Lancia joins 4wd club

There can be nothing more galling than to see your design rendered obsolete before its service life has even begun, but that's the prospect facing development engineers at Austin-Rover, Mitsubishi, Citroen and, probably a few more establishments around Europe and the Far East. The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, and the Lancia Delta S4 announced a few days before Christmas, have trumped all rivals adhering to production car bases including, of course, the Audi Quattro Sport.

The Peugeot, already set in its winning ways, and the Lancia are virtually Formula 1 cars of rallying. Compact, light, mid-engined, turbocharged and with four-wheel drive based on the British Ferguson system they represent the ultimate in current design with upwards of 350 bhp available to the driver. The Ford RS200 will join this elite group later this year and it is hard to see how a conventional car can get a look-in on "sprint" events like the 1,000 Lakes and RAC Rallies. No doubt the Quattro will continue to perform well on events like the Safari but the skills of Walter Rörhl and Stig Blomqvist will be at a premium. It may be &little early yet to write off the chances of the MG Metro 6R4 but, based around a new normally aspirated V6 engine developing around 320 bhp it does not look a winner, on paper anyway.

The most interesting aspect of the Lancia Delta S4 is the Abarth designed all-alloy power unit which has both a Volumes supercharger and a KKK turbocharger which will combine to wring more than 400 bhp front a 1.76-litre design.

The crankshaft driven supercharger supplies boost at low engine speeds, supplemented by the turbocharger at medium revs. At the top end of the range a by-pass valve cuts out the supercharger and eliminates its drag, allowing the Delta S4 to attain 290 lb ft of torque at 5,000 rpm and at least 400 bhp at 8,000 rpm.

Whereas the Peugeot's 1.8-litre engine is mounted transversely behind the co-driver, Lancia's is located longitudinally ahead of the rear wheels. A twin-plate clutch and five-speed gearbox are located alongside the Ferguson centre differential, which is capable of varying the torque split and putting between 25 and 40°A, of the power through the front wheels, which are driven by titanium shafts. The S4 features a steel tubular chassis and carbon fibre and kevlar bodywork, the anticipated weight of the production cars being just 890 kg.

When 200 examples have been built at Abarth's works in Turin homologation should be forthcoming in time for the Lakes rally, though the Delta S4 will run prototype form in the Mille Pistes Corsica rallies. The drivers will be Aldn, Henri Toivonen and Attilio Bettega, the two Finns having signed long contracts with Lancia-Martini.

Plans for the 1985 World Endurance Championship were announced at the conference, the driver line-up being Riccardo Patrese / Alessandro Nannini and Bob Wollek / Mauro Baldi, with Paolo Barilla in a third car at Le Mans. Lancia-Martini will contest all seven European rounds of the championship with the LC2 model, though with wider track and improved suspension, Michelin tyres and more aerodynamic bodywork. The Weber-Marelli engine management system will be modified to reduce the fuel consumption, in line with the 1985 regulations, though Lancia will continue to run the Ferrari-based 3-litre V8 engine. Technical director Claudio Lombardi estimates that he will see 650 bhp from the 308 engine though, more pessimistically, Porsche forecast an output of around 620 bhp from their fiat-six when tuned to burn 510 litres of fuel in a 1,000 kilometre event. — M.L.C.