A Works Lancia Martini Racing Team entry in Rallye de Portugal – round three of the 1989 World Rally Championship
Entrant in the 1989 World and European Rally Championships
Raced by World Rally Champion Didier Auriol and the European Rally Champions Fabrizio Tabaton and Yves Loubet – the latter of whom during his title-winning season
Competed in the legendary liveries of the Martini Racing Team and Esso H.F. Grifone outfits
A two-time podium finisher in the 1989 European Rally Championship
A two-time winner in the 1989 Italian Rally Championship
Employed by the Works as a development car for the electronically-controlled ‘bi-pedale’ Valeo clutch system
The only Delta HF Integrale 8V still fitted with the aforementioned ‘bi-pedale’ system
Registered on its original black Turin ‘TO’ number plates
In the first six years of the World Rally Championship’s Group A regulations, the Lancia Delta won every single Manufacturers’ title. Just think about the gravity of that achievement for a moment. In its multitude of successive evolutions and, of course, the legendary Works Lancia Martini Racing Team colours, the Delta racked up 46 victories on rallying’s world stage, in the hands of such motorsport legends as Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion and Markku Alén.
The Delta HF Integrale 8V was the second competition variant of the model, introducing a raft of improvements over the outgoing 4WD. Considerably increasing the size of the wheel arches allowed Lancia to fit more effective suspension, wheels which were both larger in diameter and wider, and bigger brakes. A six-speed Abarth gearbox was employed for the very first time, as were advanced Michelin tyres, replacing the old Pirellis. The Garrett turbocharger was also enlarged and a more efficient intercooler was installed, raising power considerably.
A full Works-specification car born in Lancia’s Reparto Corse skunkworks, this Delta HF Integrale 8V Group A is chassis number 459859, which was built to ‘light gravel’ configuration. Competing in the World Rally Championship under the factory Lancia Martini Racing Team banner, the car’s maiden competitive outing came in the 23rd Rallye de Portugal in 1989 – an event which, 12 months earlier, the eight-valve Delta won by an astonishing 10 minutes.
Bearing the Turin registration ‘TO 74785L’, the car was earmarked for the French future World Rally Champion Didier Auriol and his co-driver Bernard Occelli. Portugal was (and remains) a challenging rally to master predominantly because of its half-gravel half-asphalt nature. But a further dimension of difficulty was added in 1989 by inclement weather – the last thing you expect to find on the Iberian Peninsula.
“Lancia didn’t just rise to the challenge – it was truly in a league of its own. Of the 38 special stages spread across Rallye de Portugal’s four legs, Works Lancias won 36 of them.”
Lancia didn’t just rise to the challenge – it was truly in a league of its own. The Delta HF Integrale 8V was at the peak of its powers, as was the trio of drivers employed to drive them for the factory effort: Markku Alén, Miki Biasion and Didier Auriol. Of the 38 special stages spread across four legs, Works Lancias won 36 of them. The fight for outright victory played out between Auriol and Biasion – the Frenchman kept the Italian honest at the front for the lion’s share of the rally, tallying 11 stage victories before suffering an agonising clutch failure.
The imminent introduction of the new 16-valve Delta HF Integrale meant the Works no longer required the services of chassis number 459859. This car was loaned to the H.F. Grifone outfit and refinished in the team’s wonderful black and gold livery. Twice a winner of the European Rally Championship, Fabrizio Tabaton raced ‘TO 74785L’ to second overall in the 1989 Rally Costa Smeralda. He quickly followed that up with wins in the 1989 Rally del Salento and Rally di Pescara, both rounds in the ultra-competitive Italian Rally Championship.
Following its final competitive event, Rallye Deutschland in 1989, this Lancia returned to Turin, where the factory fitted it with a new electronically-controlled clutch system developed in close collaboration with Valeo.
Operated simply with the gear lever or by a button on the steering wheel, the clutch could be automatically engaged or disengaged by an electromechanical actuator in the gearbox, theoretically decreasing the speed of gear changes. Since there was no use for a conventional clutch pedal, it was removed completely and the handful of Deltas subsequently fitted with this newfangled system became known as bi-pedale cars.
While the specific schedule is difficult to define, chassis number 459859 served as a technical-test car for Lancia in 1990 and pioneered a technological system which proved to be a hot topic not only in rally paddocks around the world, but in the wider automotive press.
In the years since, this Delta HF Integrale 8V has been owned by a handful of prominent Lancia rally-car collectors and remained in Italy. In 2016 the car was awarded with its FIA Historic Technical Papers, which remain valid until 2026. Furthermore, in 2018 chassis number 459859 was submitted for Abarth Classiche certification, which it duly received.
Still registered on its desirable original black ‘TO’ number plates, this highly original ex-Works Lancia Martini Racing Team Delta HF Integrale 8V is a wonderful embodiment of what was a marque at the very peak of its powers – a dominant force in the sport, which clinched an astonishing six consecutive World Rally Championships with the indomitable Delta. This chassis’ role as a test-and-development prototype for the innovative bi-pedale system is another fascinating string to its bow.
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