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HISTORY OF THE MANTA IN COMPETION
The Manta 400 was designed and built to replace the Ascona 400 when it was homologated into Group B on May 1st 1983, after finally convincing FISA that the 200 examples required had been built!
The Manta 400 had Kevlar doors, bonnet, spoilers and bootlid, with the emphasis on saving weight, even the door and boot hinges were made from aluminium!
All in all, it was considered by many to be the best 2 wheel drive Group B car.
The Manta 400's 2.4 litre engine was developed by Cosworth, being based on the engine block of the Opel Record diesel. Steel crank, steel rods and Cosworth pistons were fitted to rally and production engines. The 16v crossflow head is said to have been designed by Dr Shrick, when Opel was thinking of building a Formula 2 engine. In the Ascona with 48DCOE's, it produced 240 bhp at 7500 rpm with torque of 200 lb.ft at 5000 rpm. In the Manta, homologation allowed the use of the phase 3 engine, fitted 6mm further back than in the Ascona to improve traction. It had 275 bhp, although slightly down on torque.
May 5th 1983 saw it's World Rallying debut on the Tour de Course with driver Guy Frequelin. It's first result was on the Welsh International on May 6th 1983, when Jimmy McRae took it to 6th overall. The Manta's first victory was the June Hessen Rally in Germany, with Erwin Weber at the wheel. The first Championship won with a Manta was the French Championship in 1983 with driver Guy Frequelin. Other 1983 victories included The Manx, with Henri Toivonen and The Cyprus Rally with Jimmy McRae. The 1983 RAC Rally had mixed fortunes with Ari Vatanen going out after hitting a log pile and Henri Toivonen's engine failure, but Jimmy McRae upheld the honours with 3rd place, gaining him a FISA A seeding in the process!
1984 saw the 4wd supercars dominating the World Championship, also Opel had lost the Rothmans sponsorship, some 45% of the 1983 competition budget. GM financed 1984 and therefore events were carefully selected with the reliability of the Manta in mind. It shone through on the Safari Rally, with Rauno Aaltonen finishing 2nd for the fourth time on this event. Back in the U.K., Billy Coleman came 1st in the Circuit of Ireland with Jimmy McRae winning the Manx Rally. It wasn't long before the RAC Rally had three Mantas in the top ten, Russell Brookes 5th, Jimmy McRae 7th and Bertie Fisher 9th!
1985 on the International scene, found Opel concentrating on the endurance events starting with the Safari Rally. Erwin Weber almost took victory at his first WCR attempt, but a loose nut from the carburettor dropped him from 1st place to finish 5th, behind Rauno Aaltonen in 4th. It was an entertaining year for the Manta back home, with the much hyped rivalry between Russell Brookes' Andrews Heat For Hire Manta and Jimmy McRae's AC Delco Manta. With Russell just beating Jimmy for the RAC Open Rally Championship, all the time with the Peugot 205 T16's and the Audi Quattro's snapping at their heels! The Circuit of Ireland Rally was won by Jimmy McRae and the Manx Rally by Russell Brookes. The year's excitement ended with the RAC Rally. Jimmy came 7th, Russell 9th and Vauxhall Opel received the team title for the event.
1986 and Opel announced their plans to develop a 4wd car, leaving the International scene a bit quiet. The 1986 Circuit of Ireland Rally saw Russell Brookes in 2nd place, which together with his other results, helped him achieve 2nd in the Open Championship. Austin McHale gained the Irish Tarmac Championship, and for the private entrants, Phil Collins took the Manta to victory on U.K. events. The Lombard RAC Rally turned out to be an all 4wd top ten when Russell Brookes retired his Manta in the Lake District, leaving our hopes of a good result for the last WCR event were in tatters!
1987, saw the last Manta 400 to be built by GM Dealer Sport used by Andrew Wood, for the 1987 National Breakdown, Welsh and Ulster Rallies. Pentti Airikkala drove his BT Mobile Phone Manta to victory on the National Breakdown, Russell Brookes 2nd, Andrew Wood 4th, and Pete Slights 5th. Russell won the Welsh International Rally with Pentti Airikkala 2nd and Andrew Wood 3rd. The Ulster Rally Manta's were Bertie Fisher coming 2nd, Austin McHale 4th, Pentti Airikkala 5th and Andrew Wood in 6th place.