Lancia's two-wheel drive Group B hero
The design of the new Lancia Group B machine was approved in March 1980. The car featured a supercharged, longitudinal, four-cylinder, 16-valve engine and double wishbone suspension in the front and rear. By November 1981, the team was ready to formally announce the 037 as a project that would compete in the 1982 World Rally Championship. The team and drivers worked hard on set up and development, resulting in Lancia claiming victory in five World Rally events in 1983, en route to winning the World Rally Constructors’ Championship.
The Lancia 037 was a machine built for purpose. It was designed to reign supreme over all competitors in the Group B era of World Rallying, and in 1983, it did exactly that, winning the World Rally Constructors’ Championship. The 037 also secured three consecutive European Rally Championship titles from 1983 to 1985, two Italian Championship titles in 1983 and 1985, and one Open title in 1984.
Lancia continued the success it had experienced with the Fulvia, Stratos and 037, each providing valuable lessons in the design of Lancia’s future champions, the Delta S4 and Delta Integrale, which both helped Lancia cement its place as the world’s most successful WRC constructor with 10 World Championships.
The car featured here was built in late 1982, being first registered to Fiat Auto Spa in Turin in January 1983. Having been assigned to the Jolly Club racing team, it was finished in white with hugely iconic green and orange stripes, as all Jolly Club cars, to mimic the Martini Racing cars which wore blue and red stripes, whilst also eluding to the near-factory level of support Jolly Club provided.
In early March, this car made its competition debut at the 67th Targa Florio Rally with the soon-to-be European Rally Champion, Carlo Capone driving, Luigi Pirollo navigating, and the famed Italian racing team, Jolly Club, running the car. Round eight of the 1983 European Rally Championship, the Targa Florio Rally, saw 64 starters, but only 34 finishers, with the Lancia 037 Rally dominating. Of the four 037’s entered, three finished, taking first, second and third overall. This car, with Capone and Pirollo, finished a remarkable second overall, being only narrowly beaten by the sister 037 of Franco Cunico.
Three weeks later, it was shipped to the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia, for the 6th Rally Costa Smeralda. The gravel event was held around the famed billionaires playground of Porto Cervo, attracting in excess of 100 entrants, 9 being Lancia 037’s. As the flag fell at the end of round ten of the 1983 European Rally Championship, Carlo Capone had again driven very well, finishing fourth overall. The next event for this car was the 1983 Rally Internazionale della Lana, round 21 of the European Rally Championship, again being piloted by Carlo Capone and assigned race number 7. The 11th running of the asphalt event saw it based in the Biella region, covering over 500 kilometres. Capone was once again driving impeccably, taking a commanding victory over the sister Jolly Club 037 driven by Miki Biasion.
After its dominant victory in its most recent event, it next competed in round 9 of the 1983 World Rally Championship, Rally Sanremo, being entered by the Tre Gazzelle team. At the tender age of 22, Andrea Zanussi was making his World Rally debut, after several successful years with the Fiat 131 Abarth and 037 Rally in the European Rally Championship. With a new driver, came new sponsors for the 037 which was no longer wearing Jolly Club stripes, instead white and red sponsorship of the German cigarette brand, R6.
The 1983 Sanremo WRC event was always going to be an uphill battle for the new kid on the block, Zanussi, however he still impressed with several fourth and fifth place stage finishes, even more so considering there were eight Lancia 037 Rally’s entered. Unfortunately, Andrea Zanussi and Sergio Cresta suffered an accident, and despite making it to the end of the stage, chose to retire after stage 33. This was also the event at which Lancia and the 037 claimed victory in the World Rally Championship. The final rear wheel drive car to ever win the WRC Championship.
In March 1984, the car was sold to HF Grifone and refinished in the famous blue and yellow livery with Olio Fiat sponsorship. This car made its return to Sanremo for the 1984 World Rally Championship event, this time being driven by Fabrizio Tabaton and Luciano Tedeschini. Tabaton claimed his highest World Rally Championship finish, fourth overall, behind only the four-wheel drive Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 of Ari Vatanen, and the 037’s of Attilio Bettega and Miki Biasion, an impressive result for the 19-year-old.
This 1983 Lancia 037 Rally Group B is available from Girardo & Co. Click on the link below for more information, including a detailed history of the car. Photos: © Girardo & Co.