If a car could tell a story, this former French 106 Cup winning pocket rocket could keep you amused for hours. Now owned by Northern Ireland’s William James, this is a prime example of 1300cc ‘90s rally history…
Not only does the Lisburn man have the car’s original bill of sale but he also has all of the hand-typed Bauer Sport paperwork, along with the French motorsport authority’s log books, and even its original French number plate!
What’s most fascinating, though, is that after almost 30 years, the car is still almost as it left the factory.
Despite spending the bulk of its life in the United Kingdom, it has somehow avoided being converted to right-hand-drive. Cross-checking all of the paperwork available for the vehicle also shows that it is still on its original chassis, engine and gearbox. Not only is that testament to those who built the car 27 years ago, but it is also testament to those who have rallied the vehicle, successfully, without major incident.
That said, the car is no show pony. This is what we tend to call a ‘working’ rally car – even though its current owner as no plans to use it in anger!
“The car is what it is!” James told Pacenotes. “It’s the real deal, warts and all. Its condition helps to tell its tale. From its first scrutiny brandings that were actually painted on using stencils when in France – both in the rear and around the engine bay – to the other scrutiny stickers that are still in place from the likes of the 1997 Network Q RAC Rally, before it headed into Belgium.”
“A 2002 Circuit of Ireland scrutiny sticker is still attached to the roll cage,” he added. “That provides a glimpse into its past when it rallied closer to home. It was probably one of the last events that the car ever contested in the hands of Desi Boyd.”
The French Connection
In an era of world rallying where two-litre, turbocharged, four-wheel-drive Group A cars reigned king, many models of which had a Group N variant, there is something suitably pleasing about the back-to-basics, entry level Group N cars like this Peugeot 106 Rallye.
Inside the little pocket rocket, its factory fitted floor carpets are still in place, and its rear seat is folded flat to allow a roll cage to be fitted. The phase one 106 Cup Cars really are the epitome of clubman rallying. From factory to showroom, these cars were destined for the stages after a quick install of basic safety gear in their new owners’ driveways.
For those who had a little more budget, or perhaps just a little less mechanical know-how, Bauer Sport had the answer. Being the French equivalent to Northern Ireland’s Kenny McKinstry or David Greer, Bauer Sport were no strangers to building new cars for arrive and drive customers.
In 1995, ‘8048 TR 26’ was the registration number that adorned the car pictured on these pages. Driven then by Tim Svanholt, without much success, the only enhancement the car had after it left the factory was a Peugeot Sport ECU, allowing it to produce something in the region of 115bhp.
This clubman category was huge in France at the time, attracting upwards of 30 entrants who were all in identical cars. It took a special kind of driver to stand out amongst the crowd. That driver, that year, was privateer Michel Boetti, at the wheel of his 106 XSi.
For the 1996 season, Peugeot fancied Boetti’s chances so much that he was given a works drive. A drive that would see him gifted (from Peugeot) a Group N ‘arrive and drive’ package with Bauer Sport for the full season in the 106 Rallye car, ‘8048 TR 26’.
An extract from an event report in 1996 states:
“Relaxed, Michel said “I trusted Bauer for the preparation. I have the 106 that Tim Svanholt drove last season. Everything is going well but the finish is still a long way off.”
Boetti’s “relentless” driving caused a sensation throughout the second day. Michel set the class reference time five times, despite a broken shock absorber. His joy at the arrival of Charbonnieres is significant: “I had to ease off at the end because I ran out of tyres. You see, I’m still on the pace in Group N! I want to thank my preparer because he did a great job.”
This snippet gives some insight into the level of preparation that went into the building of this car, as well as the professionalism and skill of its then driver.
A ‘for sale’ advert was placed in what was the French equivalent to Autotrader at the end of Boetti’s tenure. It didn’t take long for British driver, David Blades, to decide to drive to France buy the car. He picked it up from Bauer Sport, in person, along with a vast spares package.
Upgrading from a Peugeot 205, Blades must have taken notes from Boetti during his trip to collect the car. He went on to win his Group N class in the Mintex National Championship on the car’s debut year in Britain.
Blades continued to use the car on various events throughout the UK and Europe during the 1998 and 1999 seasons, picking up various class wins along the way, before retiring from the sport in 2000. Retiring in style, he won his class at the Omloop van Vlaanderen Rally in Belgium.
It wasn’t long after this point that the hugely successful car, now recognisable as ‘M777 OKV’, came to the Emerald Isle. In the hands of Northern Ireland’s Desi Boyd, it finished the Circuit of Ireland Rally and the Donegal Harvest Stages in 2002. He campaigned the car for approximately two years, competing in various clubman events across the country.
County to County
After Desi Boyd’s ownership, the car moved to its new owner in County Fermanagh. Drew Chambers had full intentions of a bare shell restoration but after the car sat in his shed for 10 years, William James managed to persuade him to part with the potent Peugeot. Chambers was content that this 106 Rallye was going to a good home and the little car hasn’t looked back since, with James admitting that he owes Chambers a huge debt of gratitude.
Since taking ownership a few years ago, James has set about recommissioning his pride and joy. He replaced various hoses, pipes, brakes, brake lines, the rear axle and many other items that had degraded after a decade of sitting in storage.
He even managed to source a set of period first-generation Michelin Pilot tyres! Those tyres are now wrapped around the 6-inch wide, Phase 2, 106 Rallye steel wheels that are fitted in place of the 5.5-inch wheels that came from the factory.
As someone who has quite a few eclectic French rally cars at his disposal, many of which we hope to reveal in future editions of Pacenotes, James never had any plans to drive this car on the road. Instead, he was content with taking it to car shows and events on his trailer. But then the wheels were set in motion for another event…
Shortly after purchasing the car, James touched base with former owner, David Blades, in the hope of seeking out any outstanding paperwork, historical documents and maybe even its original registration number. To his delight, Blades still owned everything that he had hoped for!
About one year later, Blades contacted James to find out if it would be possible to be reunited with the car at the 2021 Rally Revival event, organised by Pacenotes columnist Bryn Pierce. The wheels were set in motion and a short time later, James delivered the car to Wales where, for the first time in 21 years, this Bauer Sport 106 Rallye Cup car was accompanied by its crew that took it to the 1997 Mintex Championship success. David Blades and his navigator, Mark Ammonds, were back on board and enjoyed what was a hugely successful event.
Later this year, you can expect to see the car at the Deja Vu Tralee with James behind the wheel, as well as the odd car show and maybe even a demonstration run. Until then, feast your eyes on the photos of this great little pocket rocket!
Words & Images: Graham Baalham-Curry