If I asked you who the most successful manufacturer in the World Rally Championship was, what would your guess be?
Toyota? Wrong. Audi? Not even close. By the time Lancia had withdrawn from the World Rally Championship, the Italian automaker had amassed 11 manufacturer titles and four drivers titles from 46 WRC event wins.
While the 037 and Delta S4 which predate the Delta Integrale were more outrageous, this creative freedom came about thanks to the relaxed ruleset at the time. Group A came into effect to try and quell the ever-increasing speeds and half-hearted approaches to safety, while trying to keep the cars more akin to their road-going counterparts. Group B dictated that 200 road-going cars needed to be created, whereas for Group A it was 5,000 in 1993, meaning manufacturers had to forgo exotic materials and time-consuming construction methods.
The pair of Delta Integrales on display at Rally Replay need Goodwood in the UK represent the ultimate incarnations of Lancia’s WRC effort. Referred to as the Deltonas – which translates as ‘big Delta’ – these two cars were built for consecutive years. But while they may appear largely the same, there are a myriad of differences between the two, highlighting the constant development and relentless pursuit of performance that the Abarth workshop where they were built employed.
But these weren’t the only big changes. Jolly Club (think Prodrive in Subaru terms) took over Lancia’s WRC effort and development program from the start of 1992, albeit still working out of the Abarth workshop with all the existing staff. Lancia still wrote the cheques.
In 1993, some staff were moved over to the Alfa Romeo Touring Car programme, but Lancia still funded the WRC effort, as evidenced by the cars carrying ‘TO’ prefixed licence plate for Turin – where they were based – as opposed to ‘MI’ plates for Milan, Jolly Club’s base.
1991 Repsol Lancia Delta HF Integrale Group A – TO 35378S
Built towards the end of 1991, this car was assigned the registration TO 35378S and served as a test mule for the works team to develop Lancia’s 1992 WRC entry. Some of the changes included new Brembo callipers allowing the use of 332mm discs on tarmac (313mm for gravel) and revised magnesium-cased Abarth gearbox and differentials.
The car also received a more advanced ECU and digital dashboard supplied by Magneti Marelli.
The 1991 development cars were the first to receive the wider body panels, which allowed for updated Bilstein suspension and top mounts, and a wider track. This is what gave them the Deltona nickname.
TO 35378S was pivotal in the 1992 season, with the developments carried out directly supporting the team in achieving victory on eight rounds and winning that year’s WRC Manufacturers’ Championship.
In December 1992, Carlos Sainz came onboard, bringing his title sponsor Repsol with him.
Sadly, Sainz’ season was plagued with numerous issues, and although he came close to winning rounds in the Lancia on multiple occasions, it never happened. After one year, Sainz moved to Subaru, last driving a Delta in the 1993 Race Of Champions (where he finished second behind Didier Auriol, who had left Lancia at the end of the ’92 season for Toyota) before testing in an Impreza just two days later.
1992 Martini Lancia Delta HF Integrale – TO 13721T
TO 13721T debuted in gravel specification for the 1000 Lakes Rally in August 1992, to continue the success Lancia was having that year.
Despite only having a small budget to work with, the cars were continually improved. A rule change mandated the use of 8-inch-wide (rather than 9-inch) wheels, which greatly upset the Delta’s handling characteristics.
TO 13721T was exclusively driven by Auriol in 1992, who had an incredibly eventful season, with victories in Monte Carlo, France, Greece, Argentina, Finland and Australia. The French driver narrowly missed out on the WRC Drivers’ Championship title at the final round held in the UK by a mere two points, owing to terminal engine damage.
See that little adjustable pot tucked down out of view? That allowed the co-driver to lower boost levels for more tricky conditions, ultimately making the car more drivable.
The Fiat 242 van parked alongside is a faithful recreation of the service vehicle used in the 1983 season during the Group B era. By the time Group A came around, the team began using bigger Iveco vans.
There’s no debating the success that Lancia had in the World Rally Championship, but the company today is sadly a shadow of its former self, selling very few models with limited success outside of Italy. ‘The brightest stars burn the fastest’ would be an apt description of the success Lancia had in the WRC. With Toyota being the next closest OEM currently competing with seven WRC Manufacturers’ Championship titles to its name, the Lancia record will remain for at least a little while longer.
A special thanks to Adam Midghall, Manager at Rally Replay for sharing his vast Lancia knowledge for this story.