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The end of Group B

1 year ago

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Hamir Thapar | Young writer


7 February 2023

As it clears the compression, the Lancia regains its composure. Its winged, boxy profile is in full view as it dives into the following corner. Soon the footage cuts to a cluster of roadside trees, within which the vaguest outline of a car can be momentarily made out, only for it to burst into flames almost instantly. As the smoke rises, the fate of those onboard is made chillingly clear by the ashen faces that soon fill the screen.

Brief as it was, that 30-second clip was my first encounter, however remotely, with death. I saw it 25 years after it happened, at which point I was nine years old. I was well aware of the concept of death, but having never lost any family or friends, the idea of someone being here one second and gone the next had never been presented so starkly.

With the passage of time, I’ve come to realise the significance of that footage. For it contained both the tragic passing of two prodigiously talented individuals and the lowest ebb of one of motorsport’s darkest seasons: the 1986 World Rally Championship. The legendary Group B era’s sudden swansong took lives, bent rules, crowned not one but two World Champions and changed the face of rallying forever.

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