Two World Rally victories – The only 037 to achieve this!
Driven to victory by WRC Champions Walter Röhrl and Markku Alén
Two-time WRC winner in Lancia’s Manufacturers Championship winning year!
One of only 5 Lancia 037’s to win a World Rally
25 World Rally stage victories
The Lancia Rally ‘037’
The FIA, motorsport’s governing body, introduced Group B regulations for the 1982 World Rally Championship, which manufacturers needing to design and build a new car to compete. For Lancia, the Rally 037 went into development in early 1980 with the SE 037 Prototipo starting testing in December the same year.
During the development, which was overseen by Chief Engineer Sergio Limone, Abarth, Dallara and Pininfarina were all involved with lots of testing taking place. The end result was a mid-engined racer with subframes mounted to the front and rear of the chassis, powered by a supercharged 1,995 cc, 16-valve, four-cylinder, longitudinally mounted Abarth 232 AR4 engine with drive delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels.
The finished competition cars made their World Rally Championship debut at the 1982 Tour de Corse, with the first 037 victory coming in the hands of Champion Walter Röhrl at the 1983 Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo. Over the 1983 season, the 037 claimed five outright victories, with Lancia winning the World Championship for manufacturers. In doing so, the 037 became the final two-wheel drive, and final rear-wheel drive car to ever with the World Rally Championship.
This Lancia Rally ‘037’ Group B – Testing & Development
301 was built in June 1982, and was issued its Certificate of Origin on the 22nd of the same month. A day later, this car was registered in Italy to Fiat Auto Spa and assigned the license ‘TO X98907’. This car, chassis 301, is the very first ‘Evo 1’ Lancia Rally, a specification which was homologated on 1st August 1982.
The first outing for this 037 was in Finalnd, where World Champion, Markku Alén, completed technical tests with the car. Later, Sergio Limone confirmed that this car, chassis 301, was the official Abarth research & development car. Colour pictures from this Finland test show the car was finished in all white, with a plain black rear spoiler and enlarged front mud flaps and front license plate to confirm the chassis identity. Later the same month, this car was again tested at Fiats test track, La Mandria, with Markku Alén joined by Giorgio Pianta behind the wheel. On the 26th July, all twenty Evo 1 specification cars were presented to FISA at the Abarth HQ in Turin.
September saw 301 conducting more testing, this time with Walter Röhrl at La Mandria, with Lancia also deciding to test the Michelin TRX tyres, although there was no performance advantage and the team remained loyal to the Italian tyre manufacturer, Pirelli. The following month saw Lancia taking this car to Wales for more testing, with the extensive history file containing many colour images documenting these tests.
Technical tests continued for 301 in Finland in December 1982, with pictures showing Lancia team members including Sergio Limone embracing the cold temperatures. A final test in Portugal in February 1983 saw 301 take to the stages of the World Rally, generating valuable information and setup data for the 1983 event.
Chassis 301’s first competitive outing was at the Rothmans Circuit of Ireland Rally, round eleven of the 1984 European Rally Championship. The car was driven by Pentti Airikala with Juha Piironen reading pace notes. After leading day one, Pentti spun into retirement on a patch on black ice on the final day, although did comment “The Lancia people were all charming, we had Italian, English, Irish and Finish crew people but it all worked. The car was obviously very impressive and very exciting, just like a racing car. And it has got very good results, but to get good results, first you have to finish!”.
1983 Sanyo Rally of New Zealand
At the end of June, this 037 was assigned to Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdorfer for the 7th round of the World Rally Championship, the Sanyo Rally of New Zealand. The car arrived in New Zealand being weighed in at 970 kg with its Titanium roll cage. The tyres provided by Pirelli were very similar to those used on the Acropolis rally, earlier in the year, with stiff sidewalls. However, Röhrl suffered a handling imbalance for the majority of the rally, which he attributed to the construction of the tyres. Interestingly, in an effort to compensate for the different surface, the 037’s were being run 20mm lower than in Greece, the previous round of the World Rally Championship.
With race number 1 and its hugely iconic Lancia Martini Racing livery, 301 and Röhrl claimed sixteen stage victories across 1,069 km en-route to overall victory! After his commanding victory, winning by over sixteen minutes, Röhrl commented “The roads in New Zealand are mostly gravel, but smooth and very fast. I prefer fast stages. For me, car driving starts when you are going at more than 100 mph.” This was also Röhrl’s third World Rally victory of the year, leaving him with a twenty-two-point lead in the Drivers Championship, although he chose not to participate in several events throughout the year, undoubtedly costing him a very real shot at the title! After New Zealand, Lancia were also leading the Constructors Championship, with a twenty-four-point lead over Audi.
1983 Rally of the 1000 Lakes, Finland
After this decisive victory, 301 returned to testing in Finalnd once more in preparation for round 9 of the 1983 World Rally Championship, the Rally of 1000 Lakes. With Walter Röhrl choosing to not compete in Finland, 301 was assigned to 1978 World Rally Champion, Markku Alén, wearing the Martini Racing livery with race number 2. Six stage victories ensued, with 301, Alén and Kivimaki leading the rally from stage six to fourteen! Sadly, the Audi’s proved just too strong on the gravel of Finland, although it was noted Alén drove the 037 better than ever before, finishing 3rd overall.
1983 Rallye Sanremo, Italy
Held from the 2nd to 8th October, the 25th running of the Rally di Sanremo marked the tenth rough of the 1983 World Rally Championship. After the Rally of 1000 Lakes, Lancia led the Manufacturers Championship by twelve points, with Audi pushing hard in second. With this in mind, and only one event after Sanremo to settle the Manufacturers championship, both teams sent more cars than usual. Audi sent four Quattro’s, with Lancia running eight 037’s between the official and semi-official entries.
On the eve of the rally, Markku Alén confirmed he had re-signed with Lancia for the following season, whilst Walter Röhrl had announced he would be leaving Lancia to join rivals Audi.
The Sanremo rally was a mixture of asphalt and gravel stages, with the advantage ebbing and flowing between the Lancia and Audi. Forty three percent of the fifty-nine stages were held on asphalt, so in theory Audi held the advantage, however the Lancia was closer to the Audi on gravel, than the Audi was to the Lancia on asphalt!
This car, chassis 301, was assigned to Markku Alén and Ilkka Kivimaki once again for this all-important Sanremo rally. After twenty-nine stages, Alén had claimed victory in only one stage, however his metronomic consistency meant he was leading the Audi of Michele Mouton by a massive 1 ½ minutes.
With fourteen gravel stages remaining, Cesare Fiorio, Lancia’s team manager, commented “I can’t relax yet. I’ve got one car in front. Röhrl and Bettega are coming too, so I must look after them. On the way to Siena we lost ground on eleven stages, but then we pulled back. I think we’ll lose time on the next two stages because they are uphill and have hairpins, but after I think we’ll be ok. Once we are off the gravel, I think Röhrl and Bettega can make up three minutes on the Audi’s.”
After an incredible fifty-eight special stages, Markku Alén, Ilkka Kivimaki and this car crossed the line to win the 1983 Sanremo rally. However, victory not only gave Alén his second World Rally victory of the year, it also sealed the 1983 World Championship for Manufacturer’s for Lancia Martini Racing.
For chassis 301, the was its second World Rally victory, a feat which no other 037 ever achieved. Amazingly, both victories also came at the hands of two World Rally Champions, 1978 champion Markku Alén, and double World Rally champion Walter Röhrl. Sanremo was also the third podium finish from three World Rally events in 1983 for 301.
A week later, Cesare Fiorio announced that the Lancia Martini team would not participate at the final round of the World Rally Championship, the RAC rally in Great Britain, commenting “We are many millions of Lire over budget. It’s very expensive chasing all these Audis around the world!”
1983 was a hugely important and successful year for Lancia and the Rally 037. Claiming five victories across the World Rally Championship, with chassis 301 taking two of these, earnt Lancia it’s fifth World Championship.
After a hugely successful factory competition life, this 037 was sold in February 1984 to Giuseppe Volta, owner of Officina Volta who also worked with Abarth during the production of the Evo 1 037’s. As noted on the Italian registration documentation accompanying this car, including the original Italian Libretto confirming Fiat Auto Spa as first owners, the car next moved to Corrado Tiziano in Veneto, Italy in July 1983.
It appears that Tiziano, although a regular Lancia Rally 037 competitor himself, leased the car to La Bamba Competition in Spain, maintaining the Italian registration. The driver was Manuel ‘El Vaquero’ Rodriguez, a regular competitor in his Opel Ascona across Spain, with the first event being the Rally Villa de Teror on the Canary Islands in September 1985. Wearing race number 0, El Vaquero and 301 finished 5th overall.
For the 1986 season, El Vaquero used 301 on five occasions throughout Spain, starting at the Rally Isla de Gran Canaria, with a second-place finish. Another second-place finish followed in May at the Rally Ciudad de Telda, a sixth-place finish at the Rally El Corte Ingles in June before a second-place finish rounded out the year at the Rally Villa de Teror in September. For this event, the car was painted in a striking green with maroon front bumper and lower sides, with an orange bonnet and roof, certainly catching the eye of the Spanish people who loved the car!
El Vaquero was clearly enjoying using this 037, continuing to compete with the car throughout the 1987 and 1988 seasons, before Group B cars were banned from competition. The highlight result from the final two years of competition was victory at the 1988 Rally Isla de Gran Canaria.
1990 saw chassis 301 registered to rally car team and specialists, Leader Srl in Treviso, Italy. This car remained registered to Leader Srl until 1993, at which point it was transferred to Mrs Radda Borsato, also a resident in Treviso, Italy, and along with Tiziano Corrada, formed part of the same family which owned Leader Srl.
Mrs Radda Borsato maintained ownership of this very special 037 for 17 years, before Ms Ana Goni bought it with the assistance of David Sutton. The car was displayed at the San Marco Fiat dealership, Renzo Sernagiotto, which was owned by Mrs Radda Borsato, with the car having remained in this family ownership since being bought by Corrado Tiziano in 1984! Interestingly, Ms Ana Goni was also co-driver for Stig Blomqvist in the World Rally Championship.
Under Ms Ana Goni’s ownership this car was prominently displayed at the David Sutton Museum, also being featured in EVO Magazine before passing through an American owner who kept the car in the David Sutton Museum. In 2009 the current owner purchased the car and quickly set about returning it to its original Evo 1 specification. As with many rally cars, over the years the car had been upgraded to the newest specification, but this owner rightly returned the car to the specification in which it won the 1983 Rallye Sanremo.
Recently, this very important 037 has returned to Turin, where the famed ex-Abarth mechanics, Elio and Giovanni Baldi have serviced and inspected it. The car has also been inspected and certified by Abarth Classiche. We have also spoken with the Lancia Rally 037 project leader, Mr Sergio Limone, who confirmed “This was the ‘official’ test car of the Abarth R&D department, managed by myself.”
With Group B cars becoming increasingly admired and respected in the classic car world, the Lancia 037 holds a very special place in World Rally history, being the final rear-wheel drive car to win the World Rally Championship. Enroute to claiming the 1983 World Rally Championship, Lancia Martin Racing claimed victory in five events with the 037, with this actual car being the only 037 to ever win two World Rallies, both in the 1983 Championship-winning season!
All Lancia Martini Racing 037’s are special, but when we consider chassis 301 is the most successful 037 in World Rallying, on top of its amazing history as the Abarth research & development car, and having been driven by Champions Walter Röhrl and Markku Alén, along with Abarth development driver Giorgio Pianta, this really is an opportunity not to be missed.
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