Ford RS200 Profile

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Ford RS200 General Information

The Peugeot 205 T16 may have been the most successful groupB rally car, but was it the fastest? Probably not because that honour most likely goes to the Ford RS200. Unfortunately the timing of the whole project could not have been any more unlucky if they tried. One really has to feel sorry for Ford: First they lost over 2 years working on the Ford Escort RS1700T that was canned before it ever rallied, then starting again from scratch and coming out with a car that in contrary to the RS1700T was hugely competitive but arrived the very moment the whole category was to collapse. You really could say Ford spent 6 years of development to compete in 3 rallies!

Having learned from the mistakes, Ford launched the RS200 very carefully. It won the national English Lindisfarne Rally 1985 (interestingly in the hands of Malcolm Wilson - today Ford team boss - at that time leaving Ford for MG Rover moments after having tested Ford's new weapon) before it would impress as a course opening car on the RAC the same year. This actually was one funny story about politics in sport. Audi sacked Blomqvist as soon as they found out he had signed for Ford for the following season. This was before the end of season 1985, Audi thinking they could save some money and penalise the stray driver without handing an advantage to their competition, as Ford didn't have their car homologated yet. Not homologated sure, but with Blomqvist a sudden free agent, the RAC suddenly had a WRChamp in a brand new groupB car as N°00 course opening car, spectators would get an exciting show, Stig would get first experience of his new toy, and the Ford RS200 got some very worthwhile testing - and in unofficial timing, at least after the retirements of Mikkola (Audi), Salonen & Grundel (both Peugeot) Stig and the Ford RS200 was the fastest car on the stages!

The RS200’s official WRC debut was the Swedish 1986, where Stig Blomqvist lead initially before his engine died in extremely cold conditions – not a rare fault during the 1986 Rally Sweden – but team mate Kalle Grundel took a podium on the car’s WRC debut. However only one event further on, the Rally Portugal, and it was a Ford RS200 involved in one of the worst accidents in WRC history, claiming the lifes of 3 spectators and setting off a chain reaction leading to the ban of groupB. Ford missed the next two WRC rounds as these were Safari and Corsica, two extremes. Therefore it seemed clever to test the brand new car in the BRC rounds Circuit of Ireland and Welsh with Grundel and Blomqvist instead. But on the Circuit of Ireland Kalle Grundel’s Ford RS200 was involved in another spectator accident, although this time no fatality, while in the Rallye Hessen in Germany Marc Surer, again in a Ford RS200, had a massive crash that ended in one of the typical groupB fireballs and claimed the life of his navigator Michel Wyder. This was only weeks after Henri Toivonen’s fatal accident.

This record sounds so bad that it needs pointing out that the Ford RS200 was not more dangerous or more unsafe than other groupB cars. In contrary, the Toivonen accident threw up questions about the car but was in the Lancia Delta. The whole groupB concept was getting out of hand. For the RS200 accidents, Portugal was a combination of inexperienced driver and unreasonable behaving spectators, Hessen was a racing driver to try rallying, and Ireland was a spectator not hearing the approaching car for a helicopter above the track (actually a scenario that would be far more likely today), either of these 3 accidents would have happened the same way with any groupB car! That they all involved the brand new Ford RS200 only goes to show the exceptionally unfortunate timing of the debut of this car.

When all this happened, Ford had already entered the Acropolis but at the start of the event it was already clear that this was to be the last WRC appearance for a Ford RS200 with exception of the RAC at home. However on this opportunity the Ford RS200 underlined its blinding pace it showed in Sweden: The team absolutely dominated the Rally Acropolis! And note in all this, this was basically the RS200's only 2nd WRC event as Portugal was called off after the 1st stage. The Lancia Delta S4 and even the Peugeot 205 T16 have found their master in the Ford RS200. The RS200 was as well super reliable during that event. The RS200 lead from the beginning and after SS17 Ford had a 1-2. Then in SS18 Stig Blomqvist crashed out following a navigator error, then after SS21 mechanics damaged a wheel bolt on Kalle Grundel’s car during a routine tyre change and couldn’t drill it out in time. In its only attempt the Ford RS200 won the British Rally Championship in the hands of Mark Lovell and the Belgian Championship with Robert Droogmans, both against strongest competition.

As well technically the Ford RS200 was one of the most interesting, most unusual groupB cars. The story wasn’t as simple as mid engined 4x4 turbo. Ford tried to put one on top of that and did so in terms of balance. Their idea was quite curios looking: The engine was mid mounted in front of the rear axle. To counter balance this, the gearbox and centre diff was in transaxle principle mid mounted behind the front axle. The contradiction is transaxle and 4x4 as you not only needed a propshaft between engine and gearbox, but from the gearbox you needed to transmit power back to the rear axle. Therefore indeed the Ford RS200 is the only car ever created having 2 propshafts! This didn’t make it the lightest groupB car, but it certainly was the best handling, best balanced groupB car ever.

Further the Ford RS200 was the only groupB car that didn’t resemble a road car. OK, groupB was far away from road cars anyway, but 205 T16, Delta S4, Metro 6R4, they at least resembled one. The Ford RS200 shared windscreen, door panels and dash panels with the Sierra, but only out of convenience as it was clearly designed to be an exciting sports coupé super car without any relation outside the sport. This is a curiosity as usually through rallying manufacturers try to promote a road car rather than just raise brand awareness. But the Boreham boys had a couple of ideas why they went that route:
- The Ford RS200 was absolutely gorgeous. Pencilled from scratch without road car influence, the whole body shell was designed with aerodynamics and downforce on mind, i.e. the front bonnet air ducts fitting to the front bumper grille and acting like a spoiler. This meant the RS200 never needed the big ugly monster wings as found i.e. on the MG Metro 6R4 or the Audi Sport Quattro S1 (E2). The only thing disturbing the beauty a little was that findings with prototypes 001 & 003 made a roof mounted intercooler necessary.
- Then the new rally car was not subject to any road model facelifts or generation changes. This was probably more important to them compared to other teams, as had the launch of the road Escort Mk3 not put a stop to marketing the Escort Mk2 at the end of 79, the famous RS1800 BDA still had easily 2 or 3 more years in it as a competitive rally car, see i.e. the drivers titles for Ari Vatanen 81 and Walter Röhrl 82 - yes Röhrl was in an Opel, but that was a conventional front engine RWD car too, while Vatanen's title even came in the very Escort that for road marketing was obsolete. Had Ford been able to carry on with the Escort Mk2 like that, the whole time consuming and expensive drama of developing the Mk3 RS1700T into the wrong direction, at a time nobody could know of the impact of the Quattro just yet, would have never happened. As some added irony, this also seems to proof that Ford had rather long term plans with the RS200!

Indeed not only had Ford already been working on an Evo version, but like Opel (Kadett 4S), Lancia (ECV) and Peugeot (405 T16) Ford was already working on a groupS car, and this was still this very RS200! Which adds to the irony of the two sub-paragraphs just above: The biggest change on the groupS car was engine work with the roof radiator moved into the engine bay to lower centre of gravity but also improve the esthetics again. And it shows once again that Ford had long term plans with the RS200.

But work on the groupS car only just had started. Before that there was work on a groupB Evo version as soon as the car had its rally debut. All 20 Evo chassis already existed. Here the biggest change was to increase engine size from a 1.8 turbo to a 2.1 turbo. Which goes back to the subject of the 2 propshafts, giving it this superb balance. There was the minimum weight per engine cc class and the RS200 simply was always going to be a heavy groupB car. Remember the turbo factor applied to engine cc, most groupB cars tried to be in the 2500cc class, i.e. 205 T16 = 1775cc, Escort RS1700T = 1780cc, times 1.4 makes 2492cc. While early RS200 had a 1.8, Ford remembered that the 200 engines for the stillborn RS1700T were already made and were sitting in a corner catching dust and rust. So to not let them go to waste these 200 RS1700T engines were exactly what you found in the RS200, though "cleaning" meant they were slightly bored up to 1803cc. But 1803cc x1.4 = 2524cc, which means from the beginning the RS200 was never in the lower weight class anyway! And they didn't even try it either, RS200 Evo = 2137cc x 1.4 = 2992cc!

And this again meant same weight class, much more power. The next big step for the Evo was a double clutch quick shift gearbox. It seems unbelievable in modern times, but sequential gearboxes were not invented yet in the high power monster groupB times! All groupB cars had H-pattern gearboxes, but the RS200 Evo was to have 300cc more and a double clutch box, which was already in development as the Hewland FGB. And funny Brits, when someone from Boreham asked someone at Hewland what FGB meant, the answer was "F***ing Great Box"! Anyway, you suddenly realise the Ford RS200 that could win stages on its Swedish debut and dominate Acropolis was still a silly little toy compared to the RS200 we would have seen from 1987 onwards!

There really were a few surprising aspects to this car. And the early chassis numbers show nicely the progress of the project: Starting off with the first 6 cars being prototypes, all for a different purpose. 001 as a show car looked very different, 002 was a crash test car, 003 the first rally test car still had a completely different front to the final car and saw many experiments with what became the roof radiator. Of cars 004, 005 & 006 all three were rallied at some point, one actually unintentionally, one surprisingly ended up being the Portugal crash car. While the Swedish debut was with cars 014 & 015, already chassis 012 was changed to E201, the first groupB Evo prototype and by the time groupB was binned already 20 such 2.1litre Evo cars existed and work on a groupS car had started....


Ford RS200 Related Content

Ford RS200 Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Ford RS200 _ (86-86) 420/8000 500/6000 4000.1764.1316 1140 (2.7) 4 (2530)

Random Ford RS200 Photos

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Ford RS200 Results

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

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
3rd. 1986 WRC Swedish Rally K. Grundel B. Melander #8 [UNKNOWN] 5:15:35
5th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain K. Grundel B. Melander #6 [UNKNOWN] 5:29:32

Ford RS200 Retirements

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

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Andervang D. West #18 [UNKNOWN] SS19 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Lovell R. Freeman #12 [UNKNOWN] SS21 fire
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Blomqvist B. Berglund #2 [UNKNOWN] SS27 turbo
Ret. 1986 WRC Acropolis Rally S. Blomqvist B. Berglund #2 [UNKNOWN] SS18 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Acropolis Rally K. Grundel B. Melander #6 [UNKNOWN] SS21 wheel studs
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal J. Santos M. Oliviera #15 [UNKNOWN] SS1 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal K. Grundel B. Melander #10 [UNKNOWN] SS3 boycott
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal S. Blomqvist B. Berglund #4 [UNKNOWN] SS3 boycott
Ret. 1986 WRC Swedish Rally S. Blomqvist B. Berglund #1 [UNKNOWN] SS12 engine
Ret. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Blomqvist B. Berglund #0 [UNKNOWN] SS0 only course opening car for testing