The CSI struck again in 1965, this time putting out a much more comprehensive 17 pages of regulations called Appendix J to better govern the sport. And that was the year a works Lancia team, later to become a mighty force in the sport, first competed.
The team was put together by a young Italian political science graduate named Cesare Fiorio, son of Lancia’s former PR boss, before the company went broke and was bought by Fiat for a token million lire or £600 at the time. After some success in local rallies, the team became a semi-works outfit in 1965 and a year later began a winning spree that would eventually see Lancia become one of the most successful rally squads of all time. Leo Cella was the first to win a major event for Lancia – the 1966 San Remo – driving the pretty little 1.2-litre Fulvia. A year later, the slightly beefed up 1.3 won the Spanish Rally with tall Swede Ove Andersson at the wheel, then the Tour de Corse, driven by future world champion Sandro Munari.
Ford of Britain rallied their 1498-cc Cortina GT in the early ’60s. Four years into the decade they went the whole hog and sent a team of six cars to the 1964 East African Safari, some to be driven by Kenyans. Local men Peter Hughes and Billy Young won the wild 3,000-mile race through the billowing red dust in one of them and four Cortina GTs finished to give Ford the team prize.
But it was the Mark 1 Lotus Cortina that really made Ford’s name in rallying and laid the foundations for more success along the way. Vic Elford proved the car was a potential winner with its leaf spring rear end instead of coils, when he led the 1965 Coupe des Alpes right through to the final stage where his distributor broke and that let Trautmann/Bouchet through in their private Lancia Flavia Zagato.
After organizer hanky-panky that cost Elford and his works Lotus Cortina victory in the San Remo Rally – the Italians said the homologation form wasn’t filled out properly – the car came good in 1966 with a win for Roger Clark in the Welsh, a second place for Elford in the Tulip and victories for Bengt Söderstrom in the Acropolis, Geneva, RAC and 1967 Swedish.
While all this was going on, Jean Redelé had a bright idea in his workshop up in Dieppe, France. It was to build his own glass fibre body for a Renault 4CV floorpan, powered by a Mignotet-tuned 998-cc Dauphine rear-mounted engine. He called his sexy little coupé the Alpine in honor of his own GT class win in the 1954 Coupe des Alpes. The first of these ultra-lights was the 106 and it won the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally’s small GT class. After that, Redelé moved on to the 1470-cc Renault R16 unit for the A110 and that put out 135 hp. It took time, but eventually Jean Vinatier/Marcel Callewaert won the new car’s first international rally in Czechoslovakia in 1968, quickly followed by its namesake rally, the year’s Coupe des Alpes, driven by Vinatier paired with Jean-Francois Jacob, a victory they repeated in 1969. Both Jean-Claude Andruet and Jean Vinatier won the French National Rally Championship in the car in 1968 and 1969 respectively. Redelé’s idea was beginning to work.
For a while, Renault themselves decided to compete. Privateers had done well with their cars, but this time the Regie had Amedée Gordini produce a hot version of their R8, first as an 1100-cc with cross flow cylinder head, then a 1300-cc with a four speed gearbox. The car was quick and comparatively cheap, a combination that appealed to upcoming stars like Jean-Luc Therier and Markku Alén who rallied it as privateers in their homelands. But it was Vinatier who set the R8 on the road to a brief but potent run of success when he and Roger Masson won the 1964 Tour de Corse in the car. The R8 kind of made the Corsican its own for a while, winning the 1965 and 1966 events driven by Orsini/Canonici and Piot/Jacob. And it also won the San Remo, Portugal and Polish rallies, but at the end of 1968 Renault decided that was it and withdrew from the sport, allowing the Alpines to become their standard bearers. That turned out to be a wise decision.
Lancia really got into its stride with the Fulvia 1.6 HF Coupé, now putting out 120 hp from its 1598-cc engine, a pair of 42-mm Solex carburetors and larger valves through a five-speed gearbox. Two weeks after the car was unveiled, Harry Kallstrom won the 1969 Rally of Spain in it and would win the year’s RAC Rally to give him the points he needed to become the 1969 European Rally Champion. But life was never easy for the little Lancia as the 2.2/2.5-liter Porsche 911 S won the 1970 Monte Carlo, Swedish and Austrian Alpine. The Fulvia had to sweat, but Simo Lampinen pushed it for all he was worth to win the 1970 Portugal and Kallstrom snatched another brilliant RAC win from a trio of Opel Kadett Rallys and Gérard Larrousse’s Porsche 911 S. Not bad for an underpowered little coupé about to be phased out!
The Italian firm was bringing along a young man who was to become synonymous with Lancia’s incredible exploits in the years to come. His name was Sandro Munari. A serious minded youngster of few words, Munari went into voluntary seclusion after he crashed a works Fulvia on the 1967 San Remo Rally and refused to talk to his boss, Cesare Fiorio, about it. So the Lancia team manager went from Turin all the way over to Munari’s home at Cavarzere near Venice and spent two whole days trying to convince his upcoming star to snap out of it and return to the team. Which he did, later to become a champion of champions and the man who did all the development driving for the world’s first purpose built rally car, the Lancia Stratos.
It was thanks to Munari that Lancia, now part of the Fiat empire, were allocated the funds to develop the Stratos. Because the no-nonsense young Italian won the Monte Carlo, the world’s most prestigious rally, in a Fulvia in 1972 and helped the Turin car maker win the year’s International Championship for Makes, effectively the world championship. A year later, Sandro built up a hefty points score in the car to become the 1973 European champion.
Meanwhile, Fiat rallied the attractive, Aurelio Lampredi-designed 124 Sport Spider powered by a twin overhead camshaft, 8-valve 1608-cc engine that rustled up 150 hp and shocked the establishment for a bit, when Swedish tire dealer Hakan Lindberg beat all-comers to set the fastest time in it on the Burzet stage of the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally. He was to do better than that a year later, when he won the Acropolis Rally and then the Austrian Alpine in the 124, with victory in the Polish Rally by Raffaele Pinto in the Fiat sandwiched in between.
That was about the time Alpine A110 really came into its own after being given a much modified Renault R16 rear-mounted 1596-cc engine that pushed out 155 hp. After a couple of failures on the 1970 Monte Carlo, Jean-Luc Therier rattled off two quick victories in the car, its glass fibre body making it just about the sport’s lightest at a mere 680 kg – against the Fiat’s 1020 kg, for instance – in the San Remo and the Acropolis. But it was Jean-Claude Andruet who was crowned champion of Europe for his exploits in it. Alpine-Renault engaged Ove Andersson for 1971 and he made Jean Ridelé’s dream come true with an outstanding win in the year’s Monte Carlo, then won the San Remo, Austrian Alpine and the Acropolis with it before Jean-Pierre Nicolas took the Geneva and Portugal and Bernard Darniche the Coupe des Alpes. All that success earned the little car the International Championship for Makes. The man from Dieppe had climbed rallying’s Everest.
Peugeot continued their African crusade, which really showcased their cars as tough, go anywhere and reliable. The standard bearer this time was the 4-cylinder, 1995-cc 504, although it didn’t have an easy life to begin with as broken front struts and dicey camshafts caused a succession of retirements. But the bodyshell was strengthened, a new suspension was developed and what was once a 130 hp engine was putting out 170 hp by 1974, when Timo Makinen/Henry Liddon gave it its first win on the Bandama Rally in Ivory Coast. Ove Andersson/Arne Hertz followed that with victory in the year’s Safari and Bernard Consten/Jean Flocon the 1975 Bandama before Nicolas/Lefevre won the Moroccan in the car. Not, perhaps, the kind of success Peugeot had in mind, that was to come later, but it was impressive just the same.
The stylish Datsun 240Z was apparently no picnic to drive, more a modern Japanese Austin-Healey 3000 with a mighty 6-cylinder, 2397-cc engine hammering out 220 hp. In fact Shekhar Mehta, the man who won the 1975 Safari in it with Lofty Drews, once described the 240Z as an accident waiting to happen and he ought to know.
Although Datsun targeted the Monte Carlo and Safari, they only pulled off 50% of their objective as the best it could do in the snow and ice of the 1971 Monte was third, driven by Rauno Aaltonen/Jean Todt. Edgar Herrmann/Hans Schuller did win the ’71 Safari with it and Tony Fall/Mike Wood the Welsh before the bigger engine 260Z was brought in, but that proved to be a major disappointment.
The Ford Escort RS1600 actually wasn’t. That was the cubic capacity of the standard engine, but the rally car’s 16-valve unit was really a 1798-cc and could generate 210 hp. All that power went out through a ZF gearbox and Atlas rear axle, which Hannu Mikkola used brilliantly to win the 1972 Safari. And Timo Makinen did the same to devastating effect by winning three consecutive RAC rallies from 1972-74, the 1000 Lakes in 1972 and 1973, the ’73 New Zealand.
It only took 16 years, but the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile eventually launched its World Rally Championship for Makes in 1973 and a rather unlikely contender became the first to win it: the first manufacturers’ world champion was the Alpine-Renault A110, still a light weight at 730-kg, powered by a 4-cylinder in line 1596 cc rear mounted Renault engine that pushed out 155 hp. By this time, Renault had taken a majority shareholding in the company with founder Jean Redelé retaining the presidency. The rest of the rally world knew something was up when the little blue cars took five out of the first six places in the year’s Monte Carlo, the win going to Jean-Claude Andruet. Then Jean-Luc Therier won the Portugal Rally for them, Bernard Darniche the Moroccan, Therier the Acropolis and San Remo and Jean-Pierre Nicolas the Corsican on their way to that first historic world title. Alpine-Renault’s second successful assault on Everest.
Japanese manufacturers were starting to home in on rallying now that the sport had its own world championship. Toyota began with the 1588 cc Celica TA22 in 1972 but with little success, although Pat Moss did win the RAC Rally’s ladies cup with it. That was followed by the 150 hp Carolla TE20, in which Hannu Mikkola won the 1000 Lakes. Then Mitsubishi got in on the act in 1973 with their Colt Lancer GSR 1600, a 1596 cc 165 hp car that Joginder Singh parlayed into a Safari victory in 1974 and did the same again in the 1976 East Africa, once again underlining the importance of local drivers to victory in the punishing Kenya marathon. That was followed by Scottish farmer Andrew Cowan’s win in the 1977 Ivory Coast Rally, a taste of what was to come from a Cowan-Mitsubishi partnership.
Back in 1970, Cesare Fiorio was strolling around the Turin Motor Show on press day, when a really far out design exercise by Nuccio Bertone caught his eye. The Lancia rally boss invited Bertone to bring his impossibly low-slung wedge to the car maker’s Turin factory: it was so low the body stylist simply drove his creation under the front gate barrier, opened the windscreen and stepped out. The car was called the Stratos, a name it retained after Bertone, Fiorio and Gian Paolo Dallara had converted it to the world’s first purpose-built rally car, energised by a V6 Ferrari Dino 246 engine, a package that eventually put out 270 hp. Sandro Munari did most of the development driving of the angry, stubby Stratos. And what a success it became, for the car won Lancia the 1974, 1975 and 1976 World Rally Championships for Manufacturers, Munari became world champion driver by winning the 1977 FIA Cup.
And on its way to all that glory, the exciting little car won 19 world championship rallies, including five Monte Carlos between 1975 and 1980: Munari won a record three Montes in succession, bringing his career total of victories in the Monegasque event to four. This complete dominance of world rallying confirmed the Stratos as a brilliant all-rounder, just as at home on asphalt and loose surfaces as it was in the wet and dry. Many thought the car still had a lot of winning left in it when it was politically elbowed to one side in 1977, by the undistinguished-looking, Lampredi designed Fiat 131 Abarth. But the Stratos was a rally special with a mere 500 built for homologation purposes, while Fiat planned to sell hundreds of thousands of 131s and needed the glamorous exposure world championship rally victories would bring to help them do just that.
The third Ford Escort was certainly not a purpose built rally car, but it won like one. The RS1800 Mk2 had a similar specification to its RS 1600 predecessor – 16-valves, 4-cylinder inline 270 hp engine, McPherson struts, 5-speed ZF gearbox – but its suspension moved more, which made it excel over a much wider range of rallies and surfaces. That’s why it won the 1979 World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, the first ever drivers’ world title for Bjorn Waldegard and the 1981 World Rally Championship for Drivers for Ari Vatanen, as well as 17 world championship rallies, including no fewer than six RAC Rallies of Great Britain.
Opel flirted with rallying through its dealer teams in the ’70s. First car to pull off a world championship win was the Ascona A in the Acropolis driven by the great Walter Röhrl, but little else came of it. The Kadett GT/E was no star car, either. Talented drivers like Röhrl, Anders Kullang and Achim Warmbold struggled to push the GT/E up the leaderboard in some of the world’s top rallies between 1975 and 1978, but the best placing came from Bror Danielson, who persuaded the Opel to pull its finger out and take second in the Swedish. But Röhrl did manage to win the Ypres Rally, a European Championship counter, in the car.
Towards the end of the ’70s-early ’80s there was a rash of relatively unsuccessful cars, like the 225-hp Saab 99 EMS and Turbo, which managed victories in the 1977 and 1979 Swedish Rally driven by Stig Blomqvist and little else; the Triumph TR7, which could only win the rather obscure Boucles de Spa in the hands of Tony Pond; and the Toyota Celica 2000GT RA20, which was unable to win anything.
But the altar on which the Lancia Stratos had been prematurely sacrificed did well. The boxy Fiat 131 Abarth, jazzed up to look more exciting in series of different sponsors’ liveries like the distinctive green and white of Alitalia, won a massive 20 world championship rallies between 1976 and 1981, not to mention the 1977, 1978 and 1980 World Rally Championship for Manufacturers plus the drivers’ world title for the incredibly talented and versatile Walter Röhrl. Its first coming, in 1975, was with a 270 hp V6 engine, but by the time the car made its world championship debut in the 1976 1000 Lakes of Finland, which it won with Markku Alen at the helm, that had been replaced by a 4-cylinder, 1995-cc, 16-valve unit from the Lancia Beta, with 230 hp being deftly distributed through a five speed gearbox. And the car could be quickly switched from a loose special stage set-up to asphalt due to its McPherson struts all round and adjustable anti-roll bars. The Fiat’s driving talent turned in astounding performances, with Markku Alen winning six WRC events in it – the Portugal and 1000 Lakes three times each – another six fell to Röhrl including the 1980 Monte Carlo and Argentinean; and the lovely Michele Mouton the 1978 Tour de France.
By the early ’80s, rally cars were changing again. Four-wheel drive was waiting in the wings and the sport was about to make way for the Group B killers that reputedly put out way over 500 hp. The manufacturer swings and roundabouts saw Lancia still bubbling away at the top, but with Peugeot breathing down its collective neck to eventually defeat the Italian champions – briefly. Toyota, Mitsubishi and Subaru overtook them all for a while to become world championships and the new millennium was graced by almost a decade of consecutive world title wins by Sébastien Loeb, an Alsatian electrician turned rally prodigy, in the works Citroëns.