The story of Ford’s Group B rally programme is an often told one; from the aborted RS1700T to the RS200, the cars, the drivers and, sadly, the results, have passed into the very fabric of the Ford brand in this country. Of course we all know that Group B ended prematurely, with the mix of poor crowd control, unregulated development and huge power making for a toxic and tragic mix. By the end of 1986 it was all over for Ford’s Group B assault, and though the RS200 lived on in Rallycross, it was left to the three-door Sierra Cosworth to fight on in Group A guise. Thing is, what if the category hadn’t ended so early? What if it continued into the ‘90s and proceeded to gather pace in terms of both technology and power, what would Ford have used then?
Of course we’ll never know for sure, but one thing we are certain about is that if things had panned out this way and Ford opted to base a top-line WRC challenger on the third generation Fiesta, then it’d almost certainly look a little like the car you see here. This hyper-aggressive monster is the product of countless hours of hard graft and a lot of sheer, bloody-minded determination.
“I actually bought it last year as a half finished project. It’d been built by DJ Motorsport back in the ‘90s, and it was a rolling shell, one that’d started off as an RS Turbo,’ says the owner, Nigel Howgego
Now taking on someone else’s half-completed project is nothing if not a minefield, but Nigel was confident in both his abilities and the calibre of the work that’d already been carried out, despite the shell having been stood for almost a decade. Older readers might recognise the name DJ Motorsport, as the firm carved out something of a reputation for 4×4 conversions ‘back in the day’. Unlike many of these types of build though, the car Nigel had bought had actually built on a jig, meaning that the RS Turbo chassis and shell had been modified to accept a YB motor and MT75 ‘box – it wasn’t just a Mk3 shell stitched to a chopped Sapphire floorpan! Better still, it actually came with the running gear to get it on the road, all of which meant that it was mere months before Nigel was able to enjoy it, albeit in a fairly limited spec.
“It was making about 330bhp, with standard Sapphire 4×4 diffs, prop and gearbox. It took a lot of work to get the YB running well, and when I did it drove like a powerful RS Turbo, so yea, I wanted a bit more,” chuckles Nigel.
It meant that, just months after buying it, the Mk3 was stripped back to a bare shell and sent off for paint, eventually coming back sporting a gloss black hue. While this was being done, Nigel was building himself one almighty Cosworth engine, with the stated aim of having at least 500bhp at the wheels. This helps explain the car’s formidable specification, with a long-studded 200 block, forged pistons and shot-peened rods and crank, Neil Roper head with Mountune cams, WRC inlet and breather system, and a roller bearing T4 turbo, all managed by a Pectal ECU with custom looms throughout the car. In a regular Sierra that’s a mighty spec, in a custom-built Fiesta with a correspondingly short wheelbase it’s borderline insane! The results speak for themselves as well, with that rock-solid YB making 520bhp at 28psi, though Nigel’s since gone even further;
“We cranked the boost level up to 34PSI for the road, so I think it’s now making approximately 560bhp and 490lb/ft of torque, so yea, I’m happy it’s four wheel drive!”
That grunt is routed through a surprisingly stock transmission, with a regular MT75 ‘box (albeit one with a B&M quick shift) handling cog-swapping duties, plus an OE prop and rear diff and axle. In fact it’s only the front end that’s benefited from the aftermarket, Nigel opting to run a plated differential with toughened driveshafts. This is a setup that’s so far proved its worth, helped along by a highly modified suspension system comprising Rose-jointed TCAs, compression struts, Avo coilovers and a liberal sprinkling of polybushes. It all makes up to one seriously capable (not to mention scary) car, one that oozes Group B-style aggression.
That latent menace is helped along by how this particular Mk3 looks; bulging with wings, scoops, splitters and those imposing arches. Nigel can’t be 100% certain, but he’s fairly sure that the kit now on his car was originally designed by Dimma for a 205, and one can only imagine the amount of cutting and measuring involved in grafting to the Ford all those years ago. Kits have grown to become deeply divisive things, but it’s hard to argue that the one on Nigel’s car isn’t perfectly suited; not only does it contribute to its overall stance and look, it allows him to run suitably wide Uniroyal rubber, essential when you’ve got over 550bhp at your beck and call!
“It’s not a pretty car I’ll admit, but I love how purposeful and aggressive it looks – it’s certainly got a lot of road presence,” Nigel laughs.
The over the top looks of this Mk3 contrast massively with its almost bone stock interior. Where you might expect to find a massive, imposing roll cage you’ll actually find standard RS seats in fantastic condition, and though the dash does sport a smattering of gauges, they’re fairly low key in design.
“It is an RS Turbo at the end of the day, even if it’s one that’s got a lot of Sapphire in it. I wanted at least one element of the car to be a bit more grounded and factory looking, so the standard interior will stay for now,” muses Nigel.
All the power in the world isn’t much good if it only leads you to take an extended tour of the nearest shrubbery, hence why this car boasts some seriously big brakes. The front end is taken care of by calipers liberated from a Mitsubishi Evo 7, plus Wilwood 310mm discs, braided lines and high friction pads, while the rears make do with Hi Spec 300mm discs.
We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Group B had continued into the ‘90s, but we feel confident in saying that the car Nigel’s built is a fitting tribute to that very idea. Not only is it almost as wide as it is long, it’s stupendously powerful, sports an all wheel drive chassis and has both anti-lag and launch control! It is, in short, an automotive hooligan! A car that really doesn’t beat about the bush; it exists to make Porsche 911 drivers blush and mumble something about ‘the wrong conditions,’ before sprinting off into the sunset. There’s even more development planned for the coming months, Nigel having only completed the rebuild a few months ago. A Borg Warner turbo might well find its way into the mix before the 2015 show season, with a 10-second quarter-mile and a 3 second 0-60 time firmly in Nigel’s sights. We can’t wait to see how this re-imagined Group B beast evolves over the coming years!
Joe Stevens built YB with long stud 200 block, forged Cosworth, shot-peened rods, APR bolts, race bearings, baffled sump, lightened and balanced crank, big-wing sump, ported and polished Neil Roper head with heavy duty valve guides and custom profile Mountune cams with solid lifters, 36-1 crank pulley, WRC gaskets, WRC inlet with x8 green injectors, Hart plenum, ported throttle body, WRC breather system, roller bearing T4 turbo with enlarged penny washer, turbo damper, Oppliger Motorsport tubular exhaust manifold, twin-fed block with Mocal oil cooler and remote filter, Hayward & Scott bespoke 3in full exhaust system, twin 044 Bosch fuel pumps, bespoke baffled fuel cell, braided hoses, alloy header tank, silicone hoses, alloy radiator, Pro Alloy fans, Pace RS500 intercooler, T6 2000 Pectel ECU mapped by Field Motorsport, custom loom with 8 injector harness, anti-lag and launch control, four-stage boost control
Power: 560bhp (approx)
Sapphire Cosworth 4X4 MT75 gearbox with heavy duty clutch and B&M quick-shift, Sapphire 4x4e propshaft and 7in rear differential, plated front diff
Front: Avo coilovers adjustable TCAs and compression struts, polybushes, corner weighted, Cosworth PAS
Front: 310mm Wilwood discs, Mitsubishi Evo 7 calipers with high friction pads, Goodridge braided hoses, Cosworth ABS
Rear: Hi Spec 300mm discs, Cosworth calipers with high friction pads, Goodridge hoses
WHEELS & TYRES
17in Rondell alloys with Uniroyal tyres
RS Turbo shell modified by DJ Motorsport for four-wheel drive, Peugeot 205 Dimma Kit modified to fit, painted in gloss black
RS Turbo interior, fire extinguisher, temperature, pressure and boost gauges, Pioneer head unit, Alpine component speakers, MXT rear speakers, Alpine 8in sub
Joe Stevens and Ben for building the engine, Graham Hathaway for setting up the suspension, Ollie Howell for helping me out, Piero at X-Power Engines, Tommy Field at Field Motorsport for mapping it