The Lancia Delta: Rally Legend

   At first glance, the Lancia Delta Integrale, looks like nothing more than your average, run-of-the-mill family hatchback. Rally world champion with an era immersed in gold and trophies isn’t something you’d expect out of a car like this, but it is just that. In 1979, the Italian market was introduced to the Lancia. Like mentioned before, the Lancia was quite average. No technological breakthroughs and didn’t set any new class standards. It would be a handful of years before the car reached classic status. 

   In 1984 the Lancia beefed up their Delta series by creating their first World Rally Championship contender, the ferocious Delta S4. The car was specifically built to complete in Group B class. Group B vehicles were “supercars” of sorts. The weight was kept as low as possible, there were no regulations on high-tech materials and the cars weren’t restricted on their boost.  The power output of these vehicles went from 250hp in 1981 to exceeding 500hp in 1986. Of course, this sort of lack of regulation can be deadly. In 1986, Henri Toivonen, a Finnish rally driver, and his co-pilot, Sergio Cresto, misjudged a tight left corner down a twisty mountainside, launching Toivonen's Lancia down a ravine and onto it's roof. Within seconds, the fuel tank fitted beneath the driver’s seat exploded, leaving both Toivonen and Crest dead in their seats. Authorities arrived 30 minutes later to find nothing but the blackened space frame of Toivonen's Lancia.

Toivonen's car frame. 

Toivonen's car frame. 

    Within hours of Toivonen’s crash the FIA, rally’s governing body, banned Group B regulations. Group A became the new standard for the WRC in 1987, meaning heavier restrictions  with all vehicles derived from production models. The Lancia Delta HF was created for the WRC, capable of reaching 128 mph and zero to sixty in 6.4 seconds. Team Lancia eased into the new regulations, dominating the first year of Group A winning 9 out 13 rounds. 

   The next year, the Delta Integrale was introduced. Engineered for razor-sharp steering, fantastic agility and tight grip on slippery surfaces rivaled only by the Audi Quattro and Toyota Celica GT4. The Delta Intergrale outperformed at only half the price of the Quattro. Team Lancia kept dominating in the WRC, winning fans all over U.S. while selling 10,000 units within two years. But like many champions, the Lancia began to show its age, quickly falling behind its rivals the Impreza WRX and Celica GT4. The Delta Integrale won its sixth and final WRC championship in 1992.

   The final Delta Integrale car was delivered in 1994. Final sales reaching 40,000 units, 46 wins and six WRC titles to its name spanning from 1987-1992. Not too shabby for a family hatchback.

Tomas EspinozaComment