Published on: Jan 19, 2016 @ 01:36 Originally Published in: 2014 (old website) (C) Jay Auger - website owner & author Notice: Any form of duplication methods (including but not limited to copy/paste of text and screen capture) of the website's content is strictly forbidden.
In early 1980, as soon as the Group B regulations were announced, the Fiat Group immediately launched a new bespoke rally car project in hopes to revive the Lancia Stratos glory days in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
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Several options were first considered for the new Group B contender such as building a special version of the successful Fiat 131 rally car which would now sport either a supercharged engine at the front paired with a rear ZF transaxle. The idea of replacing the four cylinder with a Ferrari V8 was also considered but then came a problem: the 131 model was to be phased out of production, soon to be replaced by the Lancia Delta in Fiat’s lineup.
As such, the same setup was considered but in the Delta instead. In true Italian style, the ideas changed once more to building a mid-engine Fiat Ritmo with a 2 litre supercharged engine instead. By then, Audi had already rolled out their quattro prototype rally car and although four wheel drive now seemed to be essential it was thought that there was insufficient time to begin developing such a system. Thus it was decided that the only way to battle the Audi, but using only two wheel drive, would have to be based on the recently revised mid-engined Lancia Beta Montecarlo model, of which a high performance silhouette racing version already existed for Group 5, and entrust the project to the expert hands at Abarth.
In March of 1980, Abarth officially started “Project SE037” as the genesis for the new rally car and gave Abarth the responsibility for its design and development, albeit the exterior design would be penned by Pininfarina. Exterior wise, the car featured front and rear clamshells to allow for wide and quick access to every mechanical component. The overall design was still reminiscent of the Beta Montecarlo but sported round projector headlamps for better illumination and ease of replacement instead of the normal units. “Bulges” were added to the low roof line to allow more headroom for racing helmets in the cabin.
The Abarth engineers decided to retain only the centre section of the original Montecarlo chassis in favour of a more advanced and easier to service front and rear (tubular) spaceframe design for the engine and suspension components.
The other main change came by positioning the engine in a longitudinal position as opposed to the transverse layout. The engine, as it was common practice to reuse a proven design, was directly evolved from the unit used in the previous Fiat 131 rally car. However, the revised engine would now sport a supercharging system, of which the engineers were adamant in using.
Since all these new features required per the new Group B rules that a minimum of 200 homologation cars to be built, it was decided that to give the “037” moniker (form the project code) to the new car, and added the “Rallye” name since it was designed strictly to win rallies. As such, the Rallye 037 can be considered without much argument as the spiritual successor to the legendary purpose built Group 4 rally car: the Lancia Stratos. Officially homologated on April 1st 1982, the Rallye 037 is considered as the very first top class rally car built entirely to exploit the new Group B specifications.
The car entered WRC competition at the 1982 Tour de Corse where Markku Alèn finished 9th. For its debut year, it must be mentioned that Lancia was using a basic version of the Rallye 037 which was very similar to the Stradale homologation model but with an upgraded engine (approx 250 HP) and rally suspension as the only major differences. The year was run only as a partial program to get the car through its paces and iron out its many issues. The rest of the season was indeed unfortunately plagued with retirements (mostly due to engine failures). Alèn remembers the debut car as one of the worst rally cars he had ever driven.
The official battle would only be between Audi and Opel, leaving the Abarth engineers hard at work to make their car more competitive. Although Audi would win the championship that year, the four wheel drive quattro remained very clunky on tarmac, and very much under pressure from the rear wheel drive Opel Ascona B400 all season long.
In August 1982, Abarth performed a full evolution to the rally car by upgrading many engine components that included replacing the Weber carburettor injection with mechanical fuel injection and also boosted power by the use of a water injection system. A new venting system was implemented with a new larger R18 Volumex supercharger to help improve its reliability to which the released air was fed into a transmission cooler when the throttle was lifted.
The aerodynamics were slightly improved. The normal Stradale tail lights were also replaced by simpler and easier to maintain multi-function round units. The evolution improvements boosted morale within the team with Alèn now considering the car as one of the best he’d ever driven. Besides the mitigated debut of the 037, Lancia was confident that their new car would be very competitive for the following year.
Lancia’s faith in their car’s design and improvements was rewarded when the cars, expertly driven by Walter Rörhl (signed away from Opel) and Markku Alèn, gave them the 1983 manufacturers championship amidst very heated battles against the four wheel drive Audis : the 037 was a much better performer in tarmac rallies and much nimbler overall which greatly made up for its lack of traction. However, the quattro A2, which was introduced mid-season, had much improved reliability, weight, power, and gave the 037 a much harder run for its money. As such, since the 037’s days were obviously numbered, Lancia would convince Fiat to approve a new four wheel drive rally car (project SE038), to which the 037 would serve as its original engine test bed.
For the 1984 season, hoping to remain competitive, Lancia once again upped the ante with a second evolution; it featured increased engine displacement (and with higher compression) to maximise the engine class (from 1995 to 2111 cc which resulted in 2955 cc with the x1.4 forced induction factor). The rear bumper cover was deleted to help decrease the accumulation of mud in dirt rallies and was replaced with large mudflaps.
With the new improvements (more power and less weight) the 037 E2 was able to perform very decently against the revised quattro, albeit it began to be outclassed by the very powerful Sport quattro. The arrival of the mid-engine four wheel drive Peugeot 205 T16 mid-season highly impacted the points battle as the Peugeot soon started winning every event. As such, Lancia couldn’t repeat their championship success, the title going back to Audi, although the car performed very well overall considering it was largely handicapped by its lesser power and traction potency.
For the 1985 season, disaster struck at the Tour de Corse where Attilio Bettega violently crashed his 037 and died from the impact. Afterwards, the Rallye 037 steadily fell out of contention against the outrageously more powerful Audi S1 E2 and very nimble Peugeot 205 T16 E2. Albeit they could have, Lancia did not perform a third evolution for the 037 since the engineers were instead busy putting the final touches on Lancia’s own four wheel drive supercar: the infamous Delta S4. The latter was launched at the last rally of the season and sounded the end for the last of the successful rear wheel drive cars.
For the 1986 season, albeit the Rallye 037 had been replaced, it was officially used one last time for the tough Safari event. However, the car still performed quite well in lesser national rally series in the hands of privateer teams until the very end of Group B. The Rallye 037 was by far the most successful rear wheel drive Group B car (and the last to record a WRC win in a non-endurance event), showing the prowess of the platform. If not for the four wheel drive benchmark, it is easy to argue that the 037 would have had a long and successful international rally career.
You can learn more about specific chassis numbers and their history by CLICKING HERE.
RALLY CAR SPECIFICATIONS
|Group/Class||B/12||Homologation number: B-210 (click to see papers)|
|Type||Fiat Twin Cam (Lambredi), I-4, DOHC 16v, gas||located middle longitudinal with 17oright inclination|
|Output power – torque||
|Materials||block: cast iron||cylinder head: aluminium alloy|
||boost: 8~13 psi (0.6~0.9 bar)|
|Cooling system||water-cooled with front mounted radiator||9 lt|
|Lubrication system||dry sump with oil cooler||9 lt|
|Type||rear wheel drive||5 speed ZF gearbox|
|Clutch||dry / Valeo single ceramic disc|
|Type||Central steel frame with aluminum roll cage. Two tubular frames front and back. 2 door coupe polyester resin and glass bodyshell|
|Front suspension||Double unequal wishbones (lower trapezoidal) with coil springs, Bilstein telescopic gas shock absorbers and anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||Double unequal wishbones (lower trapezoidal) with coil springs and double Bilstein telescopic gas shock absorbers|
|Steering system||rack and pinion||2.5 turns lock to lock (14.4:1)|
||dual circuit with servo|
||width: 1800 mm (70.9 in)||height: 1245 mm (49.0 in)|
|wheelbase: 2440 mm (96.1 in)||front track: 1508 mm (59.4 in)||rear track: 1498 mm (59.0 in)|
|Rims – tires||
|Fuel tank||30 + 70 lt|
The Rallye 037 Stradale (meaning “Road Version” in Italian) was born from the collaboration between Pininfarina, Abarth, Dallara and the project manager, engineer Sergio Limone. Based on the design of the Lancia Beta Montercarlo, the 037 is the spiritual successor to the legendary Stratos, and was built specifically for Group B homologation. Only 220 units were built, 20 of which were used to build the evolution units, hence making the Stradale a very coveted and rare model.
|Class||Sports||Homologation number: B-210 (click to see papers)|
|Production||1980~1982 (220)||Assembly: Italy|
|Output power – torque||205 HP @ 7000 rpm||166 lb-ft (226 Nm) @ 5000 rpm|
|Aspiration||Abarth R10 Volumex supercharger||Boost: N/A|
|Ignition||Electronic inductive discharge Marelli AEI 200 A||firing order 1-3-4-2|
|Lubrication system||Dry sump||–|
|Type||rear wheel drive||5 speed manual gearbox|
|Clutch||Single dry plate, hydraulic assist|
|Type||Kevlar reinforced with fiberglass|
|Front suspension||Independent double wishbone, coil springs, gas shock absorbers and stabilizer bar|
|Rear suspension||Identical to front but with dual shock absorbers and without sway bar|
|Steering system||Rack and pinion with hydraulic power assistance||N/A|
|length 3915 mm (154.1 in)||width 1850 mm (72.8 in)||height 1245 mm (49.0 in)|
|wheelbase 2240 mm (88.2 in)||front track: N/A||rear track: N/A|
|Rims – tires||Speedline 16″ alloy wheels||Pirelli P7 205/55 VR 16 tires|
|Curb Weight||1170 kg (2,580 lb)||Bias:N/A|
|Weight/power||5.7 kg/HP (12.6 lb/HP)|
|Fuel tank||70 liters|
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(C) Articles by Jay Auger – website owner & author