Ford RS200, One of the Fastest Accelerating Cars Ever

  • Ford RS200
  • Ford RS200
  • Ford RS200
  • Ford RS200

Ford RS200, built from 1984 to 1986, was Ford’s first factory special car dedicated to racing in the infamous WRC Group B. It was sublimely fast, but lacked development and ultimately didn’t perform as well as expected. However, for many years, it was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest accelerating vehicle, with the time it took took to get from 0 to 100 km/h is just over 2 seconds.

a white Ford RS200 in motion, on the street

Ford RS200 on the street

Ford wanted to prove itself in Group B and RS200 was its ticket

The story of RS200 starts in the early ’80s when Ford introduced the Escort Mk3 and started racing in rally championships. Ford was known as a rally-oriented factory which had tasted enormous success with its Escorts in the ’60s and ’70s. However, the Mk3 wasn’t as successful as its predecessors. When FIA allowed manufacturers to produce specials with turbo engines for Group B championship, Ford and other factories jumped to this opportunity and started developing pure rally cars.

Ford RS200, raised bonnet, rear view of the engine

Ford RS200 hid its engine under the rear bonnet

Best racing technology under a lightweight body

The chassis of the new model was completely new and featured an all-wheel drive, something that is a necessity for any serious WRC racer. But the AWD system was complicated since the engine was mounted centrally and the transaxle gearbox in the front, causing the power to be delivered first to the front wheels and then to the rear.

Drawing of a Ford RS200 cutaway

Ford RS200 cutaway

Stable and fast but hard to drive

The suspension had double wishbones on all four corners and double shock absorbers on each wheel. The engine was small for a cylinder unit from an Escort Mk3 RS1700 T but tuned to 1,8 liters and with a power of 250 bhp for the street version and over 450 for racing models. The fiberglass body was designed by Ghia and built by Reliant. The initial testing proved that the car was very stable and fast but the complex drivetrain layout needed some time for adjusting. The engine had a big turbo lag which was common for all turbocharged engines of the era.

Ford RS200 under the hood - engine view

Ford RS200 engine

RS200 was built in 200 road going examples and only a handful of racing cars

The FIA rules asked for a minimum of 200 road going examples, hence the name was chosen. The complete car was introduced in 1984 and started racing in 1985, but with problematic results. From the first races it was obvious that the lack of power in the lower RPM spectrum was keeping the car from achieving its full potential. When the RPMs were low, the engine just didn’t produce enough power and the drivers were slow. However, on high RPMs, the car was extremely fast. But just as was the case with a lot of other Group B cars, it was sometimes too fast for the drivers and was involved in a lot of tragic accidents.

Ford RS200 red and brown interior

Ford RS200 interior

Bad start of its career

In the WRC event in Portugal in 1985, the Ford RS200 crashed and killed 3 spectators apart from injuring many others. A few months later, another one crashed in Germany, killing the co-driver. These crashes, along with a few others, caused the FIA to ban Group B which effectively ended the career of this and many other cars from different manufacturers. The best finish of the RS200 was a third place in Rally Sweden in 1985. Though its potential was enormous, circumstances that led to Group B being banned stopped this potent Ford, although there was enough time for an evolution.

race ready Ford RS200, parked

Race ready Ford RS200

Ford’s most powerful racing car

Before the cancellation, Ford developed and built the RS200 Evolution 2. An improved version of this great Ford didn’t have a chance to compete in WRC. However, it did get an opportunity to prove itself in the Rallycross championships in Europe since the rules of that series allowed Group B cars to be competitive until the early ’90s. This version had over 600bhp and at the time, it was the most powerful Ford racing car. In 1986, the production of the most extreme Ford racing car ended, but it continued to compete in various events.

Ford RS200 police version

Ford RS200 was also used as a police vehicle

Ford RS200 has its place in motorsport history

Today, this Ford is an important part of WRC’s history even though it did not achieve great success on the muddy tracks. It still is a very fast car with a good backstory and was even used by the British police as a highway pursuit vehicle which is an interesting way for any car to finish its career.

Video : Pat Doran in his 900hp Monster Ford RS200 at Goodwood


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