The legendary Lancia Stratos HF was without a doubt the most spectacular and successful rallye car of the 70s. With its thrilling lines and uncompromising design for rallye use, the Stratos not only single-handedly rewrote the history of rallyeing, it won a permanent place in the hearts of its countless fans with its dramatic performance on the world's asphalt and gravel tracks. The Stratos still draws the crowds whenever it competes at historic motor sport events, thanks to its reputation as the most fascinating rallye car in the world.
It all began in 1970, at the Turin exhibition stand of the automobile designer, Bertone. The extreme Stratos study on display there – a stylistic masterpiece by the designer Marcello Gandini – didn't just excite visitors, but caught the attention of Cesare Fiorio, Lancia's team manager at the time… and refused to let go.
Just one year later, the Stratos assumed its final form when the mid-mounted V4 engine from the Lancia Fulvia was replaced by the significantly more powerful Ferrari Dino V6 engine. The road version of this "flounder" was just 1.08 meters high, mounted on a short steel chassis, and its aerodynamically sophisticated body was molded from reinforced fiberglass. The Stratos' low weight, ideal weight distribution and excellent dynamics provided the optimum conditions for spectacular performance on the international rallye tracks, which at the time were still dominated by Alpine and Porsche. However, the results were not so immediately gratifying.
It was only when Lancia works driver Sandro Munari and British Formula 1 driver Mike Parkes got behind the wheel of the ruthless driving machine that success finally materialized. And it did so at lightning speed: in 1973 Sandro Munari took home the first victory for the Stratos HF, and the victories just kept coming in throughout 1974. By the end of 1976, the Stratos had pulled off a hat trick, winning three World Cup titles in a row.
The Italian "flying wedge" also enjoyed success beyond its works deployment: top driver Bernard Darniche brought home an incredible 33 victories for the private team Chardonnet of France, in his blue Lancia Stratos Chardonnet.
The Fiat group's dramatic reduction of the Lancia racing budget in 1979, in favor of the Fiat 131 Abarth, was the death knell for the Stratos works team. From then on, only dedicated private teams took to the track competing against works cars – as in the 1981 Monte Carlo Rallye. Even today, there's hardly any other vehicle that excites audiences at motor sport events like the Lancia Stratos.
A rare opportunity to tackle the Arosa hillclimb with Michael Stoschek in his Lancia Stratos Group 4.
But the story isn't over yet.
In November 2010, 40 years after its first appearance at the Turin Motor Show, a successor to the ruthless flying wedge will be presented to a small circle of international motor sport journalists on the Paul Ricard Circuit.
The legend returns.
Michael Stoschek is a collector and driver of historic racing cars as well as a successful entrepreneur in the automotive supply industry. For Stoschek, the development and construction of a modern version of the Stratos represents the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
Construction of the car has been underway since autumn 2008, at Pininfarina in Turin, Italy. The contemporary New Stratos is a non-commercial project by Michael Stoschek and his son Maximilian Stoschek. Together they played a fundamental role in determining the technical concept and design of the one-off vehicle.
Michael Stoschek is chairman of the Brose Group shareholder's meeting. Brose is the fifth-largest family-owned company among global automotive suppliers.
A keen sportsman, Stoschek won the Carrera Panamericana in 1999, 2001 and 2004, and the 2006 FIA European Rallye Championship, driving a 1971 Porsche 911 in both races. The Lancia Stratos Group 4 has a special place amongst the historic rallye cars that Stoschek employs for rallies and hillclimbing. Sporting a Marlboro design, the vehicle has been restored over more than a decade, according to the specifications of the "1974 Tour de Corse Andruet/Biche" works car.
The decision to develop and build a new, ready-to-run Stratos was inspired by a meeting with Chris Hrabalek, with whom Michael Stoschek became acquainted at the 1986 World Stratos meeting organized in Alta Badia by Stoschek. This was also the impetus behind Stoschek's involvement in the Fenomenon Stratos project, presented at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, as well as his acquisition of the Stratos trademark rights.
In September 2008, Michael and his son Maximilian Stoschek commissioned Pininfarina to build a one-off vehicle the technical concept and design of which were largely determined by the two car enthusiasts.
The New Stratos
The Lancia Stratos's fascination lay not only in its uncompromising construction – optimized for dedicated application in motor sport – but in its unparalleled design, the exceptional sound of the Ferrari V6 engine and naturally its remarkable success in competition. Up to that point, no sports car had been so systematically developed for racing use – indeed, the street version was merely a necessary evil for homologation.
The Lancia Stratos HF's unique technical characteristics – the lightweight plastic body with integrated roll cage, the mid-engine, the racing transmission, the adjustable chassis for all applications, the two side tanks at the center of the vehicle, the integrated car door compartments for driver and front passenger helmets, the removable front and rear hoods for servicing and the separate engine access through a hatch – are all included in its successor's specifications.
In this respect, the New Stratos is not a mere conversion of a Ferrari, but a newly developed, independent sports car that, as in the 1970s, integrates several components from the Fiat Group's production vehicles.
The roll cage – made from 2.5 mm thick tubing, with a 40 mm diameter, and welded into the shortened aluminum chassis – has been manufactured to current FIA standards. This not only improves safety for the vehicle occupants, but also significantly enhances the handling precision.
Despite the cage structure and the built-in air conditioning, by keeping the body, interior and almost all the components lightweight, the weight of the base vehicle could be kept at an absolute minimum.
Overall, engine performance was only slightly increased; however, thanks to the New Stratos' minimal weight, excellent balance and new set-up, the vehicle delivered a truly extraordinary performance and unbelievable driving pleasure.
Currently, the New Stratos is one of a kind. Whether or not an exclusive, limited run will be manufactured, depends upon demand.
Creating a modern interpretation of a classic product is an exceptional challenge for a designer. It can be difficult to find the right balance between the issue of, on one hand, drawing too much from the original and, on the other, departing too much from the initial concept. It's Michael Stoschek's belief that the more perfect a classic form is, the less it should be changed – the Ford GT 40 offering a good example of this.
Particular caution is necessary when attempting a re-interpretation of a design icon like the Lancia Stratos. The radical Bertone study, with its futuristic design, was itself already well ahead of its time on its presentation in 1970. By holding to the premise "form follows function", Marcello Gandini smoothly paved the way for further development of the Stratos into a rally legend.
Michael Stoschek found it extremely fascinating to discover that, in addition to Chris Hrabalek, many renowned designers were inspired by the idea of a modern Stratos, and put their time and energies into helping him make his vision a reality.
Stoschek himself specified that, "because the design of the Lancia Stratos was characterized by the contrast between round and rectilinear elements, I wanted to see that tension to be carried over into the New Stratos as well."
The assignment was to find a contemporary interpretation for all the quintessential design characteristics of the Lancia Stratos, including:
- the wedge-shaped body,
- the semi-circular windshield,
- the front end with its central radiator,
- the rear end with its round tail lights,
- roof and rear spoiler
- and the five-star rims.
Since the project began in late 2008, all of Michael and Maximilian Stoschek's, as well as Chris Hrabalek's, conceptual and formal specifications for the body and interior have been implemented by Pininfarina.
The Test DrivesNaturally, the theoretically pre-determined chassis components of the New Stratos will be reviewed via numerous test drives on both public and restricted roads, and high demands on handling singled-out accordingly.
To use the potential of the light, torsionally rigid and well-balanced vehicle to full advantage, the vehicle height, camber, toe and caster were redeveloped and, above all, the whole setup. Uniball joints and stiffer springs were employed, as well as a new damper calibration, allowing greater differentiation of the damping force, adjustable via the steering wheel. Optimum wheel / tire combinations were explored via testing of various tire brands, dimensions and rubber compounds. The Brose-sponsored, Portuguese WTCC pilot and former Formula 1 driver, Tiago Monteiro, contributed significantly to the chassis development together with the engineers from ZF Sachs.
WTTC and former Formula-1-Pilot Tiago Monteiro fine-tuning the chassis of the New Stratos at Balooco test track, Italy.
On September 13th, the final wind tunnel test was held at Pininfarina in Turin. The aerodynamic data already gleaned from the 1:1 model of the New Stratos, together with all the subjective driving impressions from the various test tracks, was compiled and applied to the optimization of the lift and downforce values.
The inflow conditions of a moving New Stratos at wind speeds of 140-200 km/h were realistically simulated on the wind tunnel's "rolling road". Among other things, the body was configured to different height values and pitches, and the effect of these on the perfect balance of the contact pressure between the front and rear axles was measured. Various spoiler lips were also employed on the underbody, in order to increase the downforce on the front axle.
The goal for the development of the Lancia Stratos HF's successor was to once again create a mid-engine sports car with a short wheelbase, low weight and superior agility.
Just as the Lancia Stratos, with its Ferrari Dino V6 engine, was nevertheless a distinct sports car in its own right, the New Stratos is also a distinct development, using components of the Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Almost all of these components have been modified and, as necessary, customized to their new purpose. However, it should also be pointed out that the Ferrari Scuderia really sets the standard amongst the current super sports cars and, as such, provides an excellent base for the New Stratos.
The chassis, composed from aluminum extrusions, was shortened by 20cm and welded to a roll cage made of FIA-certified, 40mm-thick steel. This method significantly increases rigidity, and this, combined with the shifting of the center of gravity towards the front, provides the basis for the vehicle's extraordinary handling characteristics. Both the body – which is 33cm shorter than the Scuderia's – and the interior are constructed entirely of carbon fiber and aluminum.
The 4.3L V8 engine, which draws its intake air from the roof spoiler's side openings, has been equipped with a new control unit and a high-performance exhaust system, including manifold and sports cat.
The 6-speed transmission received a new mechanical differential lock, and the modified control electronics allow for extremely fast gear changes at less than 60 milliseconds.
The chassis was completely reengineered, including integration of new electronic damper calibration, adjustable via the steering wheel, modified springs and optimized camber and toe values. The 9- and 11-inch wide by 19-inch center lock wheels are fitted with Dunlop Sport Maxx tires, sizes 265/30/19 and 315/30/19.
The Brembo brake systems, comprised of 398mm-diameter ceramic discs and 6-piston calipers at the front axle, and 350mm-diameter and 4-piston calipers at the rear axle, are equipped with Brembo racing brake pads and steel flex lines.
Finally, the steering has been converted to electro-hydraulic, the new smaller steering wheel displays the shift points via multi-colored LEDs and the paddle shifters are from the Ferrari 430 racecar.
The battery is a lithium unit in a carbon casing, with a weight of 4.2kg and a capacity of 84 Ah.
Despite the approximately 55kg steel roll cage and the 28kg air conditioning unit – which it was necessary to take on due to the large glass surfaces – the New Stratos weighs about 80kg less than the base vehicle.
The New Stratos' exceptional performance – the sum total of all these measures – will be gauged in the coming weeks and demonstrated through a standardized testing program which provides objective, reproducible data.
The New Stratos at the final wind tunnel test on September 13th at Pininfarina in Turin.
The success of these coordination efforts was evident upon evaluation of the measurement report at the end of the test day. The quality of both the surface and the body's aerodynamic performance – including the airflow from the roof and rear spoiler – could also be verified.
The values optimized via the wind tunnel test will be applied to the calibration of the dampers and springs prior to the next test runs. In the coming days, the team of test drivers will review to what extent these modifications can further perfect the already excellent handling characteristics of the New Stratos on Balocco's test and handling circuit.
The New Stratos, like the racing version of its predecessor, has been extensively geared – down to every last detail – towards lightweight design and performance. Not surprisingly, the specification sheet was therefore extremely ambitious in this regard as well.
The low vehicle weight, the excellent balance and the precision chassis components made possible by the rigid body, were intended not only to provide an exhilarating driving experience, but to provide measurable results in the form of objective data.
As work on the New Stratos continued virtually without pause up until the presentation in Le Castellet, and weather conditions offered no opportunity for performance test runs, these will have be carried out at the next available opportunity.
We expect a power-to-weight ratio below 2.3 kg/hp with an acceleration time from 0-100 km/h of 3.3 seconds and from 0-200 km/h of 9.7 seconds. We expect top marks for braking performance and a benchmark position in the 18- and 36-meter slalom and similar handling tests.
After introducing the new rear axle ratio (crown wheel and pinion 9/45), the top speed will be reduced to 274 km/h, in order to achieve even better acceleration values.