Unveiling the Legendary Lancia Delta Integrale: A Tale of Rallying Dominance and Italian Charm
When it comes to legendary status, some things in life earn their place in history for a multitude of reasons. Among automobiles, none have quite achieved the legendary acclaim that the Lancia Delta Integrale boasts. This status isn’t solely due to its domination of the rallying world for several consecutive years, but also because of its captivating design, especially the Evoluzione models. While being a legend doesn’t necessarily mean it drives better than other cars, there’s an undeniable aura around the Lancia Delta Integrale that ignites passion and curiosity in most car enthusiasts.
The Evolution of Excellence: Lancia Delta Integrale Models
Fiat has long harbored the ambition to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC). When making the crucial decision about which brand to compete under, Fiat had a choice between two prestigious brands : Lancia and Alfa Romeo. After careful consideration, Fiat ultimately chose Lancia. This decision proved to be fruitful as Lancia went on to make history in the WRC with iconic cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale, becoming one of the dominant forces in the championship and solidifying Lancia’s reputation as a legendary brand in the world of rallying. This strategic choice allowed Fiat to successfully establish itself in the demanding and competitive world of rallying.
For a novice, navigating through the various Delta Integrale models produced over a relatively extended period can be quite challenging. Here, we’ll provide a concise overview:
The Original Delta 4WD (1986): The journey begins with the original Delta 4WD, launched in May 1986. It closely resembled a standard Delta but came equipped with 4WD and a turbocharged engine. Powered by a 2-litre, 8-valve engine, it generated 165Bhp (150Bhp in the “green” version).
The Integrale 8V (1987): In November 1987, Lancia introduced the Integrale 8V, followed by the Integrale 16V in May 1989. These models featured wider wheel arches, modified suspension settings, and more potent engines (185Bhp for the 8V and 200Bhp for the initial 16V). Some countries imported catalytic (green) engines, while Lancia marketed special editions with an 8V catalytic engine (178Bhp).
The Evolution Begins (1991): October 1991 marked the birth of the first Evoluzione model, often referred to as Deltona. This version featured a significantly wider body, different front suspension attachment points, additional air intakes, a wider track, and more substantial front brakes. The Delta Evoluzione was powered by a 16V engine producing 210Bhp. Green countries still imported an Evoluzione with an 8V engine and only 185Bhp.
Evoluzione II (1993): By June 1993, Lancia introduced the Evoluzione II, equipped with a catalytic converter-equipped version of the 16V engine producing 215Bhp. This version featured numerous improvements, including new engine management, advanced sensors, and 16″ wheels. Although it was less powerful than its predecessor, it offered a more refined and driver-friendly experience.
The Lancia Delta Integrale: An Evolution in Numbers
Comparing the initial Delta 4WD to the Evoluzione II highlights the remarkable evolution of the Lancia Integrale. Over eight years, the car gained 10cm in front and rear track width and expanded by 15cm in width. Remarkably, the Evoluzione series shared the same track width as current WRC class cars. The 2-litre engine’s output increased by an impressive 30% from the original 165Bhp to 215Bhp over seven years of development.
Under the Hood: Common Threads and Unique Characteristics
While all models shared the same transmission, 4WD system, engine block, and suspension geometry, what set them apart were primarily the engine’s output, management, and chassis. The Evoluzione models, in particular, offered superior handling characteristics and a more reassuring driving experience. Previous models, while quick and impressive, had a certain unpredictability at the limit of grip.
Lancia’s Rallying Legacy: Unmatched Success
Lancia stands as the most successful manufacturer in the history of world rallying. With over 74 victories and 11 World Rally Championships, including six won with the Integrale, it holds a unique place in WRC history. The Delta Integrale, across all versions, notched an unprecedented 46 WRC wins. Lancia’s commitment to rallying excellence attracted some of the best drivers, including Kankkunen, Biasion, Auriol, Alen, Toivonen, Röhrl, and even Carlos Sainz, who all piloted Lancia cars. Lancia’s WRC dominance extends beyond the Delta Integrale, encompassing iconic models like the Stratos, 037, and Delta S4.
Fiat’s Influence and the Power Within
As a Fiat-owned company, Lancia benefited from its parent company’s involvement in motorsport, notably with Ferrari in F1 and Alfa Romeo in the Touring Car Championship. The engine of choice for the Integrale was the Fiat 2-litre Turbo boosted inline 4, a powerhouse engineered by Aurelio Lampredi, known for his work with Ferrari. This engine’s variations were used in various Fiat-owned cars, including the Fiat 124, 125, 131, Ritmo, Lancia Beta, and Delta.
The Drive Experience: Unforgettable Sensations
Driving the Lancia Delta Integrale is an experience like no other. Its short wheelbase, transversely mounted 4-cylinder engine, and torque distribution provide exhilarating performance. The car’s steering feedback is often hailed as one of the best in automotive history, offering precise control and communication. It’s a car that rewards skill and bravery, offering exceptional cornering capabilities.
Everyday Life with an Integrale: A Love Affair
Owning a Lancia Delta Integrale isn’t without its quirks. Owners must contend with intermittent electrical issues, occasional fuel cut-offs in hot weather, and the ever-present rust problem. However, these inconveniences often fade into the background when you’re behind the wheel of this Italian gem.
The End of an Era
Production of the Delta Integrale came to a close in November 1994, marking the end of an era. While the Integrale has its quirks and challenges, it remains a joyous companion for those who appreciate its unique pedigree and Italian charm.
In conclusion, the Lancia Delta Integrale isn’t just a car; it’s a legend. Its rallying success, technical innovations, and thrilling driving experience have left an indelible mark on automotive history. If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to drive one, don’t hesitate. It’s a journey into the heart and soul of Italian automotive excellence.