Video : Austin Rover Rallysprint 1983

Keith Adams recalls the excellent Austin Rover Rallysprint 1983, which pitted the cream of Grand Prix drivers against the top rally drivers of the day to see who came out on top.

The cars used were a combination of Rover SD1s on gravel, MG Metros in an autotest and MG Maestros on the track. With Nigel Mansell, John Watson and Tony Pond competing, it’s compelling viewing.


Austin Rover Rallysprint 1983: Maestros racing in Maestros

Mansell, Watson and Pond racing doorhandle to doorhandle in MG Maestros at the Austin-Rover Rallysprint 1983
Mansell, Watson and Pond racing doorhandle to doorhandle in MG Maestros at Donington

The Austin Rover Rallysprint was a legendary annual motor sport event which ran throughout the early 1980s, and saw rally drivers pitched against their F1 counterparts to see which discipline bred the best drivers. The 1983 event, which was staged in Donington, had what can only be described as an all-star grid, and was split three ways to decide which motor sport created the best drivers – F1 or rallying.

The Grand Prix drivers

  • 1: Nigel Mansell
  • 3: John Watson
  • 5: Derek Warwick
  • 7: Danny Sullivan

The World Rally drivers

  • 2: Jimmy McRae
  • 4: Pentti Airikkala
  • 6: Stig Blomqvist
  • 8: Tony Pond
Pentti Arikkala at the wheel of a Rover SD1 at the Austin Rover Rallysprint 1983
Pentti Arikkala at the wheel of a Rover SD1 during the Austin Rover Rallysprint in 1983

They went up against each other on the rally stage, autotest and racing circuit. The rallying was interesting, given that it was in the Rover SD1 and this was the legendary Tony Pond’s car of choice at the time, so you won’t be too shocked at how that one panned out. The autotest in the MG Metro was great fun, but the main event was reserved for the then-new MG Maestros on track.

And it’s here, at the Donington Grand Prix circuit, that we’re treated to the field racing in identical MG Maestro 1600s. Needless to say, the action started out cleanly enough, but as the laps passed, the race became more of a contact affair. We won’t give the game away, but given the field, you won’t be surprised to see who won…

On the circuit, you’ll see some comical roll angles from the Maestros. BL’s PR supremo Ian Elliott recalled why: ‘They were given the absolute minimum of preparation beyond the obvious rollcage, competition brake pads etc. I don’t think they were even fully run in!’

Video: watch the best drivers giving it plenty

Gallery

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

14 Comments

  1. A bit like a ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced car’ race! Very amusing! :)Would the insurance for F1 / Rally teams cover contact racing?

  2. I can’t see the video now – is this ‘cos my 2 month old I Pad is old technology or is the video gorn orf?

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