1987 WRC Season Commentary

1987 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

The event calendar is once again in its traditional order, although the Olympus Rally in the USA received a boost in being moved to a summer date as round 7 and counting to the manufacturer WRC. Alongside the Bandama Rally it is the Rally NZ not to count for the manufacturer WRC this year. However the inclusion to the makes WRC failed to improve the case of Rally Olympus. Best 7 results are counted.

The new rules seem to cause a lot of confusion. For the makes points tables the first groupA season starts off with a major scandal all on Rallye Monte Carlo already, at least from Ford's point of view.
The groupA Lancia Delta is visibly different from its road car version. All teams complain, protests are coming in, but nothing is done. Curious bureaucracy: upon inspection the FIA finds that the groupA Lancias were exactly according to the homologation papers, but the road cars were not. Such ruling that all those 5,000 road cars were illegal and if the competition cars were not illegal the team couldn't be penalised.
With Mazda the FIA has been stricter, if only slightly and fair. Because then it turns out Mazda's 5,000 base cars for groupA homologation included saloon versions. Such the demanded 5,000 base cars for the version their groupA car was had never been built, despite the groupA Mazda 323 4WD Turbo being the only front line groupA car that had been around before this season. In fact the Mazda even debuted already exactly a year earlier in Monte Carlo 1986! Mazda can keep their results and carry on competing, but have to built and present the remaing road cars.
That Mazda had been granted such exception was a bitter pill for Ford. Because the Mazda also competed in RAC 1986, where Ford had to run their Sierra Cosworth in groupB for not having built sufficient numbers of road cars yet. The scandal culminates in the disqualification of Stig Blomqvist's Sierra XR4x4 from 4th place in Monte Carlo 1987. The car was homologated with a Bosch injection system, but the item on the car displayed Lucas stickers. The Lucas unit is a Bosch license product and the Lucas sticker means as much as "Bosch UK". There is no difference bar the badge - a very, very, very minor offense compared to Mazda and Lancia!

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With the new group A regulations, at first manufacturer involvement seemed to be alright. But for everybody who expected the new formula to be safer and more affordable, at least the later part proved wrong as soon as the first event.

Only Lancia had a suitably sized car combining 4x4 and 2.0 turbo. The Mazda only had a 1600cc turbo and such was underpowered, Audi had the 200 Turbo Quattro that was too big and heavy or the Coupé Quattro or 90 Quattro that had no turbo. Ford had the choice of the Sierra Cosworth without 4x4 or the Sierra XR4x4 without turbo, the Renault R11 Turbo was powerful but not 4x4, the Volkswagen had neither 4x4 nor turbo .....

The list goes on, and while Peugeot found other events to run their Group B car, it soon became clear that none of the other European manufacturers was interested enough to build a homologation special of 5000 units per year as well, and for the time being the WRC became a dull affair as no challenge for Lancia was in sight.

One exception was the Tour de Corse 1987. The all asphalt event was where the Sierra Cosworth was meant to shine. But Ford lost Kalle Grundel on the first stage with a crash and immediately after they lost Stig Blomqvist with a repeat of the Safari ECU problem, that was identified as due to the Safari heat – which obviously it wasn’t. Nobody had the privately Prodrive prepared BMW M3 on their cards, because these cars already competed on the Circuit of Ireland and French Alpine rallies and were full of niggling problems. How could you possibly expect on such a big event the M3 being not only all the sudden trouble free, but dominating the time sheets, with a local driver, Bernard Beguin, at that! However with no turbo and no 4x4 this remained a one-off victory.

We have a double curiosity to report from later in the 1987 season. Both from the same event involving the same team and a curiosity with a tragic outcome. On Bandama 1987 Toyota entered 2 versions of their Supra model: Robin Ulyate driving the 3.0i, as run in the Safari earlier this season, while Björn Waldegaard and Lars-Erik Torph debuted the turbo version of the same car. This version is a curiosity, because as a 3000cc 6-cylinder turbo in groupA trim this car was to deliver 400BHP. Toyota never made a secret of this fact and even Toyota themselves were surprised the FIA granted them the homologation so shortly after the 300BHP limit was introduced.

While Waldegaard was leading the debut event of the Supra 3.0turbo, the team was involved in a freak accident that led them to withdraw from the event. The team management Cessna plane crashed claiming the lifes of team manager Henry Liddon and his adjutant Nigel Harris. Both were icons in rally history. Henry Liddon was one of the most prominent navigators of the 1970s, mainly sitting alongside Timo Mäkinen, Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Ove Andersson. Nigel Harris' biography reads shorter, but is more recent, being the navigator to Malcolm Wilson in the group B years.

In this event Volkswagen score their only WRC victory to date, after all other teams (bar Mehta) withdraw in respect of Henry Liddon's and Nigel Harris' freak death.
 

1987 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Lancia Lancia, 1987 - Martini Racing Lancia Abarth : 1st on 140 points.
 

 

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Audi Audi, 1987 - HB Audi Team : 2nd on 82 points.
 

 

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Renault Renault, 1987 - Régie Renault : 3rd on 71 points.
 

 

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Volkswagen Volkswagen, 1987 - Volkswagen Motorsport : 4th on 64 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 1987 - Texaco Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 5th on 62 points.
 

 

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Mazda Mazda, 1987 - MRT Mazda Rally Team Europe : 6th on 52 points.
 

 

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Toyota Toyota, 1987 - TTE : 7th on 22 points.
 

 

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BMW BMW, 1987 - Rothmans BMW Prodrive : 8th on 20 points.
 

 

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Opel Opel, 1987 - GM Euro Dealers : 9th on 16 points.
 

 

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Subaru Subaru, 1987 - STI Nurijuki Koseki : 10th on 11 points.
 

 

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Nissan Nissan, 1987 - Nismo : 11th on 9 points.
 

 

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