During the XNUMXs, Lancia Sport was one of the strongest factory teams competing in the rally. Using a large budget Fiat and bringing together some of the most celebrated names in automotive sports, Lancia was constantly on the cutting edge. However, by the early XNUMXs, fame and success were slowly beginning to fade. Increasing competition from Ford, Alpine-Renault and Porsche, the obsolescence of the Fulvia model and the departure of key people in the team make celebrations less and less celebrated. The only way to get Lancia back on the podium was to develop a new model that didn't even exist on paper. Although funding was not a problem, the starting point for development did not exist. It was around this time, specifically in 1970, that Bertone introduced the concept of the Lancia Stratos, which delighted visitors to the Turin Car Show with extremely futuristic designs and advanced construction solutions. It was named after its creators wanted a car that resembled something that came from the stratosphere.
This concept, unrelated to the latter model Stratos, was purely a design exercise, but it awakened the imagination of Cesare Fioria, manager of the Lancia Rallye team, who thought that some of the technical solutions to this concept could be applied on the track. For starters, Mr. Fiorio meant a centrally positioned engine, a prerequisite for good behavior on the track, then a driver position that was almost central, and an extremely low center of gravity for the vehicle. The Bertone concept had a 4-liter V1.6 engine, but those 100hp weren't enough for a more serious rally car. With his influence in the company's management, Fiorio was able to get funding to develop a new race car even though no one had a clear picture of what the model was really about. To get things started, Bertone designed a new body, an ultramodern and distinctive shape. The form had to follow a purpose, that is, to make the appearance subordinate to function, in this case an unscrupulous rally monster. But the Italian sense of beauty, in the hands of a designer named Marcello Gandini, has won and created one of the most beautiful and at the same time the most aggressive shapes in the automotive world.
The tubular chassis, classic racing solution and pre-existing competition-tested elements were used as the basis. The next step was to equip the prototype with adequate propulsion. However, this task proved to be much more difficult than it initially seemed. The only aggregate that is Fiat could offer to fit into this model was the already mentioned 4 liter V1.6. Even after processing by Abarth, which included a two-liter volume increase, this unit simply wasn't strong enough to compete with its competitors. Rescue was eventually found within the home, a relationship in the part Ferrari. Specifically, the Ferrari 246 Dino, which was at the height of popularity in those years, had a small but power-packed 6-liter V2.4 that would be an ideal drive for Stratos as well. The Lancia executives, through their Fiat bosses, who at that time already had a solid stake in the legendary Italian brand with a prop horse in the coat of arms, were able to contact "Comandatore". However, Enzo Ferrari, but was decidedly against. He believed that the Stratos would be a direct competitor to his model 246 Dino.
Still, after much thought, fueled by the news of the soon-to-be-withdrawn Dino, Enzo Ferrari has decided to cede the small V6, probably reasoning that the two will not even have a chance to clash on the market, with engine stocks left over ceasing production will easily and well be able to sell. As it turned out later, he was right. Were it not for this decision, the Stratos probably would not have gone into production or gotten a weaker engine with which it certainly would not have become the biggest rally legend of the 1972s. When the “procurement” was complete, the prototypes were finalized and tested quickly but in strict confidence. It premiered in 500 at the Turin Car Show in front of a stunned public who did not expect such a bold and bold move by Lancia. When asked about the price of the new model, none of the leading people had an answer. Tests continued throughout the year and Stratos was ready for the first competitions. At the same time, specific plans for the commercialization of the new model have been identified. Specifically, Lancia planned to produce exactly XNUMX copies of this car, because under FIA rules at the time, this number was sufficient for type approval.
Therefore, production was initiated which could hardly be called serial, because the manual work and careful fitting of all circuits by no means fall into this category. The first rally at which Stratos appeared was the Tour de Corse, in late 1972. Behind the wheel of the car was the famous Sandro Munarri. However, the start was not promising and the car pulled away after only a few special exams due to suspension issues. The same thing happened a month later at the Rallye Costa del Sol. However, the first victories are coming next year, when more serious production and sales begin. The Stratos was officially approved in October 1973, but by then the FIA had lowered the quota of models manufactured to 400, so Lancia was producing 492 copies. However, Bertone, who cites the figure of 502 pieces, disagrees with this number, because so many bodies were delivered. It is only known that most were used on the track, while only a negligible number was registered as a road vehicle. After all the hardships, came 1974, in which Lancia Stratos totally dominated the world rally tracks.
The success was not only enjoyed by Sandro Munari and other drivers of the Lancia factory team, but also by many owners of private teams who bought the car and refined it slightly and competed. Performance was top notch. Specifically, the barely 900 kg bodywork allowed the V6 to fully emerge. The rated engine power was around 190hp, but the racing versions had far more than that. The transmission was initially via a five-speed gearbox and later a six-speed transmission was installed. Thanks to its dominance in 1974, it won the championship title. The success was repeated during the 1975 and 1976 seasons. In those years, the "terror" of Stratos was so simple that it was unnecessary to list all the victories of this model, including three times in a row 1, 2, 3 wins at the Monte Carlo Rally. Problems begin in 1977. Although the Lancia Stratos was still the fastest and with no real competition on the track, certainly capable of some time of top success, Fiat decided that the backbone of the competitions from that year would be its Model 131. . This unreasonable Fiat decision was never made clear to the automotive public, but with that the fate of the Stratos was definitely sealed.
By the end of 1977, the Stratos had used only a few smaller private teams, and as early as 1978, Lancia introduced the Rally 037, which was only a pale shade of its predecessor. Still, the Stratos could have met in rally competitions around the world until 1980, but by then, the changed rules and more modern competition represented overwhelming opponents. After that, Stratos definitely retires and retains his name with respect. From today's distance it can be clearly stated how big the impact of this model is on the rally world. Specifically, it was the first car to be built solely for rally racing, making it the first "homologation special" model that led to the Group B "monster" in the XNUMXs, which was later banned as too fast and too dangerous. In addition, the influence of the Stratos can also be seen on current WRC models. Although made in small numbers, this is probably the most important and therefore the most valuable rally car in the world. Prices on the classic model market range up to a million euros, especially if the car is a racing pedigree. Probably the most important part of rally history is worth it.
Author: 426 Hemi
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