Among the many winning rally cars produced by Lancia, Delta HF Integrale is unquestionably the greatest of all. Until today, no other cars could match its 6 consecutive WRC manufacturer titles running from 1987 to 1992, nor any came close to its 46 WRC wins during those years. Eclipsing Lancia Stratos, Audi Quattro and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, Delta HF Integrale is the greatest rally car in history.
The story of Delta can be traced back to 1979, when the production Delta debuted. Despite of its Giugiaro design and victory in European Car of the Year election, frankly speaking, that car was no more than a conventional family hatchback. It followed the class norm by using transverse powertrain, front-wheel drive and MacPherson strut suspension at each corner. It made no technological breakthrough, nor set any new class standards. Strangely, the Delta would not attain a classic status until seven years later… Like good wine, the older the better.
In 1985, the car was developed into HF Integrale in order to enhance its competitiveness in world rallying. The first Integrale was distinguishable by widened wheel arches (like Audi Quattro), which housed wider and larger diameter rubbers. Its engine was heavily reworked to deliver 185 horsepower, thanks to a larger Garrett T3 turbo, larger intercooler, new valves and improved cooling etc. Brakes and suspensions were also beefed up. Autocar magazine found it was only marginally quicker than the previous car, but it declared the car a better drive than the mighty Audi Quattro. In particular, the Delta was praised for razor-sharp steering, outstanding agility and better grip on slippery surfaces, therefore a better car to attack twisty mountain roads. Bear in mind that the Delta cost just half the price of Quattro !
Integrale was found to be a huge success. In WRC, it swept the first three places of the 1988 driver standing and retained the manufacturer title in 1988 and 1989. In commercial side, its sales accumulated to nearly 10,000 units in two years, doubling the number required for homologation. This must made Ford Escort RS Cosworth and Toyota Celica GT4 envied !
Story credits: Autozine
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