort and the Fiat, or the Talbot Sunbeam as well - all cars that disappeared for the threat of groupB supercars just at the time when the Ascona 400 was heading into its most serious season: 1982.

Just to make it a bit clearer why we call the situation silly: Well the smaller Kadett C Coupé only debuted in San Remo 1975 and maybe the motorsport department didn't want to believe just yet that the Kadett never would be at the top in performance and reliability. Once the idea of a big engine Ascona 400 was born it still took some convincing the Opel bosses to wave the project through. So for bureaucratic reasons the project was heavily delayed. But that wasn't all, because when the car eventually debuted it was still not too late. It was so excellent it won its 2nd rally ever, WRC Sweden 1980. And after those delays, after this Sweden 1980 win, just why did it take yet another 2 years to do a full season with this car? It's front engine RWD opposition arrived on the rally stages: Ford Escort Mk2 in 1975, Fiat 131 in 1976, Talbot Sunbeam in 1979, they shared most of the rally wins and titles until 1981 and all three of them disappeared in 1982. The Ascona B road car went on sale early 1976, the Ascona 400 rally car never debuted until 1980 and despite early promise it never competed in a full world championship season until 1982. Why? At 2420cc the Ascona had the biggest engine of all conventional rally cars, the Talbot Sunbeam in 1981 was the last conventional car ever to become a rally world champion, the Ascona B road car already existed since 6 years at the time and the rally car still never did a full season until then?

2) You may wonder if Opel was unfairly treated by the drivers they had under contract, or at least if their driver selection was unfortunate.

The first lead driver was Sweden's Anders Kulläng who gave the Ascona 400 its first WRC victory, then left the team mid season 1981 for Mitsubishi and left Opel's program in a total mess. In Kulläng's defense it should be said that Kulläng was a loyal Opel driver throughout the Ascona (A) and Kadett (C) days. For the Ascona 400 program in 1980 Kulläng was part of the team, but when he wanted to do his home event Opel didn’t want to do all events and only loaned him his Monte Carlo car. So indeed the Ascona 400's first WRC win in Sweden 1980 was all a private effort of Kulläng, his own testing, his own set up work, his own mechanics, with a works car that Opel didn't even look at after Monte Carlo finish. And that wasn't a one-off, Kulläng seems to be a forgotten driver today, but on the last round 1980, RAC Rally, he won 24 stages, that's more than anyone else including Toivonen/Talbot on their most famous win, so one can only wonder what could have been had Kulläng not spent 15mins in a ditch. The speed was clearly there, but for 1981 Opel still asked Anders Kulläng to find sponsorship if he wanted to remain in the team. Anders did, Monaco estate agents Publimmo even stretched to paint all team cars in their blue colours from Safari onwards. But then Publimmo went bankrupt and Kulläng left the sinking ship before these news even became public. Curiously Opel did withdraw their Tour de Corse (round5) entries minutes before the start, so did they know something? In Acropolis 1981 (round6) Kleint started with a single Publimmo coloured car while Publimmo protegee Kulläng was in a non-Publimmo Mitsubishi. Kulläng had insider information, Publimmo never paid towards the Acropolis and without sponsorship Opel indeed didn't even carry on with Jochi Kleint's WRC program. So there are enough reasons to sympathise with Anders Kulläng and to see he has put an effort in, too.

For 1982 Opel signed German national hero Walter Röhrl, who kicked off publicly blaming the car for his round3 Portugal crash, making everyone believe an Opel Ascona is a dangerous car. OK, Walter was not without point, maybe just a little emotional - understandable, the crash reason was identified as a mechanic forgetting to fit a steering rack bolt – scary!! However then things became even less friendly, Walter won the 1982 drivers title in the car only to then - after achieving his personal goal - letting the team down not starting the last event of the season. Opel was at that point only 2points down on Audi in the manufacturers WRC and duly lost their own title. Fair enough, it is questionable if on this muddy RAC Rally even Röhrl could have made the needed impression on the Quattros, but was there a case for not even trying to win the title?

In 1983 they then had Finland's drift master Ari Vatanen, who openly declared he didn't like the Opel's understeering handling and indeed Ari was not always the fastest Opel driver. You could maybe also blame Opel to some degree, because the drivers that seemed to get on best and complain least where Jochi Kleint, Jimmy McRae & Henri Toivonen, neither of them ever got more than 2-5 starts per season in a backup role to Misters Kulläng/Röhrl/Vatanen. Especially in Henri Toivonen they got an absolute jewel, seemingly without realising. OK, Henri was still young, but let's have a look at 1982 stage wins: As two examples where Toivonen and Röhrl lasted the distance, Acropolis Toivonen 11 stage wins vs Röhrl 6, San Remo Toivonen 6 vs Röhrl 5. Remember this is a conventional car in 1982 up against Audi Quattro and Lancia 037. At the end of the 1982 season Toivonen won 44 stages vs Röhrl 42, remember Röhrl was the World Champion while Toivonen only got 5 starts! In 1983, especially when it came to the Manta 400, Vatanen never really seemed to like the Manta, Toivonen at least never complained. Unfortunately at WRC level Toivonen's only finish in the Manta was San Remo, where Vatanen crashed. Which left as the best 1983 comparison the BRC Manx Rally, where Toivonen utterly dominated the whole event while Vatanen's times compared more to those of Jimmy McRae, while McRae in turn gave the Manta 400 its best 1983 result with 3rd on the RAC. I like the way Opel dragged in specialist drivers, as in 1983 i.e. Guy Fréquelin for asphalt and Rauno Aaltonen for Safari, yet occasionally they ran only one single car, so why did they never give more starts especially to Toivonen? In 1982 this could (I believe WOULD) have been enough for the makes title!

But at least Ari Vatanen gave the Ascona 400 a most lovely farewell with a last minute win on its very last works entry, the Safari 1983 - not only was that perfect timing, as the Ascona's last start as a works car, the Safari was the best event by far to prove how tough and reliable the Ascona was, making all these odd number 1 driver issues, Kulläng's sudden departure and even Röhrl's Portugal crash blames more than forgotten.

Opel Ascona (B) Related Content

Opel Ascona (B) Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Opel Ascona (B) 400 (80-83) 255/7000 290/5000 4320.1664.1360 1050 (4) RWD (2518)

Random Opel Ascona (B) Photos

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Opel Ascona (B) Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
10th. 1983 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo S. Servia J. Sabater #19 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
25th. 1982 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo G. Colsoul A. Lopes #10 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
1st. 1982 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #2 [UNKNOWN] 8:20:33
7th. 1982 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo J. Kleint G. Wanger #7 [UNKNOWN] 8:59:40
3rd. 1982 WRC Swedish Rally W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #3 [UNKNOWN] 3:44:29
2nd. 1982 WRC Safari Rally W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #5 [UNKNOWN] 5:07:00
4th. 1982 WRC Tour de Corse W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #5 [UNKNOWN] 14:20:41
2nd. 1982 WRC Acropolis Rally W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #1 [UNKNOWN] 13:08:23
3rd. 1982 WRC Acropolis Rally H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #6 [UNKNOWN] 13:17:21
6th. 1982 WRC Acropolis Rally J. McRae I. Grindrod #10 [UNKNOWN] 13:40:16
3rd. 1982 WRC Rally New Zealand W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #2 [UNKNOWN] 10:33:37
2nd. 1982 WRC Rallye do Brazil W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #2 [UNKNOWN] 8:51:49
3rd. 1982 WRC Rallye San Remo W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #3 [UNKNOWN] 8:40:14
5th. 1982 WRC Rallye San Remo H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #6 [UNKNOWN] 8:41:43
8th. 1982 WRC Rallye San Remo M. Biasion T. Siviero #18 [UNKNOWN] 9:25:50
1st. 1982 WRC Bandama Rallye W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #4 [UNKNOWN] 8:43:00
3rd. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #7 [UNKNOWN] 8:06:14
13th. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain B. Johannsson S. Andersson #20 [UNKNOWN] 8:39:22
3rd. 1981 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo J. Kleint G. Wanger #6 [UNKNOWN] 10:02:54
4th. 1981 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo A. Kulläng B. Berglund #11 [UNKNOWN] 10:08:44
4th. 1981 WRC Swedish Rally A. Kulläng B. Berglund #1 [UNKNOWN] 3:53:12
6th. 1981 WRC Swedish Rally B. Johannsson S. Andersson #7 [UNKNOWN] 3:54:38
14th. 1981 WRC Swedish Rally B. Thorsell J. Bohlin #20 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
5th. 1981 WRC Safari Rally J. Kleint G. Wanger #1 [UNKNOWN] 8:06:00
11th. 1981 WRC Acropolis Rally J. Pesmazoglou H. Kaltsounis #28 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
6th. 1981 WRC Rally of Finland B. Johannsson S. Andersson #15 [UNKNOWN] 4:16:18
3rd. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo T. Fassina . "Rudy" #6 [UNKNOWN] 8:12:08
5th. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo . "Lucky" F. Penariol #16 [UNKNOWN] 8:19:51
6th. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo M. Biasion T. Siviero #25 [UNKNOWN] 8:21:44
4th. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo A. Kulläng B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] 8:54:24
8th. 1980 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo J. Kleint G. Wanger #8 [UNKNOWN] 9:05:50
1st. 1980 WRC Swedish Rally A. Kulläng B. Berglund #7 [UNKNOWN] 4:17:52
5th. 1980 WRC Safari Rally J. Nicolas H. Liddon #2 [UNKNOWN] 6:41:00
9th. 1980 WRC Safari Rally J. Kleint G. Wanger #6 [UNKNOWN] 7:22:00
4th. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally A. Kulläng B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] 13:06:47
11th. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally J. Kleint G. Wanger #15 [UNKNOWN] 13:45:28
4th. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland B. Johannsson R. Spjuth #14 [UNKNOWN] 4:36:43
5th. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain A. Kulläng B. Berglund #7 [UNKNOWN] 8:33:47

Opel Ascona (B) Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1982 WRC Safari Rally R. Aaltonen L. Drews #4 [UNKNOWN] SS75 engine
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain A. Vatanen T. Harryman #2 [UNKNOWN] SS31 crash
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Kleint G. Wanger #4 [UNKNOWN] SS11 crash
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae I. Grindrod #11 [UNKNOWN] SS42 rear axle
Ret. 1982 WRC Bandama Rallye B. Johannsson B. Berglund #11 [UNKNOWN] SS27 flying service (OTL)
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye San Remo D. Cerrato G. Cerri #21 [UNKNOWN] SS24 rear axle
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #4 [UNKNOWN] SS20 accident damage
Ret. 1982 WRC Rally of Finland B. Johannsson S. Andersson #13 [UNKNOWN] SS20 engine
Ret. 1982 WRC Acropolis Rally J. Pesmazoglou . UNKNOWN #30 [UNKNOWN] SS21 ?
Ret. 1982 WRC Acropolis Rally W. Grissmann . UNKNOWN #45 [UNKNOWN] SS19 ?
Ret. 1982 WRC Tour de Corse J. Kleint G. Wanger #4 [UNKNOWN] SS20 rear axle
Ret. 1982 WRC Tour de Corse J. Clarr . UNKNOWN #21 [UNKNOWN] SS26 suspension
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal W. Röhrl C. Geistdörfer #1 [UNKNOWN] SS24 steering (steering column bolt failure leads to big crash)
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal H. Toivonen F. Gallagher #6 [UNKNOWN] SS37 clutch
Ret. 1982 WRC Swedish Rally B. Johannsson S. Andersson #8 [UNKNOWN] SS19 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Patrick B. Rainbow #35 [UNKNOWN] SS19 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae I. Grindrod #16 [UNKNOWN] SS46 driveshaft
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain B. Johannsson S. Andersson #21 [UNKNOWN] SS12 crash
Ret. 1981 WRC Rallye San Remo M. Verini . UNKNOWN #23 [UNKNOWN] SS41 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Acropolis Rally J. Kleint G. Wanger #5 [UNKNOWN] SS16 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Tour de Corse A. Kulläng B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] SS0 withdrawn before start - sponsor Publimmo bankrupt
Ret. 1981 WRC Tour de Corse J. Kleint G. Wanger #5 [UNKNOWN] SS0 withdrawn before start - sponsor Publimmo bankrupt
Ret. 1981 WRC Safari Rally A. Kulläng B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] SS73 engine
Ret. 1981 WRC Rallye de Portugal A. Kulläng B. Berglund #7 [UNKNOWN] SS11 driveshaft
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain B. Johannsson R. Spjuth #21 [UNKNOWN] SS17 electrics
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Colsoul A. Lopes #25 [UNKNOWN] SS39 flywheel
Ret. 1980 WRC Tour de Corse J. Clarr J. Fauchille #14 [UNKNOWN] SS18 transmission
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo T. Fassina . "Rudy" #1 [UNKNOWN] SS29 brakes
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo A. Kulläng B. Berglund #6 [UNKNOWN] SS8 gearbox
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo J. Kleint G. Wanger #9 [UNKNOWN] SS44 rear axle
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye San Remo D. Cerrato L. Guizzardi #15 [UNKNOWN] SS43 driveshaft
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland A. Kulläng B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] SS30 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Acropolis Rally S. Mehta Y. Mehta #9 [UNKNOWN] SS30 suspension
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal J. Kleint G. Wanger #9 [UNKNOWN] SS10 crash
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal A. Kulläng B. Berglund #12 [UNKNOWN] SS11 crash