The last two-wheel drive car to win the WRC, and an ex-Rohrl one at that – time to get excited!
It’s now more than a quarter of a century since a Lancia was on the podium of a WRC event; by our research it was Gilberto Pianezzola’s third place in the 1993 Rallye San Remo – you were going to say that, weren’t you? – that was the final top three for the iconic marque. That was 26 years ago yesterday.
And yet the affection for Lancia remains strong, unabated and unrelenting – which probably doesn’t need any further explaining, really, but it’s nice to talk about. The MAT Stratos is now being driven by journalists (so should be with customers soon) and the Automobili Amos Delta Integrale is making progress, as seen on The Grand Tour recently. It’s hard to imagine that sort of love enduring for other manufacturers, imaginations being captured for that long, or such time, effort and resource being expended in continuing the obsession. Mitsubishi also enjoyed WRC success at that time, and hasn’t really matched it since, but there aren’t Galant VR-4 restorations happening a quarter of a century later.
Anyway, there seemed no better time to celebrate Lancia’s iconic back catalogue of rally cars. We could do one every week, really, given the calibre of vehicles once produced and the success enjoyed. But here we have a Martini 037, a truly wonderful car and yet, arguably, the awkward middle child of that memorable Stratos-037-Delta triumvirate. Not as pretty as what preceded it, nor as successful as what followed, the 037 sits between its two siblings as the least successful of the three.
Which is ridiculous, of course, because the 037 was the last rear-wheel drive car to win a WRC constructors’ championship – Walter Rohrl finishing second that year in the drivers’ standings, too – but such is the scale of achievement in Lancia’s history. Simply being the last car of its kind to win a title, as well as the car to take Lancia into Group B, only gets you so far…
This particular 037, as well as looking utterly superb in its Martini livery, is significant even as works Lancia rally cars go. Chassis #0180 was a car from the victorious 1983 season, built at the end of ’82 and sporting a Turin number plate as it was registered to Fiat Auto SPA. Most importantly, it was the car in which Walter Rohrl and Christian Geistdorfer took third place on the Rally Portugal, following home the two Quattros of Hannu Mikkola and Michele Mouton. This is that very vehicle.
Having spent time in Spain (where it was upgraded to Evo 2 spec, as well as racing in Rothmans and 7Up liveries) and Italy, where it was campaigned in national rallies until the early 2000s, the 037 was left dormant for a few years in its homeland at the end of the decade. Interestingly, though, it was the first 037 to be fitted with modern safety gear and issued with an FIA technical passport in 2010. It gets more intriguing, too, as the car was then returned to original, 1983 configuration, at a cost of more than €150,000, and then used on The Grand Tour’s other Lancia piece around the 1983 season. With further work since then – apparently thanks to being driven in a “spirited manner” for the film, #0180 needed a top end, steering box, gearbox and Volumex rebuilt – the 037 is fighting fit and ready to rally.
What an experience that promises to be, with its supercharged Abarth engine and featherweight construction combining for 300hp per tonne; sitting in the same cabin, using the same controls that Walter Rohrl did; revelling in the challenge and reward of the last rear-drive rally Lancia, balancing inputs to get the most of from its mid-engined chassis.
Quite what that experience will cost isn’t revealed in the advert, though obviously this is not a grass-roots entry into rallying given the 037’s provenance. Still, for those with the wherewithal, it’s difficult to imagine anything much more exhilarating to use on historic stage events; unless, that is, you’re thinking of other Lancias…
See the original advert here.
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