Short, stubby and simply unstoppable
Short, stubby and simply unstoppable, the Lancia Stratos HF won a staggering 18 World Rally events and no fewer than three World Rally Championships.
Its formidable performance can be attributed largely to Marcello Gandini, the design wunderkind who, working under the Bertone banner, single-handedly revolutionised the world of car design. The introduction of the Stratos in 1970 heralded the era of the ‘wedge’ and petrolheads simply had no idea what they were in for.
Game-changer – the Lancia Stratos HF changed the automotive landscape for good
Arguably the very first thoroughbred rally car, no stone was left unturned by Lancia and Bertone’s designers and engineers in the quest for performance. The Stratos’ desperately short wheelbase (just 2.18 metres) coupled with its 880kg weight meant it was positively nimble and direct. It took a skip-full of skill to master it, which explains why Sandro Munari ranks so highly in our list of great drivers.
“It took a skip-full of skill to master the Stratos, which explains why Sandro Munari ranks so highly in our list of great drivers.”
For the heart of its new car, Lancia approached Ferrari, a company whose legend was forged around the power and reliability of its engines. A 2.4-litre six-cylinder ‘Dino’ engine was chosen and tucked transversely right behind the cabin. It produced a mighty 300HP in Corsa spec. And it sounded a rabid dog barking for its life.
Crucially, the rallying rules of the time dictated that 500 road-specification cars were to be built in order to homologate a competition variant. In typically Italian fashion, Lancia didn’t manage to do that. It’s estimated that 492 Stratos HFs left the marque’s Chivasso plant, of which this fascinating Group IV-specification road-racing example from 1975 is one.
The Rino Fabbri Stratos
Among the most famous period competition Lancia Stratos’ of them all, this Group IV-specification example, chassis number 001915, is more commonly known as the Rino Fabbri car. Born as a yellow HF Stradale in 1975, this Stratos was sent to the legendary Italian engineer and racing driver Carlo Facetti to be upgraded to full Group IV competition specification.
Facetti is an extremely rare case in the world of motorsport – a man as gifted behind the wheel as he was proficient at preparing and setting up a diverse range of competition cars. A former factory driver for both Alfa Romeo and Lancia, Facetti won the European Touring Car Championship in 1979 and the Stratos Turbo Group V he designed for the Works took outright victory in the 1976 Giro d’Italia.
He also happened to assist the Lancia factory with the development of a Group IV competition Stratos for road racing rather than rallying – a car which Facetti himself raced under the Works Lancia Marlboro banner. Chassis 001915 was treated to the very same makeover, including receiving Facetti’s signature Kugelfischer fuel injection system.
The first registered keeper of this Stratos, the Milanese Lancia concessionaire Mocauto, entrusted the Works-assisted Jolly Club outfit with contesting the Italian GT Championship in the Group IV category. As a generous sponsorship package was sought from the Italian publishing house Rino Fabbri Editore, so this Lancia’s fantastic yellow, green and blue Rino Fabbri Racing livery was born. The ‘PROVA MI 1654’ registration hints at the car’s factory origins.
Carlo Facetti and Gianfranco Ricci en route to second overall in the 1976 Targa Florio
Raced predominantly by Gianfranco Ricci, the veteran Italian multi-discipline racing driver affectionately known as ‘The Flying Dentist’ thanks to his daily profession, chassis 001915 entered 10 events in 1976, winning the Italian GT Championship in emphatic fashion. Standout results for the Rino Fabbri Stratos included second overall and first in class in the Targa Florio, where Ricci and Facetti finished only behind an Osella prototype, and a class victory in the year-ending Giro d’Italia Automobilistico.
Ricci was joined by Michèle Espinosi-Petit (aka ‘Biche’) for the Giro d’Italia in 1976
The latter was a mammoth four-day race across Italy, encompassing the country’s greatest roads and racetracks and attracting the major manufacturers and hot-shoe pilots alike. Until a mechanical malady slowed proceedings somewhat, Ricci – who was joined in the cockpit by the famous French female navigator Michèle Espinosi-Petit, better known by her pseudonym ‘Biche’ – was reportedly dicing for the lead. Rino Fabbri Racing even topped the timesheets after one especially wet special stage, ahead of the Works Stratos Turbos.
“At the Six Hours of Vallelunga, the Rino Fabbri Stratos earned Lancia its only World Championship points for 1976.”
Furthermore, in finishing on the Group IV podium (eighth overall) in the Six Hours of Vallelunga, round two of the World Championship for Makes, Ricci and teammate Renzo Zorzi earned Lancia its only points on the world stage for the year.
An equally jam-packed roster of races across the European GT Championship, Italian GT Speed Championships and the European Hill Climb Championship awaited the Rino Fabbri Stratos in 1977. Chassis 001915 was acquired by the Italian gentleman driver Claudio Magnani, though the recognisable Rino Fabbri livery remained and Jolly Club continued to prepare and run the car. And with considerable success – Magnani won the CSAI Cup for Group IV cars up to 2,500cc in 1977 and ’78.
Claudio Magnani helped to earn the Rino Fabbri Stratos its second Giro d’Italia class victory in 1978
The highlight of 1978, however, was arguably the Giro d’Italia Automobilistico, in which Magnani was joined by Leo Pittoni and a young Sergio Cresto. In finishing third overall, the trio added a second Group IV Giro d’Italia class victory to this Stratos’ record.
Magnani reluctantly sold his beloved Stratos ahead of the 1979 season, its new owner Giovanni Alberti picking up where the last one left off, winning the CSAI Cup once again and scoring a third Giro d’Italia class victory after a busy year of domestic Italian competition. Clearly regretting his decision, Magnani reacquired chassis 001915 in 1980, by this point finished in plain white, and returned to the Italian racing scene under the new alias ‘Mac’.
When the transporter (almost) outshines its cargo…
While an agonisingly late retirement in the season-opening Monza di 1000km (round four of the World Championship for Makes) was not the return Magnani had hoped for, fortune favoured him during the remainder of the year and he made it a hattrick of CSAI Cup Group IV titles for the veteran Stratos.
After seven years and more than 65 events, Magnani honourably retired this Stratos from active competition in 1983. He exhibited the car sparingly through the 1990s and 2000s, until 2010, when in what was an entirely fitting full-circle moment for this most special of competition Lancias, it was returned to Carlo Facetti to be painstakingly restored to its original specification.
Once the Rino Fabbri Racing Stratos was completed, a summit was held at the Facetti & Luigino workshop. Present were Carlo Facetti and his brother Giuliano and Claudio Magnani, in addition to the car’s former driver Gianfranco Ricci and Giovanni Fabbri, brother of the late Rino Fabbri – the publishing magnate behind this Stratos’ evocative livery.
In the summer of 2022, a longstanding US-based client tasked us with sourcing a great Lancia Stratos HF with competition history. Utilising our global network, we were able to identify the legendary Rino Fabbri Racing car – amazingly still in the custody of Claudio Magnani after 42 years – as a potential candidate. Following an inspection after which our specialists were satisfied with the condition, originality and provenance of chassis 001915, we negotiated to purchase the car on behalf of our client.
Before we delivered this Stratos to its new owner, we sent chassis 001915 to the renowned Baldi twins in Turin, the foremost rally Lancia experts, for a thorough inspection and service. We subsequently commissioned PubbliMais to refinish the car in its exact livery from the 1977 Giro d’Italia Automobilistico, including the hastily hand-applied registration number at the rear. The Torinese company famously applied the liveries for Lancia’s Works competition cars through the decades – who better to restore the visual glory of the Rino Fabbri Racing Stratos.
The artisans from PubbliMais in Turin painstakingly restore the legendary Rino Fabbri livery
Finding a genuine Stratos HF Group IV with traceable period competition history is extremely tricky these days – let alone one with considerable success on both the national and international road-racing stages (not those of the snowy or muddy loose type). We see no reason why this car wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms to the world’s most prestigious historic motorsport events.
“Finding a genuine Stratos HF Group IV with traceable period competition history is extremely tricky these days – let alone one with considerable road-racing success.”
Chassis 001915’s competition beginnings – its preparation by Carlo Facetti, its firm place in the Works-assisted Jolly Club fraternity and its most notable results as detailed above – are a considerable string to its bow. As are the mere two private owners it’s enjoyed since it was born in Turin, the last of whom has treasured it for 42 years. The restoration by its spiritual godfather Carlo Facetti, the myriad high-profile magazine features detailing the car over the years and the fresh reapplication of its fantastic livery are the proverbial cherries on the cake.
As our estimable leader Max Girardo maintains, every great collection needs a Lancia Stratos.