In 1982 the FIA mandated new rules for sports car racing and rallying called Group B which allowed manufacturers to compete with any vehicle they had built 200 examples of, further more evolutions of these models were permitted each year so long as 20 examples had been built.
The category never really took off in racing with only Porsche and Ferrari building legible cars and only Porsche racing a works example on a limited schedule, but in for rallying Group B proved popular amongst manufacturers including Lancia, Audi, Austin Rover, Ford, Peugeot and Porsche, who all built models to compete in the Group B category.
With the career of the successful FIAT 131 Abarth at an end the FIAT Group turned to Abarth to develop a vehicle loosely based on the Lancia Beta Montecarlo / Scorpion mid engined coupé.
Abarth working with Pininfarina and Dallara under project manager Sergio Limone used the central floor pan of the Beta Montecarlo with subframes fitted front and rear as the basis of their new Group B contender.
The 2 litre / 122 cui twin cam motor from the three time World Rally Championship winning FIAT 131 Abarth was upgraded by fitting a Volumex supercharger which brought the power up to 285 hp, but more importantly significantly improved the throttle response over turbocharged motors. The engine was fitted longitudinally, on the original Montecarlo’s the motor was transversely mounted, and drove only the rear wheels.
The Olio Fiat backed Lancia Rally 037 made it debut in 1982 but recorded only two finishes from 9 starts. However in 1983 the now Martini sponsored team recorded 5 wins from the 6 events it started, four to Walter Rörhl and one to Makku Alén, enough to secure the 1983 World Rally Championship for Lancia, the last such win for a rear wheel drive car, but not enough to secure the drivers championship for Walter who left the team at the end of the season to join Audi.
The #17 seen in these photographs was built in 1983 and is believed to have been used by Attilio Bettega during that season in Europe before being shipped to Kenya in 1984 in preparation for the Safari Rally.
Vic Preston Jnr, returned to the Martini fold to drive the car to a win in a Kenyan national championship round in preparation for the Safari on which he finished 6th in the same car with John Lyall.
Subsequently Vic and John won the 1984 Kenyan National Rally Championship with the car after recording 10 wins from 12 events.
The car remained in Kenya and for the 1986 Safari Rally the Martini Lancia team prepared it with the latest 325hp 2,111 cc 128.8 cui motor with water injection to cool the supercharged air for John Hillier and David Williamson who recorded a 10th place finish.
Current owner David Kedward bought the car in Kenya and imported it to the UK.
Thanks for joining me on this “Kenyan National Champion” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a BRM. Don’t forget to come back now !