Lancia Stratos, the rally star

The Lancia Stratos holds a special place in automotive history

Lancia Stratos, the rally star

The Lancia Stratos holds a special place in automotive history. It is the first car designed specifically to win in the world rally championship, a discipline whose first manufacturer's title was won by Alpine in 1973. A disappointment for the young Cesare Fiorio, responsible for the competition at Lancia, whose the elegant Fulvia could not compete with the light and agile French Berlinettes. But the Italian team is already preparing for what comes next and honing its weapons. As early as 1970, Fiorio had the good idea to ask his team what the ideal rally car would be.

Armed with these specifications written by specialists on the subject, he turned to the coachbuilder Bertone to dress and build this coupe. A few months later, a resolutely futuristic concept car designed by Marcello Gandini was presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1970 in an attempt to convince Lancia managers to launch the project.

Steel tubes. Called Stratos HF Zero, it is not only spectacular with its wedge shape, it already adopts the rear central engine architecture, which will make the model successful in racing. Alas, the engine, at this stage, remains a modest 4-cylinder from Fulvia which will not be sufficient to meet the challenge. But Fiorio managed to convince Enzo Ferrari to supply him with the V6 of the Dino 246 GT launched in 1969. Development of the definitive car could begin and its official presentation, in 1973, would revolutionize the world of rallying.

Ultracompact (L x W x H: 3.71 x 1.71 x 1.11 m) and equipped with a plunging and curved windshield guaranteeing its pilot an optimal field of vision, the Stratos combines lightness (980 kg) with its chassis made of steel tubes and easy access for mechanics' interventions, with its fiberglass body made up of large tilting hoods.

Angry sound. But its main asset remains its reliable and powerful 2.4-liter V6 – it can develop nearly 300 horsepower for the official racing versions – whose angry sound will leave unforgettable memories for enthusiasts around the world. As proof: the Lancia Stratos immediately won the Tour Auto in 1973, the 1974, 1975 and 1976 world rally championships, and many other titles until the early 1980s in the hands of legendary drivers such as Sandro Munari and Bernard Darniche. The latter's car, sponsored by Le Point on a few events, can notably be admired for the 50th anniversary of the Lancia Stratos, celebrated with exhibitions and vintage car races, on the occasion of the Circuit des remparts in Angoulême, the September 15, 16 and 17.