Tribute: Lancia Stratos HF

Lancia won three consecutive manufacturer titles in World Rally Championship with the Stratos HF, which was a Group 4 car.

Lancia joined World Rally Championship back in 1970 where the team competed with the Fulvia. In 1974, the Italians decided to bring Stratos HF which was running at the top level since 1981. After Alpine-Renault became the WRC Manufacturer Champion in 1973, Lancia responded by fielding a new car to the sport and managed to get back to the top for three years in a row (1974-1976). However, it must be mentioned that Lancia debuted Stratos at the third WRC round in 1974 which was the Rallye Sanremo. Before we see what happened during these seasons, let’s have a look to the technical speculations of Lancia Stratos HF. 

The engine had a capacity of 2.418 cc, was located center transverse and was a naturally engine with three Weber 48 IDF carburetors. Moreover, the type of the engine was a V6 Ferrari tipo 236E combined with a five-speed manual gearbox and a rear wheel drive. The body was a steel monocoque 829 AR chassis with front suspension subframe and rear suspension bridge. The total output of this car was at 190 hp.


Lancia skipped the first round of that year’s championship, which was Rally de Portugal, and competed with Sandro Munari in the next one (East African Safari Rally) who drove the Fulvia 1.6 Coupe HF. The Italian team also did not take part in the third WRC event (Rally Finland), but they brought a new car at Rallye Sanremo which was the Stratos HF. Munari immediately adapted to his new car and gave to his team a victory from his first event with the Stratos HF. At the following event after Rally Sanremo, Munari repeated his victorious form and claimed a second win in a row for Lancia, but the 20 points from his win was not awarded for Rally Canada. At Rally USA, the Italian driver was forced to retire after his car faced a distributor issue, but Lancia took ten points as Simo Lampinen finished fourth overall with the Lancia Beta Coupe. Despite Munari’s retirement in USA, he responded back in United Kingdom by completing the top three while his teammate Jean-Claude Andruet (or ‘Biche) claimed the third victory of the season for Lancia with the Stratos HF. During that season, Lancia took part with three different cars (Beta Coupe, Fulvia and Startos HF), but their winning car (Stratos) was driven by Munari, ‘Biche’, Amilcare Ballestrieri, Roberto Cambiaghi and Gabriele Sciascia. Lancia became the WRC Manufacturer Champion for 1974 season and left Fiat behind for five points on the championship.


In 1975, Lancia chose Sandro Munari, Bjorn Waldegard, Jean-Claude Andruet and Raffaele Pinto as its factory drivers. At Rallye Monte Carlo, Munari won the first event of that season’s championship, but his teammates (Andruet and Pinto) retired due to an accident. The Italian team took part in Sweden with only one driver and Waldegard won his home event with the Stratos. Munari and Waldegard did the 2-3 for Lancia at Safari Rally which means that Lancia scored 55 points after the end of the third WRC round. At Acropolis Rally, they took zero points as Waldegard and Pinto retired due to electrical and engine issues respectively whereas not a single one Lancia driver competed at Rally du Maroc, Rallye de Portugal and Rally Finland. However, Waldegard responded back at Rallye Sanremo as he won this iconic event and was the top Lancia driver considering the two DNFs of Munari and Pinto. At Tour de Corse, Lancia scored 20 points, which were the maximum ones on the championship, as Bernand Darniche was victorious on the French island, but he was the driver of Team Chardonnet which was running Lancia Stratos HF cars. The two factory drivers, Munari and Pinto, could not get to the finish line due to an accident and a suspension damage respectively. However, Lancia managed to become a WRC Manufacturer Champion for a second year in a row despite the fact that the Italian car brand scored only one point on the season finale in Great Britain as Simo Lampinen finished at the top ten with the Beta Coupe whereas Waldegard was excluded and Munari crashed. Fiat remained second overall on the manufacturer’s championship for one more year, but this time finished 35 points behind Lancia.


After two years since the first appearance of Stratos HF, Lancia brought a minor change to its car for 1976 which was related to the number of valves. The Stratos HF 24V had four valves per cylinder and 24 valves in total compared to the 1974 car which had two valves per cylinder and totally twelve valves. Sandro Munari, Rafaelle Pinto and Bjorn Wadelgard continued with Lancia for one more season while Mauro Pregliasco joined the squad for only one rally (Acropolis Rally). Lancia started that season in a very positive way as Sandro Munari finished ahead of his teammate Wadelgard in Monte Carlo while Bernand Darniche of the Team Chardonnet completed the top three for the Italians as he drove the Stratos HF. At Rally Sweden, the local hero Waldergard did not manage to get to the finish line as he had a crash with his car, but the best finish for Lancia was the fourth place which came from the privateer Simo Lampinen with the Stratos HF. WRC visited Portugal as the third WRC round in which Waldergard was absent from that event while Munari and Pinto did the 1-4 for Lancia and the team had 50 points on the manufacturer championship after the end of that rally. The following rallies were very disappointing as Munari had to retire due to an engine issue with his 12-valve Stratos and Waldegard did not continue due to a starter engine problem with the Stratos HF 24V at Safari Rally. After Kenya, Acropolis Rally also disappointed the Lancia supporters as Pinto, Waldergard and Pregliaso retired with a driveshaft, oil pipe and clutch issue respectively. From these two events, the Italian car brand scored zero points and remained with the 50 points it had after the third round. Munari was the only representative driver of Lancia at Rallye du Maroc and managed to finish at the top three. At Rally Finland, the fans did not see any factory Startos passing through the stages as the team decided to skip this event. At Rallye Sanremo, Lancia repeated a 1-2-3 finish at its home event with Waldergard stepping at the top of the podium and Munari and Pinto following him. At Tour de Corse, it was Munari’s turn to win this iconic event and claimed his third victory of the season while his teammates did not participate there. However, Darniche returned back to action with the Stratos HF and finished behind Munari in Corsica. The final round of 1976 championship was held in Great Britain and once again Munari was the only Lancia driver, but he could not do anymore than finishing in fourth place overall. Lancia became the WRC Manufacturer Champion for a third consecutive year despite the disastrous rallies the team had in Kenya and Greece and finished ahead of Opel for 55 points.


1977 was the first year where FIA and WRC created a championship for the drivers. Lancia lost its chance to claim its fourth consecutive title in World Rally Championship as the Italians finished in fifth overall with 60 points and was behind the winner Fiat for 66 points. However, Sandro Munari managed to become the first driver Champion in WRC history by winning only one event (Rallye Monte Carlo) and finishing at the lowest place of the podium in Kenya with the Stratos HF 24V. His season was not perfect as he had two retirements which were caused by a transmission issue and a crash at Rallye Sanremo and Tour de Corse respectively. In addition to these, he skipped six from eleven events that year while he finished 25th overall on the season finale which was held in Great Britain. Nevertheless, he managed to beat his former teammate, Bjorn Waldergard, by one point as the Italian driver finished his season with 31 points. It must be mentioned that only three drivers fought for the Cup for Rally Drivers and could score points on some FIA special events and European Rally Championship events apart from the World Rally Championship. Munari was victorious with the Lancia only in one FIA special event and took the nine points for the WRC championship from the Rally South Africa while he was absent from the other FIA and European special rounds.Mauro Pregliaso and Rafaelle Pinto continued with a partial programme with Lancia and participated in one and three WRC rounds respectively. Pregliaso finished in fourth place overall at Rallye Sanremo and gave valuable points to Lancia after Munari’s retirement whereas Pinto had two retirements and climbed to the second place of the podium in Corsica. Simo Lampinen secured only one drive with the Lancia Stratos HF 24V of the factory team and did not get to the finish line of Safari Rally due to an engine problem with his car. On the other hand, Bernand Darniche promoted to Lancia Alitalia, the factory team of Lancia, from Team Chardonnet for that season and competed only in one race, but he had an accident in Monte Carlo, thus he was not able to continue.


Alitalia Lancia Pirelli switched to the previous generation of Stratos, the Stratos HF, for 1978 and signed four drivers (Munari, Markku Alen, Fulvio Bacchelli and Adartico Vudafieri). Lancia lost both championships as Munari and Alen competed with Fiat as well which was the sister car brand. Despite the fact that Alen became the second Champion in WRC history, he scored the most points with the 131 Abarth. He won the Rallye Sanremo and the Giro d’Italia with Lancia which were a WRC round and a FIA special event respectively, while he did one more outing with the Stratos at Rally Great Britain in which he had to retire due to a gearbox issue. On the other hand, Munari took part in two rallies with Lancia (Rallye Monte Carlo, Rally Great Britain) and retired due to engine issue in both of them. Finally, Bacchelli completed the top ten in Monte Carlo while Vudafieri did not grab the chance that Lancia gave to him as the Italians offered him an outing as a factory driver in Corsica. The last one sealed a drive with the Stratos of Jolly Club at Rallye Sanremo, which was held before Tour de Corse, but he had two accidents in both rallies. Once again, Lancia did not get back to the top, but instead of that the team finished even behind on the championship compared to 1977. 


Three different teams participated in World Rally Championship with the Stratos HF. Team Chardonnet, Jolly Club and Lancia GB signed Bernand Darniche, ‘Tony’ and Markku Alen as its drivers respectively. Darniche and Team Chardonnet were the most successful with the Stratos HF as they won two WRC rounds (Rallye Monte Carlo and Tour de Corse) while they had two retirements due to a fire and a suspension damage in Portugal and Greece respectively. ‘Tony’ and Alen had only one outing with the Lancia car at Rallye Sanremo and Rally Great Britain respectively. The 1978 WRC Champion finished at the top five in GB whereas ‘Tony’ won his home event. The three victories and the fifth place helped Lancia to finish in the fourth position on the manufacturer championship with 65 points. 


Chardonnet SA continued its partnership with Bernand Darniche who took part only in three events. He finished second overall with the Stratos at Rallye Monte Carlo, but he had two retirements on the other two rounds (Rally de Portugal, Acropolis Rally). Lancia finished in tenth place on the manufacturer championship with 20 points which came from Darniche and ‘Siroco’. ‘Siroco’ gave to Lancia only four points as he finished ninth overall on his home event which was held in Greece.


In 1981, Team Chardonnet was the only representative team of Lancia in World Rally Championship, but they competed only in three rallies. Bernand Darniche and Markku Alen had the chance to drive the Stratos. The French driver did two outings with the Lancia car in that season where finished in sixth place and was victorious at Rallye Monte Carlo and at Rallye Sanremo respectively. It was Alen’s turn to drive the Stratos HF, but he did not arrive at the finish line of Rally Great Britain as he had an accident. The season finale was held in Great Britain and Lancia Stratos HF stopped running since the end of that rally. This was the last appearance of this car in World Rally Championship. Lancia completed the top ten on the manufacturer championship with 28 points and finished 89 points behind the winner Talbot. 

Lancia created two competitive cars, the Stratos HF and the Stratos HF 24V, and managed to win three consecutive manufacturer titles and one driver title in World Rally Championship from 1974 to 1977. The Italian car brand was not able to defend its titles and gradually lost its prestige with the years passing. After their domination, they continued to be victorious with the factory team and some other private teams, but the Italians withdrew their manufacturer team from 1979 to 1981 and eventually the iconic Stratos disappeared from the World Rally Championship despite the fact that everything started in a positive way. 

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