One of the great things about Motorsport is the sheer variety of vehicles and categories in which they can compete. With categories to suit everything from an entirely unmodified vehicle (ignoring the compulsory safety additions) to the most extreme examples of purpose-built machines. At the top level there has always been a back and forth push in regulations between governing bodies and the teams competing. Similar to evolution, it is only a matter of time before they come up with a way to get around each new set of regulations, bend those regulations or to be just as quick as before by utilising another ingenious method. An excellent example is the last 25 years of Formula One. We’ve seen high-rise front wings, active suspension, full slicks come and go and Turbochargers come, go and reappear again! Ground effects appeared before being outlawed, the rise of computer control leading to the very controlled use of traction control and stability systems and more recently the KERS systems.
The Nature of the resulting Arms race means that throughout Motorsport history we see spikes where the rules are lax and manufacturers imaginations run wild giving us some truly insane vehicles. The 80’s were prime for this as new technologies emerged quickly and rewarded us with a decade of incredible racing. At the forefront of this was the last years of the Group 5 Sports car category.
Group 5 was a long-lasting series that went through several iterations in its time. Beginning as a class for production touring cars in the 1960’s and growing to include The Group 5 Sports car Championship in the 1970’s, These cars were limited to 5000cc engine capacity with no minimum production number and competed in the World Championship of Makes alongside prototype sports cars and would become the Group C sports cars of the late 1980’s. The Production based class was limited to a smaller 3000cc.
The late 1970’s and early 1980’s gave us some truly off-the-wall production based touring cars, and when we say production based we mean in the loosest sense possible with the rules only requiring the Bonnet, roof and doors to remain unmodified. Group 5 was remarkably similar to the IMSA and Japanese Silhouette series and indeed Group 5 cars did compete in these series. The over exaggerated Boxed guards, ridiculously low splitters and obnoxiously modified Turbocharged power plants rendered the vehicles almost indistinguishable from their road going counterparts. Possible the most famous of Group 5 production cars were the “Moby Dick” Porsche 935(below) and the Zakspeed Ford Capri although entires came from various manufacturers including the popular but lesser known Lancia Beta Montecarlo (above) and Lotus Esprit.
Like Group B cars built for the track they were a cacophony of flames, whistles and bangs and when there is a grid of 30 racing door to door the spectacle cannot be denied. Turbocharging was in its infancy despite being around for many years already and the untameable nature of these laggy turbocharged monsters gave them a certain semblance in the flesh. While there aren’t many “Genuine Article” Group 5 cars around there are a few that call Australia home and see occasional track time and events and displays. If you ever get the opportunity to see one in the flesh we recommend you take it.