An amazing Group B rally car collection heads to auction

Ben Hsu
·3 min read

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Kicking off in 1982, the Group B era spawned some of the most fearsome rally cars of all time. The technologically advanced pioneers of all-wheel drive and turbocharging defined a time when automakers had carte blanche to build machines with unrestricted power, without the burden of homologating a large number of road cars to qualify. The results were sometimes deadly, leading the FIA to ban the class after 1986.

Now, a collection of seven Group B monsters is headed across the block in Paris as part of the Artcurial auction, held in partnership with France's famed Retromobile show. The show has been delayed to June, however.

There's a 1985 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, one of 20 Evo II models that helped the company achieve two championships in Group B's short run. This particular example was driven by world champion Timo Salonen at the 1986 Swedish Rally, where it finished seventh due to an oil filter seal failure. Bruno Saby subsequently drove it at the 1986 Tour de Corse and Peugeot entered it at the 1986 Acropolis Rally as well. It's still registered to Peugeot Talbot Sport and represents a French technological achievement, according to Artcurial, comparable to the Concorde or TGV train.

Representing Italy are a pair of Lancias in the iconic Martini livery. The Lancia 037 helped Bel Paese clinch its only Group B victory in 1983, after a hard-fought rivalry with Audi. It's one of the few Group B cars that weren't AWD, achieving its success the old-fashioned way, through lightness and superb handling. A second Lancia, a 1986 Delta S4, was the culmination of the Italian firm's later Group B efforts and one of Saby's favorites. While Group B was no more in 1987, the S4 was the predecessor to the Delta Integrale that would dominate WRC from 1987 through 1992.

While the collection also includes greats like a Ford RS200, Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, and MG Metro 6R4, the centerpiece is the Audi Quattro Sport S1. The ultimate Group B machine, it introduced all-wheel-drive and turbocharging to the sport. It also employed the wildest use of wings and air dams to generate downforce. Tunable up to 590 horsepower, it could rocket to 60 mph in about three seconds. The car offered for sale came straight from Ingolstadt, a 1988 model built for the Race of Champions of ex-Group B cars.

The collection was amassed in the late 80s and early 90s, not long after Group B's dissolution. It was built by Michel Hommell, who created the Manoir de l'Automobile museum in Loheac, France, and made a small number of mid-engined sports cars that wore his last name in the 1990s, and Olivier Quesnel, the former head of motorsports at Peugeot and Citroen. The Audi is expected to fetch $1.2 million alone, but to keep the whole set together you'll need — assuming the cars go for their minimum predicted amounts — at least $4.4 million. The auction starts February 5 at 4:00pm in Paris.

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