Words and pictures: Robb Pritchard
A staggering 64 Group B rally cars popped and banged through the Eifel mountains on 21-23 July in what has been hailed as the largest gathering of the rally cars since their competition heyday. In total, more than 150 classic racers took part in the Eifel Rallye Festival.
Dozens of Group B rally cars and homologation-correct replicas took over the picturesque town of Daun, nestled in the beautiful Eifel mountains, with Peugeot 205 T16s, Lancia 037s and the awesome S4s, Ford RS200s and MG Metro 6R4s taking to the demonstration stage.
A number of unique machines such as Wolf-Dieter Ihle's Porsche 953 from the 1984 Dakar rally – the only 4x4 competition Porsche not in a museum – and the incredible Ford RS1700T – now almost fully restored – also took part.
There were even some cars form the stillborn Group S which never saw action on a WRC stage, including the Toyota 222D, John Wheeler's recently completed Evolution RS200 and the absolutely incredible Group S Audi concept, which looked more suited to Le Mans than Clocaenog.
Legendary drivers from the height of the sport were also present with Walter Rohrl driving a selection of his old Porsches and Opels, and signing enough miniature cars and programs that his hand much have been aching. Stig Blomqvist got behind the wheel of his Ford Sierra Cosworth from the 1988 season while Miki Biasion drove the same Martini-liveried Lancia Delta S4 he campaigned in 1986. Although the stages weren't timed, the combination of gifted drivers and special cars proved a delight to the crowds, with incessant rain adding to the event’s authenticity.
Highlights from the three days of action included a 1965 Mercedes AMG 300SE which took part in the 1963 Acropolis Rally and won the 1999 Panamericana. There were plenty of Mk2 Escorts, too, the best of which was Hannu Mikkola's original Eaton Yale sponsored car. Of the replicas, Peter Jager's Ari Vatanen 1982 Manx Rally car excited the crowds, as did Max Schneider, who was throwing around his stunning Ferrari 308GTB, a replica of Jean-Claude Andruet's car from 1981 made to very accurate Group 4 regulations.
Werner Staab was in a Simo Lampinen Saab 96 that more than lived up to its sideways reputation. It was joined by the world's only gravel-spec BMW 635CSi – campaigned by Claus-Peter Werner – and not one but two Audi S2 Pikes Peak replicas.
Cord Monchmeyer had Hannu Mikkola's Toyota Corolla which the Finn drove to victory in the 1975 1000 Lakes Rally, while multiple German rally champion Matthias Kahle drove his 1977 Skoda 130 RS.