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Manta 400 Group B Rally Car

The Opel Manta 400 (Manta400)

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Manta 400
Jimmy McRae came third in the 1983 RAC Rally, his best ever result on this event.

Due to the FISA regulations which came into force on 1st January, 1982, the old Groups 1,2,3, and 4 became Groups A, B, and N with Group B comparable to the old Group 4. However only 200 vehicles were needed for homologation stead of 400. Opel's problem lay not in developing the car, but in convincing the authorities that they had in fact built the requisite 200.

The car finally made its debut in the 1983 Tour of Corsica driven by Guy Frequelin. It lasted only 100 miles before the head gasket failed. The same weekend, Jimmy McRae gave another Manta 400 its debut in the Welsh Rally and was far more successful. He could have taken second place until he went off the road. He finally finished sixth.

The Manta 400 was lighter than the Ascona 400, having Kevlar doors, bonnet, spoilers, boot lid, mudguards and even lamp holders, saving 80 kg in weight. Other advantages included a more favourable weight distribution with the engine located 6 cm further back. Homologation allowed the use of a Phase 3 engine, which gave the car more power, up 20 bhp to 275 bhp, but it lost some of its flexibility - an unpopular move with the drivers.

In its first outings, drivers complained of under-steer, but the main problems came from the rear axle. The rash of axle breakages was a mystery as lack of development money meant that the axles were taken from the Ascona 400 where they had been so reliable. The answer possibly lay in the fact that the axles could not cope with the increased horsepower in combination with the lighter body.

Manta 400
Driving the AC Delco Manta 400, Jimmy McRae took the 1984 British Open Championship for the third time in 4 years.

The conventional Manta 400 was still in the shadow of the Audi Quattros and the Lancia Rally 037s, with the new developments from Peugeot and Toyota making the situation even harder. Although a four-wheel-drive version of the Manta was said to be under development at Ferguson, the 1984 plans seemed to make it clear that Russelsheim would be responsible solely for development work: competition work being handled outside the factory by a new group.

A unique four wheel drive Manta did appear in Sweden before that country's international in 1983 and was shown to a select gathering of motoring press as something of a publicity stunt. its concept was simplicity itself using the Ferguson System as the only modification to the car's Group B specification. In the ensuing tests with Ari Vatanen the car proved more driveable than a Quattro, but it was unfortunately a stillborn project.

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