If you take a quick look at the European Touring Car Championship rankings in its early days, there is one brand that stands out above the rest. BMW. And it is that, although until 1969 it is recurrent to see models such as the Abarth 1000 TC or the Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA the reality is that since 1966 the Bavarian house is omnipresent. First with its 2000 and 2002, but from 1973 with the 3.0 CSL. The dominator of touring car racing during the XNUMXs, who won the driver's and constructors' titles six times.
A machine designed for circuits. Only succeeded by the 320 and E24 with which BMW perpetuated its reign until the end of the first season of the championship in 1988. However, in between this triumphal ride there are two seasons in which an unexpected car slipped in: the Ford Capri RS2600. The mount of Dieter Glemser and Jochen Mass for their Drivers' Champion titles in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Model that, still falling in the constructors' classification against Alfa Romeo, demonstrated the excellent capabilities of this European-style "pony car".
Thus giving prestige performance to a model that was already loved by many drivers with sports whims, being one of the most interesting sports cars at the beginning of the decade. Of course, never without losing perspective that The Capri RS2600 with its V6 is much more voracious than the basic 1 liter inline four cylinder versions. Which is why, together with its weight and good dynamic behavior, it was the perfect basis for winning the European Touring Car Championship, which is now half a century old.
FORD CAPRI. A MUSTANG FOR THE EUROPEAN MARKET
Although the Ford Mustang represents together with the 911 and the Corvette one of the great sports sagas of all time, the truth is that it is not a model suitable for European style. Big. With a generous wheelbase. Heavier than necessary and with a slow and understeer behavior in curves. Characteristics that give it away as a car designed to unleash its power on the long American straights. But not on mountain roads or European circuits. In fact, Only in the hands of Jacky Ickx was the Mustang able to achieve relevant results in touring car races in Europe..
However, for better or for worse the certain charm of this car has made it a bestseller since its introduction in 1964. That is why Ford considered the convenience of taking the Mustang formula to the other side of the Atlantic. Putting in the hands of its European division the project of making a "Pony car" to the European in the way that GM did with its Opel Manta just a year later. So things, In 1969 Ford Europe presented the Capri with a restrained but not without charm design by Philip T. Clark -the same designer of the Mustang-. A first generation that would be updated in its next evolutions by Uwe Bahnsen. Responsible therefore for the iconic Capri MkIII from 1978.
Under its lines a wide range of mechanics was hidden. Which ranged from 1 liters and 3CV of the basic version to 70CV of the 188'2 Turbo. A wide range where the Ford Capri RS8 was inserted in September 1971. An even sportier evolution designed to be homologated in Group 2 for touring car and rally racing. All this thanks to a 2 liter engine based on the successful V6 Cologne in cast iron. An engine block that has been in production from 6 to 1962. Which was tuned on the Capri RS2011 with an injection system to go up to 2600CV.
CAPRI RS2600. WIN SUNDAY. SELL ON MONDAY
Although Ford did not succeed in transforming the Capri into the global phenomenon that the Mustang was - and is -, some 400.000 units were sold in just over two years. An unmitigated success. Even more so if we look at the figure of 1 million units throughout its three generations and seventeen years in operation. Some quite striking data, among which we find versions as specific as the Capri RS2600 of which only 3532 copies were made. A shorter production, because this was for a time the sportiest and most rabid. Perfect for an advertising campaign that obeyed the Ford motto “win on sunday, sell on monday".
A vehicle that those of Ford Motorsport Europe took from their headquarters in Germany as the perfect base for the Capri RS2600 Group 2. A car so well tuned that, since its debut in the European Touring Car Championship, it began to devour first places without problem. In fact, the unit with which we are illustrating this article -winner of the 1971 edition- won eight of the ten races of the season. An overwhelming capacity that crowned with a historic victory in the 24 Hours of Spa. Shortly before being the first in the 4 Hours of Jarama on October 3 of that same year.
The first race with the Capri RS2600 available in a street version, since the competition had been reaping successes on the circuits since the beginning of the year. Successes that he repeated serving for the renewal of the drivers' title of the European Touring Car Championship in 1972. Two years in a row at the top of the competition for models in its class. This was complemented by rally versions like the one Walter Rohrl drove that same 1971 in which the Capri RS2600 established itself as one of the most exciting sports cars of the early seventies.
Photographs: Ford / Gipimotor