To a rally purist, there are few other words that stir the soul more than Group B. It was the equivalent to the space race of rallying where manufacturers relentlessly kept adding more and more power to make their machinery go faster than everyone else’s. Regarded by most as the ‘Formula One cars for the roads’, the Group B cars were insanely fast with drivers having some massive skills to control their angry 500+ bhp beasts.
While over the years, you might have heard about one of the 200 road-going examples of the Peugeot 205 T16 (Turbo 16) going on sale at one auction or the other, this one here is very special. This car, bearing the serial number C11, was the very car that was entered in the 1985 world championship with none other than Ari Vatanen behind the wheels. Build by the Peugeot Talbot Sport team for the C11 was the part of a three-car team that went on to campaign in the 1985 season, the same year Peugeot swooped up the Drivers’ and Manufacturer’s titles (only to repeat the same results next year again with the evolution model).
During the early years of the short-lived Group B era, the Italians and Germans were at the helm of making the most effective championship-winning machinery. The revolutionary four wheel drive system on the Audi Sport Quattro dominated the Group B rally scene in its early days, followed soon by Lancia with the 037 prototype. It was a time when four wheel drive seemed to be making all the difference between lifting the championship trophy or trying too hard, ending up in a tree. While everyone believed this to be true, one manufacturer thought differently. And their thinking would make all the difference in the coming years of the Group B rally.
By the early mid-80’s, four-wheel drive rally cars had become the norm. The Lancia Delta S4, Ford RS200, Austin-Metro 6R4 and the Audi Quattro S1 were all sending power to all four wheels in various distributions. Quietly under the direction of Jean Todt (who later went on to become the Ferrari Formula One team manager), French contender Peugeot started working on a new layout that would bring more grip to their car on top of the four-wheel drive system. While all the cars till now were front engined cars, Todt took a part inspired from supercars introduced a decade ago, bringing in a layout where the engine would sit in the middle. The result was the Peugeot 205 T16 in 1984, the first mid-engined car to ever grace the world of rallying. After being homologated in 1984 and entering the world championship in 85, the Peugeot 205 remained the undisputed champion till the decommissioning of the Group B rally class after the unfortunate fatality of Lancia driver Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto in 1986.
This one-of-a-kind race bred machine- Peugeot 205 T16 that was the undoubted king of the hill back in the day is up for sale at the RM Sotheby’s Monaco auction that is set to take place on June 14, 2016. To the lucky chap who picks this one up, we envy you.
Photos © Toby Wright for RM Sotheby’s