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Rallye Sport Series


Rallye EscortFords all new Escort had had a difficult arrival. Despite being one of the most expensive cars the company had developed, it had not been well received initially. The RS2000 came along in 1991, sometime after the release of the base models, and was given much higher praise than other Escorts. However, the new car still didn’t have many friends in the automotive world. To help remedy this, Ford decided to do what many other manufacturers had done to boost the appeal of their new model – start a one make race series for it! Somewhat forgotten now; the Rallye Sport Series ran in 1992 and 1993 and was solely for the new RS2000. The cars were kept as simple as possible, and it was to cover a wide variety of disciplines in order to show off the best the new RS Escort had to offer.


The series was co-ordinated by Stuart McCrudden, who had been heavily involved with Fiesta Championships of old, and he was there to ensure the cars were developed to a suitable standard to Andy Gough Millbrook 1993enable them to compete in all disciplines, as well as ensuring they were evenly matched and no one could gain a performance advantage with some secret modifications. Unlike modern single-make series’ the Rallye Sport Series covered a variety of competition types, seven in all, meaning a whole raft of challenges for drivers. Each car was to be supported by an RS dealer, with sponsorship from external sources to help cover the running costs. Substantial prizes were on offer, with a cash prize fund of £50,000 available, and the series winner receiving a brand new RS2000.


In order to keep it affordable and competitive, the cars were kept as basic as possible; being loosely based on international Group N specifications. This meant uprated dampers from Bilstein, revised front top mounts and stronger suspension bushes. The engine and gearbox remained standard with the exception of a Quaife differential. Other changes were safety related; with a Safety Devices roll cage (including front and rear strut braces), competition seats, fire extinguishers, cut off switches and all the usual safety gear.  The big difference to your average racing car was the full interior being retained, with the rear diagonal of the roll cage being removable to allow rear seat use. The car was developed with the ethos that it could be raced at the weekend and then take the kids to school on a Monday morning. The series gained sponsorship from Mobil1, and Hella provided spot lamps for rally events. BFGoodrich provided the control tyres and, to ensure fair play, the MSA could check and switch out ECUs on request to prevent temptation for performance enhancing “chips”.


Although the series was intended for amateurs to go out and have some fun of a weekend, several famous faces made appearances throughout. Twice British Rally Champion, Dai Llewellin drove the Bridgend Ford backed car in the very first event at Brands Hatch, with Alister McRae also appearing in it later. Cars and Car Conversions magazine also entered their own car into the series. Other famous faces included motoring journalist Tony Dron, future WRC champion, Richard Burns, with Tiff Needell and Tony Mason from BBC Top Gear also appearing and scoring a class win in the Tour of Cornwall rally, the first ever rally win for the new RS2000; truly a taste of things to come.


David Winstanley Stafford Stages 1993The series only ran for two years, with Ian Gwynne winning both years in the Hartford Ford backed car. Since then, most of the cars have disappeared. Some have been spotted competing in rallies since the end of the series, but most are assumed dead now. The last known survivor, the Bridgend Ford/Shell backed car, has recently arrived on the RS2000 16v owner’s forum and is currently being restored and used as a stage rally car. If anyone has details of any other surviving cars, or even the series itself, please contact us, as information is something of a rarity now!