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March 10, 2023

1987 WTCC: the special homologations genesis

The first great battle between the iconic touring cars of the eighties? Due to the success of the Tourism divisions that abounded in Europe, Asia and Australia, the F.I.A. decided to create a world category. The year was 1987 and it anticipated the golden era of special homologations after Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz confirmed their participation in the World Touring Car Championship with the Sierra Cosworth, the M3 and the 190 E 2.3-16 respectively.

But the participation demanded a large amount of money that was only accepted by Ford, BMW, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, adding just fifteen cars from official teams to fight for the title: three Sierra Cosworth, four BMW M3, seven Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo and a Maserati Biturbo. The rest of the private competitors -Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16, Toyota Supra Turbo, Nissan Skyline GTS-R, Volvo 240 Turbo, Holden Commodore V8- were enabled to race but without the right to receive points for the drivers’ and brand´s championship.

The start of the season was in Monza, in a 500 kilometer race, and it was a real chaos. Most of the BMW M3 – including the race winner – were disqualified because the bodies didn´t match the homologation form: the trunk lids were made of a lighter material, the roofs were made of extremely thin sheet metal and the hoods had been constructed of kevlar. The Ford Team didn´t fare much better and the Sierra Cosworth were disqualified because they had replaced the original homologated Marelli-Weber electronics with another Bosch Motronic.

Once these homologation problems have been overcome -some call them “grey regulation´s areas”; others call them “cheats”- the category began its European journey delivering real battles. Fast cars with engines that exceeded 300 hp with no electronic assistance, semi-automatic gearboxes, and few aerodynamic components. Monza was followed by the 4 Hours of Jarama, the 500 Kilometer of Dijon-Prenois, the Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Before the half of the championship, BMW credited three victories against one of Ford. But in the Brno race -formerly Czechoslovakia- the blue oval brand premiered the Sierra Cosworth special homologation: the RS500, taking the victory. With over 500hp pushing on the rear axle, the Sierra RS500 turned into a tough rock for its rivals. BMW recovered at Silverstone but from then on, Ford dominated at will, winning the events held in Oceania -Calder 500 Kilometer and Wellington 500 Kilometer- and the final act in Japan, on Mount Fuji.

There were eleven races that yielded two different champions: the drivers’ world title went to the Italian Roberto Ravaglia of the BMW team, while Ford kept the manufacturers’ trophy. From then on, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz began to develop special versions in order to homologate elements that would optimize the performance of their cars and that would see their heyday in the European Touring Car and in the German DTM, since the 1988 World Championship it had been canceled and would only return to the FIA calendar in 1993. The battle for power was about to explode.

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