The history of the Lancia Stratos

   

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.
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.
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.

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