1986 Peugeot 205 T16 E1/E2
We’re talking about the best rally cars of all time. The World Rally Championship (WRC) was never more exciting and chock-full of memorable machinery as it was during the Group B era of the 1980s; a time when the cars were considered more wild and outrageous than their F1 counterparts, coining the phrase “Formula 1 for the forest”.
The Audi quattro started it all off, of course. Lancias added Italian flair and pretenders from Ford, Nissan and MG made a good go of it but, ultimately, none could hold a candle to the most dominant rally car of the WRC’s most storied era, the Peugeot 205 T16.
Here was a package headed up by Peugeot sporting director Jean Todt. Still immensely powerful (375 kW in the evo versions), engineers looked beyond the power-hungry, tail-sliding histrionics of the formula and instead focused on making the T16 light (just 1 000 kg), compact, fleet-footed and – crucial to its success – easy to drive. While other drivers would alight from their quattros and O37s allegedly wideeyed and shaking with adrenaline, the 1985 world champion Timo Salonen, ’86 world champion Juha Kankkunen and immensely talented Ari Vatanen could drive their T16s to the maximum with undue risk.
The mid-engined, turbocharged, four-wheel-drive car debuted in Corsica in 1984 and took just three rallies to become a winner. From there, it became the yardstick for all manufacturers. Power steering was added at the end of ’84 along with more power and an innovative anti-lag system thanks to Peugeot’s F1 know-how.
The little Peugeot would become the most successful Group B WRC rally car ever with 16 victories and two manufacturer and driver world championships. Dynamite comes in small packages.