Lancia’s rally return has an asterisk but the hype is real

It may be a while before we see Lancia back at the top of the WRC, but it is set to take the first step on that path

1000 Lakes Rally Jyvaskyla (FIN) 26-28 08 1984

Calma, calma.

Leave the Martini stripes and black Wayfarers where they are. For now.

I know it’s difficult. We’ve all waited so long for white smoke from the towering chimneys of Torino. We’ve been looking in the wrong place. The wrong direction. We missed the white whisps coming from the Amsterdam rooftops.

Lancia is Stellantis now. And Stellantis is the world’s fourth biggest car maker. While considering a Lancia return to rallying, it would be nonsensical to ignore the multinational element of the company.

Long gone are the days of long lunches and even longer lists of lira to be spent on Lancia’s rally programs. Walk along Via Nizza in Turin’s Lingotto district and you’ll find a shopping center where cars once became great cars. (OK, mostly great cars. Fiat’s X1/9 was never for me…)

Should we be excited? Yes.

Should we be delirious? Yes.

Should we expect to see Lancia back as world champions before the end of the ’20s? No.

Looking closely at Lancia’s words to DirtFish, the acronym everybody was waiting to see – WRC – wasn’t there. What Lancia has said here is that it’s taking a look.

Lombard RAC Rally , Harrogate 24-28 11 1991

Juha Kankkunen's 1991 world title was Lancia's last

There’s no doubt, senior management in Stellantis has been surprised at the interest in Lancia following the film Race for Glory. And this has helped move things along. But the key line remains the last one: “… we will return to the world of rally only if the return on investment meets our expectations.”

Return on investment is everything. Speaking to sources in Stellantis, the World Rally Championship is clearly some distance from meeting that ROI expectation. But that doesn’t mean Lancia couldn’t come in at the sport’s second – or even third or fourth – tier and build a car which will appeal to the masses.

Citroën’s C3 Rally2 would be a great base for Lancia and, as highlighted in our story, there’s no shortage of know-how within Stellantis to make a great Rally2 car. And that’s potentially where the primary return on investment could come – through customer sales of car which would likely be in demand around the world.

Let’s not get caught up in the minutiae of the regulatory future of Rally2. Let’s not dampen our spirits.

Acropolis Rally Athens (GR) 02-04 6 1986

Lancia is synonymous with spectacular rally cars like the Delta S4, piloted here by Miki Biasion

Make no mistake, this is no full-scale return to the halcyon days. To those beautiful days of global glory, helicopters for goalposts and briefcases full of cash to make sure everything worked as it should.

Lancia’s in a radically different place now. Its model range is a shadow of what it once was, and sales of that model range are even more severely restricted around the world. But still…

Somebody in Lancia has watched the film and said the words we’ve been waiting for.

“We are working on the return of Lancia to rally.”


Rally Sanremo San Remo (ITA) 12-14 10 1992

Lancia's last WRC victory came via Andrea Aghini on the 1992 Sanremo

One more time…

“We are working on the return of Lancia to rally.”

Why is it Lancia has this effect on us all? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just me. I know it’s not. It’s simple, Lancia is rallying’s Ferrari. Sanremo was our Monza. For Schumacher read Kankkunen; for Lauda read Biasion.

It’s a fever thing, a tifosi thing. Very much a northern Italian thing. But above all, it’s a great thing. Lancia’s history and heritage brings so much color to the sport of rallying and to have the opportunity to talk about that, for whatever reason, is something to be celebrated.

(Written while wearing a Martini-striped Lancia Sparco jacket. And black Wayfarers.)