Rallyday's desire to celebrate notable rally results at all levels and from all eras is well known, and in 2017 the Castle Combe event is pulling out all the stops in order to mark the anniversaries of all manner of rally milestones, including the last ever victory for one of the most beloved Group B cars of all – the Opel Manta 400. Rallyday is attempting to gather together 3 famous 400s, the trio of cars that locked out the podium on the 1987 Welsh Rally (the Manta's last national win), and sight therefore not to be missed for fans of beautiful, old school rally machinery from the sport's golden era.
1987 was a landmark year for rallying at all levels, as it marked the first year of Group A as the WRC's premier category, and also the final year that certain, less extreme Group B machines could be entered into national rally events. For UK audiences this meant a final handful of event appearances for the Opel Manta 400, a car which came to define the British Rally Championship in the mid '80s. The season was rounded off by a sensational 1-2-3 result for the GM cars on the Welsh Rally, bringing the curtain down on this stunning car's glittering works career in the UK.
The three Manta 400s were led home by British Rally Champion and long time Rallyday supporter, Russell Brookes. Brookes' iconic Andrews Heat For Hire livery was the result of one of the longest standing driver-sponsor associations in professional motorsport, so his final victory behind the wheel of GM's Quattro-botherer was a fitting way to round off the car's career. Brookes was followed onto the podium by both Pentti Airikkala and Andrew Wood, the Finn driving a car bedecked another well known and well loved livery, the blue and yellow of British telecom. The sight of all 3 Mantas lined up at the end of the event in front of Cardiff Castle has gone down as one of the defining images of the British Rally Championship.
Despite the high regard the Manta was held in by all sections of the BRC community, nothing dates faster than yesterday's rally car, which explains why the likes of the 400 spent the late '80s and early '90s in something of a rallying limbo – loved, true, but not exactly sought after. Of course this hasn't been the case for many years now, but it did mean that all 3 Mantas were effectively across Europe, meaning Rallyday's planned reunion is perhaps the first time these cars have shared space in a full 3 decades!
Proving that it's nothing if not optimistic when it comes to collating rally cars, Rallyday has also announced that the 3 Welsh cars will be joined by a smattering of other, ex-works 400s, plus a display of notable road cars from the Opel Manta Owners' Club. It promises to be a compelling mix and a sight that's sure to set the heart rate racing amongst those lucky enough to see these amazing cars competing in period.
The prospect of seeing these iconic, proven rally legends in one place for the first time, especially as that place happens to be Rallyday, the UK's premier motorsport showcase, promises to be a mouth-watering one for all fans of Group B. It's an occasion that almost certainly won't be repeated, so make sure you head to Rallyday at Castle Combe on September 23rd.