Startling. That was the World Rally Championship performance of Walter Röhrl and Ari Vatanen in the early 1982s. In fact, a revolution took place during that period, because Audi shook up the rally field technically with the four-wheel drive quattros, it was on the verge of setting new standards. Röhrl world champion in 1983, and Vatanen lost everything in 400 in the toughest rally of all - the Marlboro Safari rally in Africa. Not with a quattro, but with the rear-wheel drive Opel Ascona XNUMX. The quattros were very embarrassed.
In the 1980 and 1981 seasons, Opel took fifth and fourth place respectively in the manufacturers' championship, with some successes in individual rallies. In addition, it was remarkable that in 1981 an Opel appeared only seven times at the start, and the Germans just missed the podium. For 1982, Walter Röhrl came back to his old love. In 1980 he had already become world champion with the Fiat 131 Abarth. And earlier, the German had made his name on the competition circuit with the Opel Ascona A, still one of his favorite cars.
Also in 1982 WRC with the Opel Ascona 400
The tool used by the manufacturer with the Blitz (and then GM subsidiary) in 1982 was - as in the 1980 and 1981 seasons - the Opel Ascona 400, a pure rear-wheel drive. The Opel Ascona 400 was the result of a project that started in 1979 and took its name from the number of units required for homologation. Irmscher and Cosworth were hired for the creation of Opel's Group 4 car.
Diesel crankshaft and 16 valves Cosworthkop
Cosworth provided an 16 valve crossflow head with two overhead camshafts, in addition an 2.0E block was eventually used and the crankshaft of the 2.3 Opel diesel (!) Used to provide additional capacity and capacity. It eventually resulted in an 2.4 engine that could be adjusted for rally purposes and in such a way that the power could rise to well above the 250 PK. It is precisely the use of existing and more or less proven Opel technology that would later contribute to reliability under the highest possible load. Irmscher also contributed a stone to the Ascona 400, and took care of the weight-saving components (bodywork) and the rally interior. Furthermore, the Ascona 400, for example, received a five-speed gearbox from Getrag, and a rigid axle with four arms along the rear.
World champion thanks to multiple quality
Walter Röhrl won (with navigator Christian Geistdörfer) two WRC rallies during the 1982 season. First he won the Monte Carlo Rally with the Ascona 400 and repeated that feat during the Ivory Coast rally. In the latter victory, in the penultimate race of the 1982 WRC season, he also secured the world title after a constant season that was mainly decided by the consistent Opel quality and the constant performance of the driver himself.
Inhibiting lead through technology
Michelle Mouton - or rather Audi- was favorite for the victory in 1982. The rushed fame was not realized. Mouton did not reach the finish four times. Colleague quattro driver Mikkola did not make it to the finish line seven times in that season. The fame was Audi ahead, but impressive performances were often interspersed with a regular lack of reliability. Technology advance. Incidentally, Walter Röhrl said in his very own person that the ingenious quattro drive was ultimately an important development for rallying, a breakthrough. Remarkable: Opel also achieved the most points as a constructor in 1982, but because only the best seven results were included in the championship, Audi still won (and based on very strange rules) that title.
A fitting farewell to the Ascona 400: Vatanen wins in Africa
A year later Lancia (with Röhrl among others) won the manufacturer's title, and Hannu Mikkola took the driver's title with… the Audi quattro. Opel came third in the ranks of the manufacturers in 1983, but thanks to Ari Vatanen and Terry Harryman was responsible for the best victory of the season: the Marlboro Safari Rally was won. In fact - as Vatanen recently told us in Portugal - it was a huge achievement for the quattro violence and the bloody dead Lancia in the longest and most intensive rally of the season (5.000 kilometers!).
Great farewell for the Ascona 400
Meanwhile, Opel's successor Manta 400 was ready to take over. It was therefore wonderful that the WRC farewell rally WRC ended with the Opel Ascona 400 winning. That was a nice ending for the Ascona 400. A farewell that resulted in one of the most beautiful victories of Ari Vatanen, who recently honored Opel in Portugal: with a Manta 400.