Headlining "Rallyday 2018" at Castle Coombe next month will be a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Lancia Delta HF Integrale’s FIA World Rally Championship in 1988 when the legendary rally machine won both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles with ease.
And the organisers’ have further secured the ‘father’ of this car, Miki Biasion, who developed it and then promptly won the Drivers’ title in 1988, to demonstrate the HF Integrale at the event.
No ifs, no buts, no arguments; if you wanted to win in the WRC with any regularity in the late '80s, you needed a Lancia Delta HF Integrale. The hatchback from Turin came to dominate the top tier of the sport for the best part of half a decade, earning itself a very special place within the history of the sport in the process.
This, combined with the high regard the Delta is held in by the rallying community, explains why Rallyday 2018 has opted to mark its 30th anniversary with a display of cars, including a number of ex-works examples.
Lancia found itself sitting pretty in the wake of Group B's sudden cancellation at the end of 1986. While competition managers from rival firms set about commencing Group A programmes based on whatever was remotely suitable, Lancia was ready to go; the Delta was four-wheel drive, compact and powered by a turbocharged 2.0 engine, the 3 key prerequisites for WRC success at the end of the '80s.
First seen in 1987 in HF AWD guise, the Group A Delta was dominant 'right out of the box' and went on to claim both titles in its debut season, before Lancia opened up its coffers and threw an ever-increasing budget at the car.
This lead to the Delta HF Integrale, which addressed many of the original car's faults and made its debut on the 1988 Monte Carlo Rally. Visually similar it might have been, but the HF was a far more potent proposition where it mattered; it sported widened steel arches for larger, 15in wheels and increased suspension travel, with a revised front end for enhanced cooling.
There was also overhauled forced induction system, complete with enlarged intercooler and a Garrett T3 turbo. These ensured that the HF had no problem meeting the FIA mandated 300bhp limit, and by most accounts made a good 50bhp more than that!
The HF Integrale had sizable shoes to fill, so it says much about Lancia's commitment to World Rallying and its unmatched experience that it was able to pick from where the AWD left off, winning all but one round of the 1988 season.
It took Miki Biasion to the Drivers' title at a canter, secured the Manufacturers' crown for its maker with relative ease thanks to 10 outright wins, then denied Toyota to repeat the feat the following year.
Seldom has a car made quite as much of an impact on the World Rally Championship as the Lancia Delta HF Integrale, making it an obvious choice for celebration at Rallyday 2018, the UK's ultimate rallying showcase.
The UK's Lancia community has worked hard to ensure a healthy crop of road-going HFs will be there on the day, alongside a pair of ex-works WRC variants formally driven by Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol respectively.
The HFs will have a dedicated area at Rallyday and will even take to the track, with a display session planned for later in the afternoon and two-time World Rally Champion Miki Biasion has confirmed his attendance. The Italian star, who won both of his drivers’ titles with Lancia, will drive one of the machines at Rallyday 2018.
Biasion, who secured the first of his championships 30 years ago in 1988, said his attendance at Europe’s biggest one-day rally show would form part of his celebrations.
“I have to celebrate 30 years on from that first championship,” the Italian said. “And it’s really nice to be coming to Rallyday for the first time in this year. I always love to drive the Delta rally car again.
“I was the driver from the factory who did the testing and development on these cars. To me, the Delta is like a baby. The memories are so special. I won two titles, but as part of Lancia we won six championships – that’s incredible.”
Also known as the Deltona, the HF Integrale was Lancia’s final factory rally car. Having prepared and built the fearsome Group A machine, the Italian marque actually withdrew from the WRC at the end of the 1991 season – just weeks before the car’s debut at the 1992 Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Run by semi-works outfit Jolly Club, the car won eight WRC rounds in 1992 and secured the makes’ title and Biasion will drive the car Auriol used to score to famous victories in Finland and Australia in that season.
Rallyday organiser Tom Davis admitted bringing Biasion to Castle Combe for the first time was a real coup. “To see a name like Miki Biasion confirmed for Rallyday is incredible for the event,” said Davis.
“But what’s even better is that he’s going to be driving a Martini-liveried Lancia – an Italian who won two world championships in an Italian car… it doesn’t get much better than that.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Miki here for the first time; this comes in no small part thanks to the tireless work from Lancia expert Adam Midghall. Adam hasn’t just brought a titan of the sport to the table, but also some of the most beautiful rally cars around.
“To have Miki with us three decades on from his first title is something very special – something we intend to celebrate with him.”
Rallyday is lining up the celebrations in September. Joining Biasion’s 30th is the 50th anniversary of the Ford Escort Mk1 and the Prestone British Rally Championship’s 60th birthday. “This year’s going to be something special,” said Davis. “Being able to confirm Miki this early is brilliant news for rally fans – through the late Eighties, a Biasion-wheeled Delta was an unbeatable force.
“In the Sixties and Seventies, Roger Clark was at the forefront of our sport; in the Seventies and Eighties, Jimmy McRae and Russell Brookes were the heroes thrilling thousands of fans. As we moved into the Nineties, for British spectators, it was all about Colin McRae and Nicky Grist. Nicky will be with us again in September and we’re absolutely delighted to welcome him alongside those very special names.”
Photos: Lancia Delta HF Integrale
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