I don’t imagine the car in the photo needs much introduction. Any major Hoon will tell you that’s a Lancia Stratos HF. As you know, the Lancia Stratos has its origins as the Stratos Zero concept, designed by Nuccio Bertone, and introduced at the 1970 Turin Auto Show. Cesare Fiorio, Lancia’s team manager, saw the competition from Ford, Porsche and Alpine threaten to overwhelm the Lancia Fulvia, which had been a front line rally competitor since 1966. Fiorio looked at the Bertone concept, and saw the future of rallying. With management’s blessing, he approached Bertone to see if the concept could be made into a viable rally contender. Over the next year and a half, a second concept car was designed by Fiorio and Giampaolo Dallara, styled by Marcello Gandini, and introduced at the 1972 Turin Auto Show accompanied by great enthusiasm.
Curiously, the 1972 show car had a Ferrari V6 rather than a Lancia V4. This was the doing of Lancia’s new director, Pierre Gobatto, who had just served as Fiat’s representative on Ferrari’s board of directors. He knew that the Ferrari and Fiat Dinos, which shared the same 2.4 liter V6, were about to be phased out, and figured that his new rally car would benefit from some Fiat corporate synergy. Development continued over the next couple of months, and the car was entered in a few rallies that had prototype classes. In the fall of 1972, Lancia entered the new Stratos in the Tour de Corse and Rally Costa del Sol with their number one driver team of Sandro Munari and Mario Mannucci. While the car suffered rear suspension failure in both events, it was clear that it had the pace and handling to be the best car in the sport. Lancia was forced to bide its time over the next year, until they produced enough cars to meet the FIA’s homologation criteria. In the meantime, Munari and Mannucci took the Stratos to a 2nd place finish at the Targa Florio and a 1st place finish at the Tour de France Automobile.
On October 1, 1974, the Stratos achieved homologation status, and Lancia set it loose on the competition it was designed to beat. Pitted against Ford Escort RS1600s, Saab 96 V4s and Fiat 124 Abarths, the Stratos looked, sounded, and, in fact, was unstoppable. It won 3 of its first 5 WRC events (San Remo, Rideau Lakes and Corsica), giving Lancia a narrow victory over it corporate sibling Fiat-Abarth. In 1975, Lancia signed Bjorn Waldegard away from Porsche to join Sandro Munari. While there was much back room drama between Waldegard, Munari and team manager Fiorio, the ‘Dream Team’ took care of business on the stages winning the WRC championship in 1975 and 1976.
And then, in 1977, it was over. Fiat, seeking to maximize it motor sport efforts, merged the Lancia and Fiat works teams and ‘retired’ the Stratos in favor of the 131 Abarth. However, the Stratos would continue to get wins and podium finishes in the WRC and national championships for private teams from three more seasons, most notably the Chardonnet team and Bernard Darniche, who had more wins in the Stratos than any other driver.
Naturally, the MQ AV Squad has secured the obligatory clip to let you see and hear this rallying legend at full cry.