Thursday 2 December 2010
The Lancia Stratos HF, widely and more simply known as Lancia Stratos, is a car made by Italian car manufacturer Lancia. The HF stands for High Fidelity.
The Stratos was a very successful rally car during the 1970s and early 1980s. It started a new era in rallying as it was the first car designed from scratch for this kind of competition. The three leading men behind the entire rallying project were Lancia team manager Cesare Fiorio, British racer/engineer Mike Parkes and factory rally driver Sandro Munari.
The bodywork was designed by Marcello Gandini, head designer at Bertone, and the technical layout was loosely based on a (Lancia Fulvia V4 powered) concept car called Stratos Zero which had been first shown at the Turin Motor Show in 1970. The body was wedge-shaped, and unusually short and wide, providing maximum traction. The car later appeared in Michael Jackson's 1988 film, Moonwalker as well as in his music video for Smooth Criminal.
In 1971 Lancia presented the Lancia Stratos HF prototype. The prototype (Chassis 1240) was fluorescent red in colour and featured a distinctive crescent-shaped-wrap-around windshield providing maximum forward visibility with almost no rear visibility. The prototype had three different engines in its early development life: the Lancia Fulvia engine, the Lancia Beta engine and finally the mid-mounted 190 bhp (140 kW) 2418 cc Dino Ferrari V6. The V6 gave the road car a 0-60 time of just under five seconds, and a top speed of 144 mph (233 km/h).
Lancia did extensive testing with the Stratos and raced the car in several racing events where Group 5 prototypes were allowed during the 1972 and 1973 seasons. Production of the 400 cars required for homologation in Group 4 were launched in 1973 and the Stratos was homologated for the 1974 World Rally Championship. The Dino V6 was phased out in 1974, but 500 engines among the last built were delivered to Lancia.
For racing, the engine was tuned up to 280 hp (209 kW) and even to 560 hp (418 kW) with a single KKK turbocharger. However, turbocharged versions were only allowed to compete in Group 5 and were never as reliable as their naturally aspirated counterparts.
The car won the 1974, 1975 and 1976 championship titles in the hands of Sandro Munari and Björn Waldegård, and might have gone on to win more had not internal politics within the Fiat group placed rallying responsibility on the Fiat 131 Abarths. As well as victories on the 1975, 1976 and 1977 Monte Carlo Rally, all courtesy of Munari, the Stratos won the event with the private Chardonnet Team as late as 1979.
Without support from Fiat, and despite new regulations that restricted engine power, the car would remain a serious competitor and proved able to beat works cars in several occasions when entered by an experienced private team with a talented driver. The final chapter of the Stratos' racing career at international level took place as late as 1981, at the Tour de Corse Automobile, another World Rally Championship event, with a victory by longtime Stratos privateer Bernard Darniche.
When the Fiat group favored the Fiat 131 for rallying Lancia also built two Group 5 turbocharged 'silhouette' Stratos for closed-track endurance racing. These cars failed against the Porsche 935s on closed tracks but proved successful in hybrid events. While they failed in the Tour de France Automobile, one of these cars won the 1976 Giro d'Italia Automobilistico, an Italian counterpart of the Tour de France Automobile. Unfortunately one of the cars was destroyed in Zeltweg, when it caught fire due to overheating problems. The last surviving car would win the Giro d'Italia event again before it was shipped to Japan to compete in the Fuji Speedway based Formula Silhouette series, which was never raced. The car would then be sold and reside in the Matsuda Collection before then being sold to the renowned collector of Stratos', Christian Hrabalek, a car designer and the founder of Fenomenon Ltd.
Automobile design consultant Chris Hrabalek has the largest Lancia Stratos Collection in the world - he owns 11 unique Lancia Stratos cars, including the fluorescent red 1971 factory prototype and the 1977 Safari Rally car.
Another unique Group 5 car is the Lancia Stratos HF of Austrian Rallycross driver Andy Bentza. The car was first driven by his Memphis team mate Franz Wurz, father of Formula One pilot Alexander Wurz. In 1976 Wurz claimed the first ever European Rallycross title recognised by the FIA with the car, by then still equipped with a 2.4 litre engine. For the ERC series of 1977 Wurz was entrusted with two experimental crankshafts by Mike Parkes, to bring the engine capacity up to just under 3000 cc. For 1978 Bentza took the Stratos over from Wurz, sold his own 2.4 litre Stratos to compatriot Reneé Vontsina, and won the GT Division title of the ERC. The one and only 3.0 litre Stratos was raced by Bentza till the mid 1980s, is nowadays still his property and ready to race. However, one of the two experimental crankshafts received from the Lancia factory was destroyed during a Rallycross event in the early 1980s.
- engine: V6
- capacity: 2400 cc
- horsepower: 190 HP
- gearbox: 5+1
- top speed: 225 km/h