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  • TheOctaneAddict

What is a homologation special?

The Homologation special was born out of the 1961 FIA Appendix J document, which applied to Group 3 GT racing. The FIA had a desire to stop manufacturers from building Grand Touring cars solely for race use and instead wanted cars to be production based. This included a clause that 100 units minimum had to be built. Below is an extract from the 1961 Appendix J document which sets out these rules.

This was the first time a minimum number of production-based cars had to be produced for a manufacturer to compete in a racing series, and hence the birth of the homologation special. Rather than using an existing production car that would be compromised for racing, manufacturers would need to build race cars for the road if they wanted to be successful.

Cars like the Ferrari 250 GTO, A.C Cobra and Jaguar E Type were some of the first to meet these regulations. Manufacturer’s followed a process to register a car with the FIA, this usually involved completing a form detailing the car and providing information around production numbers, technical details, optional equipment and pictures of the car. Below is an extract of the paperwork Shelby submitted for their Cobra.

Homologation continued to be used in GT racing across multiple classes from then onwards, but top tier racing such as prototypes and Formula 1 where never forced into such rules. Homologation also permeated into other disciplines like Touring Cars, but it is perhaps most famous for the Group B and A divisions in Rallying.

The FIA introduced Group B in 1982 as a replacement for Group 4 (modified gran touring) and Group 5 (touring prototypes). Group B followed a much less stringent ruleset, where only 200 cars needed to be made and manufacturers could experiment with technology, high-tech materials and forced induction. Below is an extract of the specific regulations applicable to Group B.

Group B saw cars such as the Peugeot 205 T16, Audi Sport Quattro S1 and Lancia Delta S4 be released, and although classed as production cars they were built solely in order to allow their manufacturers to compete. Below we can see how much a 205 T16 cost compared to a regular 205 GTI, clearly this wasn't a car for regular customers!

Skipping forward to Group A (we’ll cover group B off in more detail in another article) the regulations became much tighter with the FIA wanting manufacturers to race cars that were much more closely based to production cars. Minimum units had to be 5000 (reduced to 2500 in 1991) and rules were stipulated on engines, drivetrains and chassis. Due to the increase in minimum numbers, manufacturers no longer built race cars for the road but instead optimised their regular production cars. Cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale, Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ford Escort RS Cosworth were released and due to the resemblance to their racing counterparts became extremely popular.

This brings us up to today where the homologation special in rallying Is pretty much dead. Following on from the Group A era, World Rally Car regulations came into effect. These regulations were much more relaxed and manufacturers no longer needed to build special road cars, instead they could fit bespoke parts to a production car shell. You can see below that the 2019 Yaris WRC car is an example of what manufactures can do to a standard production car.

However, Toyota have restarted the homologation special idea with the GR Yaris. When Toyota won the WRC title in 2018 they believed that continuing to win the WRC title was a key part in being a well-respected manufacturer. With input from Tommi Mäkinen and the Gazoo Racing team it was decided that a bespoke car should be built in order for Toyota to stay at the top, the GR Yaris is that car. It differs from a standard Yaris in a number of areas but the most important part is body. This bodyshell features numerous aerodynamic tweaks that are purely there for the competitive edge in WRC, you can see the rear roof line and more sculpted arches are very different to the regular Yaris.

The travesty here is that due to COVID-19 and the impact its had on motorsport, the GR Yaris will never compete. With rule changes coming in 2021 Toyota will no longer be able to use the GR Yaris WRC and will instead need to develop a new car, a sad end to what is a great story.

There's a lot of interesting road cars that came about thanks to homologation rules, I'll cover those off at a later date but for now I'm off to eBay to swoon over 90s WRXs.

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