Lancia in motorsport
Vincenzo Lancia had been a test and competition driver for Fiat before founding his own company and actually continued driving their race cars after starting his company. It is therefore no surprise that the motorsport connection continued in his own firm. In 1908 he competed first in an Alpha and then in specially built 'Corsa' versions, followed by the Beta. 1910 was the last year that Vincenzo drove in competitions, using a Gamma, and also the last year that works cars were entered in motorsport.
Lancia cars continued to be used semi-unofficially (!) in motorsport, prepared by the factory but entered by dealers or private teams. Six Lambdas were entered in the first Mille Miglia in 1927 (best position fourth), nine in 1928 (best position third) and four in 1929 (best position fourth). Genuinely private cars were also used in various other events during these years.
An interesting car was built in 1932 for one Lancia dealer which used the engine from a Dilambda in the body of a Lambda. Some successes were achieved with this until 1934, facing stiff competition from Alfa Romeo. In the mid to late 1930's some teams used the Astura with some success, including a class win and tenth overall in the 1934 Mille Miglia. The Artena and Augusta also made a few appearances.
In the late 1930's the newest Lancia, the Aprilia began to appear in motorsport. Considerable success was achieved, including class wins in the 1938 Monte Carlo Rally and Spa 24 hours. After the end of the war motorsport began again to slowly be resumed, and the Aprilia again featured for several years, including class wins in the Mille Miglia in 1947 and 1951.
The arrival of the Aurelia signalled a gradual return to works entries. Initially, at the beginning of 1951, the cars were used by private teams, but the factory developed and built special competition versions for the Targa Florio (B21s) and Mille Miglia (B20s) which, although not entered by Lancia, were fully supported by the factory. Later in 1951 and into 1952 cars were officially entered by Lancia in Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and the Carrera Panamerica amongst others. Factory development of the car continued with the series III cars in 1953 but in that year it was decided to develop a purpose built race car. The resulting D20 first appeared in the Mille Miglia in 1953 and also competed in the Targa Florio and at Le Mans.
It was soon replaced by the D23, which was effectively a D20 minus the roof, whilst development of an all new car was carried out. In August 1953 the D24 made its debut at the Nurburgring 1000km, where both cars retired, but success soon came with first and second in the Carrera Panamerica. 1954 saw the D24 gain Lancia's first overall win in the Mille Miglia, whilst later in the year the next development, the D25 appeared. This had a very short lifespan (1 race) since the decision had been taken to withdraw from sports cars and enter Formula One.
The D50 entered it's first race in October 1954 at Barcelona. It was a unconventional design, with many unique features. Powered by a 90° V8 with a capacity of just under 2,500cc (various sizes were used) the D50 showed itself to be significantly quicker than the opposition on it's first outing before retiring whilst in the lead. Wins were achieved both in championship races and others, but tragedy struck in 1955 when Ascari, the leading Lancia driver, died in an accident driving a Ferrari at Monza. Shortly afterwards Lancia withdrew from motorsport.
Ironically, the D50 cars and spares were given to Ferrari who campaigned them in 1956 and with which Fangio won the drivers title.
Lancia was again represented in motorsport by privateers who started using the Appia in 1957 and moved on to the Flaminia in 1960. Various successes were gained with these and some support began to be forthcoming from the factory. The Flavia began to be campaigned in 1962 and the following year a group of drivers, led by Cesare Fiorio, formed the HF Squadra Corse to compete in rallying. These drivers achieved numerous wins, both overall and in class, before in 1965 the company absorbed HF Squadra Corse and again officially entered motorsport.
In that year the Fulvia also made it's debut in rallying, and this was to become the chosen tool for the works team. The 1.3HF Coupe was used in 1967, 68 and most of 69 before the improved 1.6HF was homologated in October 1969. This was campaigned with much success through 1970, with less success in 1971 and with enough success in 1972 to claim the Manufacturers title for that year.
The Fulvia, however, was getting old, and work had already started on a replacement, the Stratos. Initially a concept car from Bertone, much development resulted in a Ferrari V6 powered purpose built rally car of which around 500 were built. Before homologation in October 1974 success had already been achieved in some events open to prototypes, and this continued, the Stratos winning its debut event, the Sanremo rally.
At the same time, the Beta had been developed into a rallycar, including a version with a 16V cylinder head, and together with the Stratos this enabled Lancia to win the Manufacturers title in 1974. This feat was repeated again in 1975 when the Stratos dominated the World Rally Championship and again in 1976. the Stratos was then withdrawn from rallying as Fiat had decided to campaign the 131, which went on to win more championships.... The Stratos did, however, still enable Munari to win the new Drivers Championship in 1977.
Fiat having taken over in rallying, Lancia turned to sports car racing. Basically a silhouette formula, the Beta Montecarlo was the chosen tool. Heavily redesigned and fitted with a turbocharged 1400 engine, the Beta Montecarlo turbo debuted at Silverstone in May 1979 and went on to win its class in the championship. In 1980 the Beta Montecarlo turbo won the manufacturers title and it repeated this, now in Martini colours, in 1981.
Following a rule change for the 1982 season, Lancia began development of a Group 6 car for 1982 and a Group C car for 1983. The LC1 competed during 1982 but was closely beaten by Porsche whilst development of the LC2, the new Group C car, continued. This latter competed in 1983 through to 1986 but although it won a few races was constantly dogged by reliability problems and never claimed a championship.
Going back to 1980 saw Lancia again developing a rallycar. It had been decided that the Fiat 131 should be replaced by a Lancia to compete in the new Group B which would start in 1982. The result was the 037 or Rally. It debuted in 1982 with some success, but 1983 saw it take the World Championship for Lancia. It continued on in 1984 and 1985, but four-wheel-drive had stamped its authority on rallying and the 037 could not keep up.
Lancia's response was the Delta S4, which first appeared in 1985 and immediately won it's debut world championship event, the RAC. 1986 saw several successes, but also tragedies; in Portugal several spectators were killed, and on the Tour de Corse Toivonen and Cresto died when they lost control of their 037. Lancia failed to clinch the champioship, and Group B was banned. Lancia had already begun development of the S4 replacement, the ECV, but this was never to be used in action.
Fortunately for Lancia, they had introduced the HF 4WD in 1986 and this formed the basis of a competitor for the new Group A. 1987 saw Lancia win the manufacturers title and it's drivers take the first three places in the drivers championship, whilst for 1988 the first integrale appeared, again winning both the drivers and manufacturers the championships. This was repeated in 1989 during which year the first 16v integrales appeared. 1990 and 1991 both saw Lancia take the manufacturers title, although the many different drivers split their points and prevented any one from winning that championship.
Lancia officially withdrew from rallying at the end of 1991, but the Jolly Club ran integrales in 1992 and again managed to take the manufacturers championship - the sixth successive time !
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