As the original “hot hatch”, it’s not much of a surprise that the Mk.1 GTi is also a popular choice as a race car. Stripped out and stiffened up, these pocket rockets get even more potent around a track and are very entertaining to drive. Best of all, there’s a serious aftermarket community that supports them and they’re quite economical to run compared to some of their other German brethren. While they’re a bit long in the tooth, the GTis are still winning three decades on and still look great. Today I’ve got two different track-oriented GTis to chose from – from mild to wild. Let’s start with the more streetable version:
All posts in Motorsport Mondays
Wondering what a SAAB 96 is doing here? Well, here’s a little known fact: the vaunted Audi Quattro won Rally Monte Carlo once; the SAAB 96 won it twice. But there was not much snow there, you say? Okay, how about Rally Sweden, where the 96 equaled the Quattro’s 4 victories? Still not convinced? How about the RAC Rally in Great Britain? Sure, the Audi won it three years on the trot – 1981, 1982 and 1983 – but then, so did the SAAB, in 1960, 1961 and 1962, with two more victories that followed. But great names drove the Audi, you say. Names like Stig Blomqvist Per Ekland, perhaps? Yup, they drove for the Swedes, too. But beyond the wins, there was something that was just neat and quirky about the 96; an idea that would see evolution right through the takeover of SAAB by General Motors. They always did things differently, and you know what? It worked, and we liked it, so today let’s look at a Swedish neighbor:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1970 Saab 96 Rally on eBay
Let’s be honest; racing – especially at a high level – isn’t cheap. Heck, even running track days in a non-competition car isn’t cheap. For those that go to track days, a cycle usually occurs; they buy a “fast” car, go to the track, and fairly quickly realize it’s not as fast as they thought it was. Then years of modifying an inherently flawed chassis and ruining it occurs, until the owner has both a car which is no longer good on the road and which still isn’t incredible on the track. Frustrated, they sell that car and buy a purpose-built race car for a large sum of money and proceed to blow everyone out of the water, causing the other trackphiles to modify their cars to keep up…you get the point. Now, enter the world of Porsches and you’re taking already very fast cars and making them even faster – and much more expensive. Trick out a new GT3 and you’re looking at a somewhat fragile car that will set you back $200,000. While it would undoubtedly be fast, it wouldn’t be in the same league as today’s purpose-built tube frame 600 horsepower monster – the Ultima GTR:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: Ultima GTR on eBay
Homologation for motorsport is nothing new, but it’s uncommon that a vehicle will make the transition into multiple race series. Mercedes-Benz had intentions of rally competition with the 190E when it was introduced in the early 1980s, but, as they say, life is timing. With the Audi Quattro lighting up the World Rally scene, Mercedes became a bit gun shy of the proposition. Instead, they decided to go racing in the newly devised Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (German Touring Car) race series. The first years of this series were legendary, with Mercedes going head to head with E30 BMW M3s on the track in some epic battles.
The two competition 190Es we’ll take a look at today were intended for two very different race series. The first 190E we’ll take a look at is for sale in Holland and was intended for the rally circuit.
Click for more details: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Rallye on Mobile.de
For German car fans, Porsche so defined endurance motorsports that BMWs serious efforts in the late 1970s and early 1980s often go overlooked. But if you really wanted to go racing with the big boys in the 1980s and the premium rides from Zuffenhausen were out of your reach, you might just have looked towards March engineering for the solution. March was cutting edge then, a staple in the 1970s F1 scene with some unorthodox designs. With the new prototype categories in the 1980s, March produced a series of prototypes that were developed out of a customer BMW M1 that March modified. After some development, the March 83G and later 86G proved not particularly competitive to the much more highly developed 956/962s, but did win the 1984 Daytona 24hrs with Andial Porsche power. BMW also signed up with March for a run at IMSA GTP with a development of the 320i Turbo Group 5 and Formula 1 engine producing up to a reported 800 horsepower. In qualifying trim for Formula 1, these M12/13 motors could twist around 1,400 horsepower out of that small displacement. With Formula 1 and sports car racing legends David Hobbs and John Watson amongst the ranks of drivers, it looked like a sure bet for some wins. It was for naught, though, as Porsche and later Nissan and Toyota dominated IMSA into the 1990s. BMWs efforts are nearly forgotten, and that spells value in the used prototype market today: