1983 Rally Cars Rally Cars
Wiltshire, United Kingdom
1983 Works Lancia 037 - Ex Walter Röhrl WRC
On the 14th December 1981 Lancia revealed their new Group B Rally car to the world’s press. Named simply the Rally, but better known by its internal project number 037, the car was not only successful but synonymous with the mad but brief golden years of rallying that was Group B. In the course of its short but illustrious career, the 037 won the WRC title in 1983, was runner up the following year. The 037 also scored three consecutive European Drivers Titles in ‘83, ‘84 and ‘85 and a myriad of international and national titles in different events.
As with the iconic and hugely successful Stratos, the 037 was built purely and simply as a competition car, looking alike both cars were easily serviced during competition and were easily adaptable to suit prevailing conditions. Mounted longitudinally, the engine was the well-proven 4-cylinder, 2 litre, 16 valve unit which had done so well in the 131 Abarth and, unusually, a supercharger was chosen over turbo charging for more reliable and responsive power. With the weight exhaustively pared down to just 960kg, power was ample at 280 to 310 bhp with Bosch electronic fuel injection.
The car was finally homologated for Group B on the 1st April 1982 following intense testing and 220 frames were built by Pininfarina. Initially, the 037’s performance on the world rally stage was rather lacklustre, at its first outing, the Costa Smeralda Rally, both cars retired with issues and this was repeated at the following event. An unrelenting development programme resulted in the Rally being re-homologated in a new version on the 1st August, weight now down to 960kg, power up to over 310bhp with a new camshaft and charging system modifications. Following this, race results improved at a pace. The 037’s first victory coming at The National Pace Rally in Wales in October, followed by another win in Italy at the San Reno the following month.
Lancia had great hopes for 1983 and the 037 did not disappoint, despite the challenge of the fearsomely capable all-wheel drive Audi Quattro. The first victory came in the Monte Carlo Rally in January, two Rally’s took the first two places driven by Röhrl and Allen respectively, Lancia dominating the competition.
The next World Rally was Portugal in March, a brutal 624 kilometre test of gravel and asphalt that wound its way through the forests and hills of Porto. This was going to be the least favourite event for Lancia due to the extensive gravel sections, which favoured the all-wheel drive Audi’s. However, against all the odds, the first stages played into Lancia’s hands and Röhrls team mate Allen took the first stage win with Röhrl coming back strongly to take the next stage and overall leader spot, which he retained for seventeen straight stages. Blomqvist eventually snatched the lead back on Stage Eighteen followed by Mikkola in the final stage of the Rally. A well-fought battle by two manufacturers at the top of their game and a podium spot for Röhrl in a rally that Lancia were not expecting to do well in.
The 037 excelled throughout the 1983 season, justifying Lancia’s huge effort with no less than four 1-2 finishes with Walter Röhrl and Markku Allen as well as a Lancia podium lockout at the Italian Rally San Reno. This was enough to win the championship with a race to spare, a true testament to the engineering and development that went into the 037 project, a fitting final tribute to the rear wheel drive old guard.
This car, chassis #180 is the Works 037 Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer achieved their unexpected third place podium place in the 1983 Portuguese World Rally. It was constructed towards the end of 1982 and registered to Fiat Auto Spa, as were all works cars (with the Turin plate TO Y67909). Chosen by the Martini team, it was prepared and finished in their iconic livery so synonymous with Lancia’s rallying history. The car was then trucked to Porto for the gruelling event ready to play its part in rallying history.
Following its return to the factory, #180 saw little use other than for some testing duties and was not heavily damaged or even destroyed, a fate met by many 037 Rally cars. Lancia eventually sold the car to the successful several times Spanish Rally Champion and multiple 037 owner, Salvador Servia, who campaigned the car in both Rothmans and 7Up colours. As was common practise at this time, the car was upgraded with many EVO 2 features in order to remain competitive and due to the shortage of first evolution parts.
The 037 returned to Italy in 2000 following its purchase by well-known Lancia Rally and 037 experts KeySport S.r.L, based on the northern fringes of Rimini. They bought the car on behalf of a good client, Mr Marco Bianchini. The Automobile Club D’ Italia issued the car with a technical passport in 2001 and it was rallied by its new owner in 9 events through to 2004 including the RSM Rally in 2001/2, Azzurro Rally in 2002 and RAC Classic in 2004. All events entered are documented in the technical passport which remains on file with the car.
In 2004, KeySport repurchased the car from Bianchini and it remained dormant in their workshops until 2009/10 when it became clear that John Hughes, in his role of President of FiVA Historic, had been successful in re-admitting Group B Rally cars into historic events from 2011. In 2009, KeySport began work to prepare #180 to rally once again, indeed this was the first 037 to be equipped with modern safety equipment including the all-important FIA approved roll cage and was consequently the first 037 to be issued with an FIA technical passport in the Competition GT Class in May 2010. Copious correspondence and invoicing on file document the work completed to achieve this, indeed the FIA passport remains with the car.
In 2014, John Hughes, already a good customer of KeySport, purchased #180 to join his rally car collection, all maintained by KeySport. He made the decision early on to restore the car back to its 1983 WRC spec, easier said than done as 037 first evolution parts are notoriously scarce and John insisted that only original Lancia parts be used. Fortunately, Keysport have many contacts in the Lancia world and slowly original parts were sourced from all over the world to enable the completion of the restoration in 2017. Much correspondence, invoicing and photos on file detail the restoration process, suffice to say in excess of €150,000 was spent to achieve the great result.
John Hughes, ever the entrepreneur, became involved in the production company behind the well-known motoring show, The Grand Tour, and it was this very 037 that featured in their show on Lancia and the 1983 WRC season. This was voted ‘best segment’ of the season by viewers and includes a superb video of the car being driven in anger on dirt roads by professional rally driver, Mark Higgins. Sadly, John never got the chance to see the final edit as his health deteriorated rapidly and he died during the filming. We know that he would have been very proud to see the marque he had such passion for being portrayed so well to a modern audience and giving his car deserved justice.
Following its return to Keysport after the filming, the car was fully appraised and serviced, #180 had certainly been driven in a spirited manner for the video and hence the engine top end, steering box, gearbox and Volumex were rebuilt.
This is a very rare opportunity to own one of the few Group B Works cars with period podium history. Resplendent in its original Martini livery, today it presents as it must have when first arriving in Porto from the Lancia factory before the great Walter Röhrl piloted it to rallying history. It is ready to use and comes with a comprehensive history file as referred to in the text.
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