Rules saw the SLC drop 465kg to 1225, AMG increased the output from 217 horses to 375, the body was suitably flared to house massive wheels, and various aerodynamic and cooling aids were added. Interestingly, the three-speed automatic gearbox remained because the manual five-speed AMG used in road versions hadn’t been homologated. The car was finished just in time for the opening round of the 1978 season at Monza, Italy, where Hans Heyer and Clemens Schickentanz came in fifth in the 4-hour race. The team repeated this at Salzburgring in Austria but then failed to finish the Nürburgring and Silverstone rounds. An attempt was made at Le Mans that year too, but the monster failed to qualify. 1979 got off to a good start, with second place at Monza, but this was again followed by poor results. A win did come eventually though when, in its very final European Touring Car Championship appearance, Schickentanz and Jörg Denzel finally scored the victory at Monza.
By this time touring car racing was changing its focus, with a move away from numerous capacity-based classes towards more standard Group A cars. And Mercedes-Benz had just the car sitting in the pipeline: the all-new compact W201 190E.
With its low-drag body and clever multi-link rear suspension, Mercedes-Benz decided to take the 190E rallying. But to beat the dominant BDA-powered Ford Escorts and the Talbot Lotus Sunbeams, it called on the legendary engine development operation, Cosworth. The 2.3-litre four-cylinder block remained, but the English firm designed a twin-cam 16-valve head to replace the standard 8-valve. A Getrag five-speed gearbox, limited-slip differential and revised aerodynamic appendages were added, and enough road-going production units were built to homologate Cossie-Merc for competition.
And then Audi arrived on the rally scene with its Quattro…