The primary Ford RS200 to go away Boreham destined for privateer use has fairly a story to inform. Quick Ford reveals the total story.
Function from Quick Ford journal. Phrases and photographs: Robb Pritchard.
With greater than 40 authentic ex-works rally automobiles from the Seventies to 2010, Jiri Jirovec has what’s unofficially the most important non-public assortment of race and rally automobiles on the planet. The large, purpose-built warehouse within the Czech Republic just isn’t open to the general public, however we now have been given privileged entry to wander round slack-jawed to stare appreciatively at such jewels as 4 ex-McRae WRC Focuses, Malcolm Wilson’s 1993 Group-A Escort Cosworth, and a Sierra that got here near profitable the DTM.
This month we have a look at the legendary Ford RS200 in his epic assortment.
If, by some likelihood you don’t know what a Ford RS200 is, don’t be fooled by its harmless frog-like eyes and the lovable little bunny ears; it’s a actual beast. The truth that it was the quickest accelerating manufacturing highway automotive for an unbelievable 12 years is only a footnote, because it was created for the only goal of dominating the world of rallying.
Delayed by the aborted RS1700T venture, the all-out competitors automotive was late on the scene in comparison with rivals from Peugeot and Lancia, and with simply 4 rallies entered, 1986 was speculated to be its improvement 12 months. The absolutely fettled model was anticipated to excel in 1987 however ended up being rendered out of date when the Group B monsters had been abruptly banned in favour of the a lot safer, however much less spectacular, Group A category.
Group B was, and nonetheless is, wildly common as the principles allowed virtually something to be rallied, with the one main proviso that 200 equivalent highway automobiles needed to be produced. This homologation course of protected the large producers from being embarrassed by small workshops that would produce a world-class rally automotive however didn’t have the sources to supply 200 highway automobiles.
Finally all RS200s had been bought, both to those that needed a supercar for the highway, or for privateers to make use of in rallying and rallycross.
The very first Ford RS200 to go away Ford’s plant in Boreham into the fingers of a privateer was chassis 082. The fortunate proprietor was Jeff Churchill, a British clubman driver and proprietor of Ford-affiliated Jeff Churchill Motorsports.
Born in South Wales, Jeff started his 30-year rallying profession within the early Sixties, dipping his toe into native Welsh occasions in a Cortina earlier than upgrading to a Mk1 Escort Twin Cam after which an RS1600 till the mid-Seventies.
For the following ten years he competed solely in Mk2 RS1800s, typically ex-works examples from Boreham’s workshop. He picked up just a few wins and completed fourth general within the 1981 UK nationwide championship.
His day job was working a big automotive and van rental fleet in South Wales, and he took the identical marketing strategy to the forests in order that it was by his rental rally automobiles that his title is most well-known.
The fleet of Mk2 Escorts underneath the JC Motorsports banner within the late Seventies and early Eighties included some now priceless Escorts. Bjorn Waldergaard’s 1979 world championship winner, Roger Clark’s well-known 1976 RAC winner (POO 505R), and the ex-Peter Clarke Group 4 automotive (to be featured right here quickly) had been all automobiles with a confirmed pedigree obtainable for rent. Notable drivers in his automobiles included Patrick Snijers and Robert Droogmans, each of whom received rallies within the hotly contested Belgian rally championship in 1981 and ‘83.
A Ford man since his formative expertise within the Welsh forests, and with the venerable Escort turning into much less and fewer aggressive in opposition to the brand new 4×4 equipment making its means onto the nationwide scene, for 1986 Churchill was on the very entrance of the queue for one in every of Ford’s new Group B monsters.
Chassis 082 was initially delivered to Jeff as an ordinary Ford RS200 with the conversion package to show it into a correct rally automotive, though one far wanting the total works spec. The highway automobiles had totally different suspension from the works variations, with a lot softer rubberised connections, whereas the motorsport variations had rose joints and adjustable roll bars. Different upgrades included foam-filled gas tanks, stronger suspension arms, competitors clutch, fireplace extinguishers, competitors seats and belts, and underbody guards.
The largest distinction was in energy, although. No works rally or race crew actually enjoys being overwhelmed by their rivals, however worse could be getting proven up by a privateer crew working the identical automotive. In order that this might by no means occur, the EEC-IV digital administration system capped the automotive at a most of 350bhp. This was 80bhp down on the works automobiles, which had Bosch Motorsports Motronic MS90 ECUs. Relying on turbo increase ranges, these put out 430bhp.
Jeff’s first occasion within the new automotive was the 1986 Worldwide Welsh Rally, the place he ran because the course automotive to get a chance to get used to the additional energy and four-wheel-drive structure. It was the Nationwide Championship occasions the place he was probably to be discovered, although. These had been barely much less prestigious than the British Open Championship, however open to extra attention-grabbing automobiles that didn’t must fulfil strict homologation necessities. Clubman rallying within the Eighties noticed such Ford creations because the 4×4 RED Sierras and the RWD (and occasional 4×4) Mk3 Escorts ready by Gartrac. Opel Manta 400s, Nissan 240 RSs and the ever present MG Metro 6R4s additionally crammed the leaderboards.
Jeff ran chassis 082 in Ford Motorsport livery, however in a novel pink reasonably than the manufacturing unit blue. However whereas the automotive might need regarded spectacular, Jeff didn’t precisely set the levels alight in it. In 1986, sixth on the Bridgend Phases was the one top-20 end.
The next 12 months noticed a slight enchancment when three retirements had been tempered with a win within the clubman class of the Welsh Rally. However whereas chassis 082 was properly sorted within the rallies, the automotive’s one brush with catastrophe got here not on a stage, however behind trailer. Karl Davies, a part of Jeff’s JC Motorsport crew from 1981 till 1986, recounts how Jeff’s father Billy crashed the van carrying the RS200, placing the automotive and trailer on its aspect on the M50 motorway. Amazingly, chassis 082 was undamaged, and so they pushed the trailer again onto its wheels and drove the Ford RS200 dwelling.
Jeff campaigned chassis 082 for 2 years, and its aggressive life completed on the finish of 1987. It handed by just a few fingers through the years, none of whom ever competed in it. When it was practically 20 years previous, it had a nut-and-bolt rebuild by the hands of famend RS200 skilled Garry Campbell. This included some improved components to deliver it nearer to full Group B specification, resembling energy steering, six-pot brakes, Evo radiator with twin followers and an oil cooler.
And after being saved in Germany for just a few years, in 2013 it got here to Jiri’s assortment.
With just a few of its earlier house owners altering particulars through the years, chassis 082 was removed from road-car spec, but wasn’t in good authentic Group B situation both. Jiri has reasonably stringent requirements for the automobiles in his assortment, and if you’ll discover somebody to examine an RS200’s authenticity, there’s one man whose opinion is value greater than most. John Wheeler is without doubt one of the males answerable for bringing the venture to actuality out of the ashes of the stillborn RS1700T venture, and it was him who Jiri introduced in to present it a radical inspection.
John explains that one other important distinction between the rally and highway variations was the distinctive gearbox; the highway automobiles had been fitted with a lot easier-to-use synchromesh gears with wider ratios, whereas the few constructed as rally automobiles had a lot quicker-changing dog-engagement variations with a lot shorter ratios. Subsequently, most RS200s have been fitted with far more user-friendly models developed by Xtrac for rallycross, and the few automobiles with provenance are saved pristine in collections.
Which means authentic works-spec gearbox components are significantly laborious to seek out. John’s well-known Group S Evolution model is now fitted with a Quaife six-speed sequential ’field, so he agreed to promote Jiri the unique gear set from his personal automotive. The magnesium casings, differentials and viscous couplings are all the identical, so it was only a case of putting in the gears.
Chassis 082 may not have the historical past of a few of its brethren, and John identified just a few different minor particulars that weren’t fairly period-correct, however Jiri diligently modified every little thing he might in order that 082 is as near good Group B spec because it’s potential to get.
Jiri selected to place it within the Mark Lovell/Roger Freeman livery as a result of, in addition to being a tribute, it was one in every of solely two RS200s ever to win a rally championship for Ford. The opposite was Robert Droogmans within the 1986 Belgian Rally Championship, however Jiri already has two Droogmans’s Fords in his assortment, so opted for the British blue-and-white color scheme for this one.
It could be residing in an epic assortment, however chassis 082 nonetheless does get out to stretch its legs every so often. It was final seen in motion on the favored Eifel Rally Competition in Germany in 2016, the place Jiri obtained to check this monster on a correct rally stage. With over 40 years’ expertise in rallies, hillclimbs and rallycross, Jiri’s no stranger to a fast automotive, however the Ford RS200 nonetheless places an enormous smile on his face.
It’s about time it got here out once more for one more demo; we’d like to see it in motion.