In 1982, rally racing introduced a set of regulations that wouldn’t last long, but would forever change the world of racing. One of the cars from this era, the 1985 Lancia Delta S4 Rally Car, is currently on sale at RM Sotheby’s, and it’s a true icon of the Golden Era of Rallying.
Group B is notorious and influential in rally racing because of its introduction of some of the fastest, most powerful, and most sophisticated rally cars ever used in the sport. Group B only lasted for four years before being disbanded, in part because of a few fatal accidents. Still, Group B’s influence is still evident.
The rules for Group B allowed for more technology and different designs. High-tech materials helped to keep the weight as low as possible, and less restrictions on boost pumped-up performance from an average 250 horsepower to over 500 horsepower by the time the group was disbanded.
The car being offered through Sotheby’s was built by Lancia, who, up until 1985, had only won one round of the World Rally Championship. Lancia replaced their aging car with the Delta S4. The car had a tubular frame wrapped in carbon fibre instead of the normal steel monocoque chassis. This change drove down the car’s weight considerably.
The S4 also used a “twin-charging” system that had a supercharger and a turbocharger operating in sequence, which reduced turbo lag and improved drivability. The engine produced 550 braking horsepower, which was channeled into a Hewland developed for-wheel-drive system. The car in question competed under the Martini Racing banner in the 1985 RAC Rally.
The car dominated the first half, and was only beat out by its sister car—another Delta S4. The car then went on to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally.
But then tragedy struck. An accident at the third round of the Championship in Portugal claimed the lives of three spectators and injured 30 more, then in the Tour de Corse a driver and co-driver—driving a Lancia—died when their car ran off a cliff. Group B was put in a development freeze.
The S4 at Sotheby’s was recently restored to original specifications and comes with a rich history. Much like Group B, it shouldn’t last long before it’s whisked away.