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GP Week : Issue 154
The NEW French Revolution The sporting development by Peugeot of its 208 range of cars was no surprise; it was another step in the progress in rally sport made by the three French manufacturers Citroen, Peugeot and Renault, as MARTIN HOLMES explains Of the 12 models so far homologated under the current Group R rules, no fewer than seven come from France, with two from Fiat in Italy, and one each from Ford in Britain, Skoda in Czech Republic and one from Honda in Japan. And Peugeot is coming along fast with more new cars! As soon as the Group R rules started taking shape, Citroen led the way. The rules did not become internationally valid until the 2008 season, and until then any prototype Group R designs were allocated positions within the existing Group N or A categories. Citroen produced a C2 car entered in Group A in the Rallye du Var in 2005, a car that was in reality their prototype R2 car which they started marketing the following year. Honda Type R, Renault Clio and Fiat Punto soon followed, with Fiat aiming their car for the new parallel Group R diesel category. When the homologation gates were officially opened at the start of 2008 these four manufacturers were already in business. Easing the new formula into the existing categories was a three-year procedure, leading up to the start of the 2011 season when the new FIA class system (WRC and Classes 1-10) got under way. There was no need to rush into the new designs. In 2009 Peugeot came along with their 1.6 litre turbo version 207RC and Ford with their normally- aspirated 1.6 Fiesta; in 2010 Fiat produced their little sub-size 500 turbo car, Renault homologated two versions of the Twingo in R1 and R2, and Citroen came with a bigger car, the 1.6 turbo DS3. By 2011, the FIA had stopped homologating cars under the old rules. Skoda came along with their Fabia R2 and this year Citroen homologated their DS3 also in normally aspirated R1 form. The concept of Group R itself was expanding. Not only were there new categories for diesel (R3D) and also pure turbo cars (R3T), but R4 was introduced as a stop-gap provision in the hope of injecting new life into the old Class N4 Mitsubishis and Subarus which were finding themselves sidelined by the increasing speed of the S2000 cars. Rules were getting more and more complex, with the each different type of turbo cars having their own specified restrictor size. The nomenclature was by now getting complicated. Cars in Groups R1, R and R3 (the number indicating the degree of permitted modifications) were also given letters – A, B and C according to the engine size class in which they related. When the rules for the new budget four-wheel-drive R4T category were announced, confusion was such that a name change was inevitable. Enter R5 instead of R4T! No cars have yet been homologated in R5 but they are coming, with Peugeot leading the way. And then R-GT is the name given to the new class of Sports Car, in which Lotus plan to be the first. The philosophies behind Group R are clear. After 25 years of successful sport with cars in Groups B, A and N, the world has changed. Group R was instigated in order to constrain the cost of building and running rally cars, especially for privateers. Modified parts are now not to be built to special order; they are taken from standard parts on other models produced by the same or even a different manufacturer. There are many suggested ideas about where the letter ‘R’ came from. I think the FIA selected R for Rally, but chosen names can always been confusing. Back in 1982 they namedGroupNasitwastobea National category. Did you know that Group N was never expected to be an international formula? Times and reasons change. Maybe Group R means something unexpected. Groupe ‘Republique’ perhaps? Stephane Sarazin tests the Peugeot 208 R2 prototype RALLY >>> FEATURE 30 GPWEEK.com //