Is a Lancia WRC comeback realistic?

Rumors of the legendary rally marque's return have come to nothing for now – but that doesn't mean it's a total non-starter either

880300LanciaSafariTest Biasion 0027

It’s time for Italy. It’s time for the tifosi. And nothing brings them out of Alghero’s old town like a Lancia. Dressed with all the sartorial elegance associated with Milan in Martini or Alitalia, Deltas from down the years will stop fans in their tracks.

Stopping and staring at Italy’s beautiful history is an annual event at this week’s World Rally Championship qualifier.

But is it time to start looking to the future as well?

Earlier this year, renowned Italian motorsport journalist Marco Giordo put together a cover story for AutoSprint. The headline demanded you dive between the covers.

880826SF Alen 3 rk

INTRIGO LANCIA. Intrigue Lancia.

Inside, page after page was dedicated to the chances of a Lancia return to the WRC.

The thinking was as straightforward as it was apparently sensible. Stellantis, the new owner of Lancia, has a stable full of sporting pedigree. There’s Alfa Romeo in Formula 1, Peugeot in World Endurance Championship, DS and Maserati in Formula E. Rallying is the only discipline the group’s not committed to.

And who’s the man at the top of Stellantis? It’s CEO is Carlos Tavares.

What did Carlos Tavares do in February? He started and finished the Monte Carlo Historic driving a 1975 Lancia Stratos. In Alitalia livery.


Apparently so. Pooling all of the above was enough to send large sections of the motorsport world into overdrive. Lancia, it appeared, was definitely coming back.

Lancia’s only official comment was to point out that Tavares likes driving cars and his Monte entry was done off his own bat. It was his ‘personal initiative’.

But still the stories came.


Beyond the Stellantis stuff and Tavares’ fever-filled ride through the mountains, there’s some symmetry in the chronology.

It’s 50 years since Lancia’s Fulvia won the International Makes’ title (the forerunner to the WRC’s manufacturers’ championship which started in 1973), it’s 40 years since the glorious 037 made its debut and 30 years since Lancia’s last world title. In 1992, the Turinese completed an astonishing 10th world title in 20 years.

The fact that Lancia had actually withdrawn from the WRC a year earlier is neither here nor there.

There’s a lot that’s neither here nor there about the potential for a Lancia return.

But the time has come to put aside the romanticism. Of course, we’d all love to see Lancia back, but what is Lancia these days?

If it happened, it would be the return of a name with great history, but it would also be starting from zero. Tiziano Siviero

Miki Biasion’s co-driver Tiziano Siviero was integral to Lancia’s success down the years. Like the rest of us, he’d love to see his former employer bringing some fresh metal to the island of Sardinia in years to come.

“It would,” he said, “be fantastic. Of course it would for marketing. But Lancia is in the background today compared to where it was. If it happened, it would be the return of a name with great history, but it would also be starting from zero.”

As we’ve pointed out, there’s great motorsport experience in Stellantis, but not so much on the dirt.

Like Siviero, Jim Holder is a WRC finisher in the co-driver’s seat. But he’s probably better known for being one of the world’s most astute commentators on the global automotive industry.

890121MC Biasion 09 gdw

Haymarket’s editorial director is perfectly placed to offer insight into the likelihood of a Lancia return.

Right now, Lancia only sells in Italy. And it only sells one car: the Ypsilon. We asked Holder what Tavares and Stellantis can do.

He told DirtFish: “CEO Carlos Tavares seems convinced by a ten-year rescue plan that will turn Lancia into a three-model brand with outlets across Europe. By sharing technology with other brands in the group, and positioning itself as a premium player, it hopes to make profits even from a relatively small volume of sales.

“If that sounds crazy, consider now that perennially loss-making Alfa Romeo is said to have found a way to make profits on equally tiny volumes since Stellantis came in. Just maybe it has a hope.

Brand is the key differentiator, of course, and there will be few whose heartbeat isn’t raised a level or two by the mere mention of the words Stratos or Delta Integrale. Jim Holder

“Reports suggest a new Ypsilon will emerge in 2024, a compact crossover in 2026 and a compact hatchback in 2028. All will be hybrid or fully electric, and all will be positioned as alternative, more stylish rivals to the established players in those segments – much as Stellantis brands Alfa Romeo and DS look to take on the hegemony of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.”

“But how to make this most iconic of marques stand out from that crowd, especially if the underpinnings of the cars are available on other – potentially cheaper – models within the group?

“Brand is the key differentiator, of course, and there will be few whose heartbeat isn’t raised a level or two by the mere mention of the words Stratos or Delta Integrale.

“Whether rallying is the right fit to promote a brand revival largely depends on where the sport and its regulations are at when the road car hits production. The heritage is there, and the World Rally Championship’s European focus is bang on, but Stellantis controls costs like few others. Be certain that Tavares and his team won’t make any decisions based on misty eyes and historical whimsies; it will want to know very well what it will get out of the sport if it commits.”

We can work with that. It’s better than anything we’ve had for the last 30 years.

Stellantis motorsport boss Jean-Marc Finot is the man responsible for Maserati’s return to a significant global race presence. He understands the heritage and Tavares has given him the keys to breathe life into programs which could turn former glories into future stories.

Holder’s Autocar colleague James Attwood outlined the return of Lancia’s Delta and Opel’s Manta here (

The Delta, when it comes, will be all-electric which precludes it from the WRC’s current homologation cycle, but who knows what’s around the corner post 2024.

890301P Biasion 04 rk

Are the stars aligning?

Certainly some of them are.

Tavares is, of course, the man who returned Citroën to the WRC in 2017. He’s a man who understands the value of motorsport in marketing a brand.

But, like Holder says, he’s a man who’s mind is made up by the calculator.

Forget the stars, it’s the balance sheet which will dictate whether Lancia’s back or not.