The Rally winner
Lancia Delta HF Integrale - The car I've lusted after since I was knee high to a grasshopper - click to read more!
Many years ago, more than I dare to mention ...ok, thirty. I, probably like you did, if you're a similar age, spent many a dull hour pouring over glossy car magazines, comparing performance statistics and gushing over the pictures of high performance cars. Ten years earlier, the car poster of choice on many a bedroom wall around the world was the Lamborghini Countach. Depending on the year, it would have probably have been black, white or red, possibly without, or more likely with, a rear wing. It was either that or the Athena poster of the tennis girl with the cheeky bottom.
But I digress. I'm referring to the late eighties / early nineties, where the UK was gripped by rally fever, where it was nigh on impossible to switch on the TV without seeing something rally related, though that might have to do with there only being four (or was it five?) TV channels at the time. I, as many like minded others up and down the country, would long for the rally season to arrive in readiness to don wellies and warm jackets to stand out in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, or in the pissing rain, or both. The sound of a loud whistle announcing the arrival of an ear splitting, snarling, stone spitting rally car, that flew by in a split second, crackling and popping on the overrun, all to be repeated just a couple of minutes later by another.
It was at the end of the 1986 season that the frankly amazing but short lived Group B rally cars were dropped, due to racing incidents around the world that unfortunately ended with deaths of both competitors and spectators alike. The class was succeeded by Group A, which had been running since 1982, and in the late eighties / early nineties there was two cars of choice, namely the Toyota Celica GT Four, as driven by the likes of Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz and the Lancia Delta HF Integrale, in the hands of such drivers as Miki Biasion and Didier Auriol.
The Martini sponsored Lancia Delta, based upon the road going Delta, was introduced in 1987, and dominated the WRC (World Rally Championship), with 46 wins and 6 consecutive manufacturers titles (still a reigning title to this day). The road car that the rally car was based upon, was refined and improved for homologation over the following years to great success, leading from a fairly plane Jane 8v version through to the Evo (Evoluzione) and finally, the Evo II. Towards the end of the Delta's existence there were a few numbered and limited edition versions with special paintjobs and equipment, but with the rally version now outclassed by rivals both the road and rally versions days were numbered with production and the rallying of the Delta ending in 1993.
Which leads us to the car pictured. As is often the case, the best cars at a car show are in the car park, and that was very much the case for me at one show I went to in 2015. This Delta was parked out of view of the event in an industrial estate nearby. If you, like me, went to see this car in action around the forestry rally sections of the UK rally stage (when it really was a UK wide rally, not just one held in Wales) , then you'll be fully aware of what this car in its rally guise was capable of.
So, for a car that hasn't been in production since 1993, why do I and many others still lust after them? After all, there have been many special cars built since then, that would more than likely shame it in an outright race, and if you were to look inside a Delta, they're admittedly nothing special really (though the ones with leather interiors are a bit lush), so why a Delta, I don't know, I just can't put my finger on it, maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's just the unforgiving boxy looks of it.
But I'd still love one.
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