To the sound of popping champagne corks and flash bulbs Fiat introduced two highly developed competition versions of the “Ritmo” 3-door hatchback to the motoring press, gathered in Turin prior to the start of the Automobile Tour of Italy. Two identical dry-sump, fuel-injected machines had been made ready for Jody Scheckter and Riccardo Patrese plus a third wet-sump carburetter-aspirated car for Ceccato and Pasetti to drive for a newly-formed Fiat Dealer Team, the latter car a Group 2 specification Ritmo developing 140 b.h.p., with “unibal” suspension joints in place of rubber bushings, a more powerful braking system and large front spoiler and flared wheel arches.
The GP drivers’ cars, using fuel injection, have stated power outputs of 150 b.h.p. (at 8,500 r.p.m.) and use Magnetti Marelli electronic ignition. Five speed gearboxes are used (standard on 65 and 75CL Ritmos) in conjunction with limited slip differentials and Abarth-produced drive shafts. Wheel hub-cups have been redesigned to take wider wheel bearings and allow the fitment of wider wheels with greater off-set. Redesigned rear suspension retains the typical Fiat transverse leaf spring but only as a single leaf assembly for location, the flexible element consisting of a nearly vertical coil spring and shock absorber. Disc brakes are used all-round, ventilated at the front.
In typical Fiat fashion the cars appeared in a highly finished state with superbly tailored roll cages (and even a Ford-style “World Cup” crossmember linking the front suspension turrets). In Group 2 guise, the car will undoubtedly be one to watch. Fiat chose the Tour of Italy to unveil its first competition Ritmos as it is an event with great publicity potential and can be likened to a cross between the now-defunct Tour of Britain and the Tour de France. The event runs for six days, taking in a leisurely combination of special stages and racing circuit tests interspersed with lavish entertaining during the evenings. — IS