In motorsport it’s harder staying at the top then getting there, and Ford learned this lesson the hard way.
Following on from the Escort’s dominance of rallying throughout the Seventies, Ford had a tough act to follow, made tougher by the fact the company ushered in the Eighties with the third-generation 1980 Escort in a hatchback body style and with front-wheel drive.
Ford knew front-wheel drive would be no good against the opposition, and started going about its Group B plan with a custom rear-wheel drive chassis and a Frankenstein Mk3 Escort body on top of it all.
For the power, the engineers turned to a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit that could stay with the rest, with over 300 horsepower on tap. Ford called this swollen, monster Escort, the RS1700T.
By 1982 Ford had a car ready to test, and the RS1700T did well, except that pesky Ferdinand Piëch and the Audi quattro got in the way. Ingolstadt’s four-wheel drive coupe was starting to come together once the drivers figured out how to handle the chronic under-steer with left-foot braking, and suddenly rear-wheel drive was antiquated. Just as it was time to hit the rally stages proper, the Ford bosses pulled the plug on the RS1700T announcing that four-wheel drive was the way to go.
We all know how that saga ended — Ford poured resources into developing an all new prototype rally car, the mid-engined, four-wheel drive RS200, which arrived too late to the Group B scene to make any sort of mark as the series was banned in 1986 due to too many fatalities.
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