Fiat in motorsport
Fiat has an outstanding record in motorsport from the beginning up to the present day, including three World Rally Championship titles.
It's involvement in motorsport began in 1900, the year after it was founded, when Lancia drove to victory at Padua, with a car based on the 6HP. 1901/2 saw a competition version of the 12HP emerge, whilst later in 1902 the first car developed specifically for motorsport was born, the 7.2-litre, 4-cylinder 24HP Corsa.
Significant involvement in competition continued in a variety of events and in 1903 Fiat entered the Paris-Madrid race, signalling it's first foray into international motorsport. At that time cars were developing rapidly, and the comptition cars from Fiat were no different. 1903 saw the arrival of the 60HP Corsa. With its 10.6-litre 4-cylinder engine, it won its class in the Targa Florio of that year, the Reedville meeting in the USA in the following year, and the GP of France in 1911. Development continued apace, with the 14-litre 75HP Corsa in 1904, the 16.2-litre (still 4-cylinders) 100HP Corsa in 1905 and the derivative 110HP Corsa which dominated the Gordon Bennett race in 1905.
1907 saw Fiat take victory in the Targa Florio, the Kaiserpreis and the French GP. Involvement in the latter part of the decade concentrated more in the US where some victories were obtained, although in Europe Fiat's continued to win occasional events.
Between the wars the various 508 and Balilla cars, including the unusual aerodynamic versions, continued to compete in a variety of events, mainly road based. Moving on, the 8 V was really only built as a technology demonstrator, but did well in sport, especially the lighter Zagato bodied versions. In the fifties and sixties the name associated with Fiat and motorsport was Abarth which produced immensely successful models based on the 500, 600 and 850 to name but a few.
Modern rallying involvement by Fiat themselves began in the late 1960s with the 125 and 124 cars. 1970 saw Fiat establish a competitions department, whilst 1971 was the first year that Fiat officially entered their own team. Top five finishes were recorded in that first year, with their first championship rally victory coming in Greece in 1972.
The world of rallying changed in 1973 with the inauguration of the World Rally Championship for Constructors. Wins continued in that year and through 1974 and 1975, but the Lancia Stratos proved invincible and took the title in both those years. 1976 saw a reduced effort as Lancia was given the task to represent the group in rallying. In the following year, the mantle moved to Fiat with the newly developed 131 Abarth. This proved more than successful and won the constructors title in 1977 and then again in 1978. The effort was reduced in 1979 with only a few events contested, but with a full-on attack in 1980 a third world championship title was won by Fiat, still using the 131 Abarth.
After this point the effort was reduced in 1981 and ceased completely after this time. Lancia returned to rallying in 1982 with the 037, and in the following years, with the S4 then Delta integrale made history for the group using the Lancia brand.
Fiats involvement in rallying then became limited to producing cars mainly for junior drivers to start their careers in, organising one-make championships for such people. This started with the Uno turbo and was followed by the Cinquecento and Seicento rally cars. The Punto saw a return to the development of more serious machinery, albeit for sale to customers, and not for entry as a Fiat team. First under the ‘Kit’ regulations and now the Super 1600 rules, the Punto has proven a very successful competitor, taking the Italian Rally Championship in 2003. The Stilo continues the trend to develop competent cars for young drivers on tight budgets. Built to internationally recognised specifications, it enables young drivers to show their capabilities in equal machinery without requiring huge budgets.
The Grande Punto was also developed to compete in international rallying, under the Super-2000 regulations. It made its debut on the Rally del Ciocco, a round of the Italian Rally Championship, in March 2006. In that, its debut year, it won not just the Italian Rally Championship (driven by Andreucci) but also the FIA European Rally Championship (driven by Basso) and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (also Basso).
2007 saw the same car competing under the relaunched Abarth brand name in the IRC, Italian and European Championships as well as in a number of other national championships around Europe. In that year it again won the Italian Rally Championship, and took the runners up spot in the IRC as well as several excellent positions in the European Championship. It also made an appearance at the 2007 Race of Champions, driven by various drivers including Michael Schumacher.
Here you can see a video (2MB) showing the 124, 131 and Ritmo rally cars in action.
Here, there are films of the Panda Dakar (4.2MB) and Panda Evoluzione (3.4MB)
Serious action with the Fiat Punto S1600 (3.9MB) in action in the 2004 Italian Rally Championship.
For books on Fiat in motorsport try our online bookshop - in Association with Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk
Copyright © 2000 to 2008 CarsfromItaly