Part 5: 1982-1988 Group A years

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1986
1988


In 1982, motorsport was reorganized in a big way. Apart from single-seaters, just 4 types of racing cars were distinguished: Group A, B, C and N. Touring cars were either Group A or N, the latter providing very limited freedom of preparation. Group N really only took off in rallying, for national racing authoroties changed the rules providing a little more space for preparation.

Group A was the successor of the weak Group 2 category. It was based on the "group 1B" rules, which had replaced FIA group 1 in many countries. Unfortunately, although races (notably Spa) and even a European Trophy (coupe de l'avenir) should have had its effect on a single ruleset for Europe, differences between countries stopped any meaningful international competition.

Group A was FIA's answer to this. 5000 cars a year had to be produced (against 1000 for group 2). The modifications on the cars reflected group 1B, but brakes and gearboxes were free, provided they were homologated by the manufacturer (with no minimal number). Engine modifications were limited (exhaust manifold standard, pistons and camshafts free, but valve size and lift were restricted, altough lift was released in 1986). Suspension could be modified, but the mounting points could not be changed. Group A started with the well-known turbo capacity factor of 1,4, changed to 1,7 in 1988, when it was too late already.

An important difference to group 1B was that homologated carburettors, compression ratio (!) etc. were no longer allowed. Since Ford managed to homologate these goodies to the Escort RS 2000 and the Capri 3.0S, these cars were rendered incompetitive overnight.

Like group 2 1976, tyre width and weight was dependant on capacity, this was revised in 1988:

engine size (cc) fuel tank max. tyre width (inch) min. weight (kg)
1982-1987 1988 1982-1987 1988
-1300 80 7,5" 6,5" 720 700
1301-1600 90 8" 7" 800 780
1601-2000 100 9" 8" 880 860
2001-2500 110 10" 9" 960 940
2501-3000 120 10" 9" 1035 1020
3001-3500 120 11" 10" 1110 1100
3501-4000 120 11" 10" 1125 1180
4001-4500 120 12" 11" 1255 1260
4501-5000 120 12" 11" 1325 1340
5000-5500 120 13" 12" 1400 1420
over 5500 cc 120 13" 12" 1400 1500

In 1988 the turbo factor changed to 1.7. Furthermore pre-1988 one was allowed to put rims on the car according to the engine size providing you could fit them on the car. In 1988 that rule was changed so that one was only allowed to add (or decrease) 2” to the homologated width. That’s why the Eggenberger-Sierra’s raced on 10” wide rims in 1987 (homologated with 7” rims), but only 9” in 1988 although the rules still allowed 3.5 litre cars to run 10” rims.

The divisions were 0-1600 cc, 1600-2500 cc and over 2500 cc.

It started like a dream. A touring car like a touring car should look, the BMW 528, won the championship, just like its BMW 1800 grandfather had done in the sixties. But the shape of things to come, the Jaguar XJ-S, already threw a shadow over group A. Although it was unlikely that in any year 5000 Jaguar XJS were produced, the car was homologated. BMW, who had rather raced the 635 CSi, but were sure that it couldn't be homologated anyway, homologated the 635 in 1983. An even more unlikely tourer, the Maserati Biturbo, got its homologation as well.

Another problem was that just 500 cars of an "evolution" type could be homologated, after homologation of the base model. So we were treated to Volvo turbo's with water injection, and a Sierre RS 500 with a big turbo, which made the street version nearly undrivable.

Despite all this, group A brought us great racing, impressive cars and some very heated competition. And Spa was back...


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Frank de Jong
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
frank_de_jong@mac.com