While Ford’s contribution to the Rally Car world might have been far ahead of its time, the Group B Ford RS200 still retains one of the most interesting histories of any car constructed by this automotive legend.
Though the history of this car is marred with pratfalls and tragedy, there remains no doubt in the mind of any sports or rally call enthusiast the Ford RS200 is a vehicle that will go down in the annals of automotive history. It will always be remembered as part of the rally car supergroup that was years, if not decades ahead of its time.
The RS200: Ford’s Contribution to Rally Group B
Ford’s goal in creating this rally car was for the automotive great to once and for all be able to be a real competitor in the rally car world. The RS200 was intended to give the tops in the Rally car industry like Audi, Subaru, Renault, and Lancia a run for their money and make them sing for their supper.
Built like no Ford before or since, the layman could not even recognize the RS200 as a design from the Detroit car manufacture. And that was the purpose. It wasn’t even manufactured in America, and it possessed features that could not be found on any other vehicle on the market. Period.
Though the original concept for the RS200 was derived from an ‘83 Escort, that version never came to fruition. Ford knew that when the time came, they would have to build at least 200 street-legal versions of the RS200 for it to qualify for the Rally races. While it intended to create many more RS200s than that to ride on the open road, that never happened, but they did make enough to qualify.
Too Fast, Too Furious
Once the RS200 hit the road in the mid-80s, it quickly became evident that this little dude packed a punch not many were prepared to handle. Its lightweight, fiberglass body, its 1.8 turbocharged Cosworth mid-mounted engine, and 600 horsepower that no one was ready for, made this a ride that, if you lived through it, you would have quite the tale to tell.
The truth of the matter was the car was just too quick to handle. It held the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest car in the world for years, reaching 0 to 60 in an astounding 2 seconds. Even professional drivers met horrific ends behind the wheel of this car.
Many rally car enthusiasts believe that the RS200 could be the most incredible vehicle ever to hit the track. However, lack of development and the need to get the car up and running as fast as possible, in more ways than one, was the ultimate demise of something that could have gone far beyond legendary.
1986: The Year that Could Have Been
The RS200 made its Rally debut in 1986, and the potential for greatness was there. However, it was simply not made to be.
In the 1986 Rally Portugal, a tragedy beyond anything expected struck, and the RS200 was the star of the ill-fated show.
Behind the wheel of an RS200, driver Joaquim Santos lost control of the vehicle and flew into a crowd of spectators, killing three. There was absolutely nothing Ford could do to come back from this tragic incident, and the dream of the RS200 Rally car was virtually dead in the water.
Though the car did place well later that year in a few other rallycross and the Pikes Peak hill climb, those victories could not overshadow the deaths in Portugal or the lack of love that the public showed for the car that seemed to possess a mind of its own.
Another factor that did not help keep the RS200 on the road was that it was more expensive than a Ferrari. Ford made the fateful decision to discontinue the car basically because attempts to reconfigure it were simply more trouble than it was worth, so the short-lived RS200 came to an end.
The History of the Ford RS200: The Rally Car that Could Have Changed the Game
While Ford had the best of intentions when it went to the drawing board to create its super Rally Car, the RS200, it was doomed from the start. The pressure to get a Rally car on the track as fast as possible did not allow makers to work out enough of the kinks for the car ever truly to live up to its potential.
Though it was a car that broke all the rules and took Ford to places it had never seen before nor has ever seen since, the RS200 was just too far ahead of its time.
Through tragedy and performance that was just too much to handle, the RS200 will go down as a rally car that could have changed the game. But sometimes just aren’t meant to be changed.