Lancia returned to sports car racing for the first time in over decades towards the end of the 1970s. In the previous years, the Italian manufacturer had been very successful in rallying with cars like the Fulvia and the Stratos. The new effort featured a silhouette 'Group 5' sports racer based on the Monte Carlo road car. Encouraged by its success, Lancia decided to produce a full-bore 'Group 6' prototype for the 1982 season.
Although stepping up to Group 6 seemed a natural step forward, the introduction of the Group C class rendered the Group 6 cars virtually obsolete for 1982. In order to ensure full grids, the earlier cars were allowed to compete in the World Championship events but as a compromise the points only counted for the driver's and not for the constructor's championship. It remains subject of debate whether Lancia were fortunate to run their new LC1 at all or whether they were well aware of the loophole. Either way, it was clear from the outset that the car could run for only one season in its original form.
For the development and construction of the chassis Lancia once again partnered with local specialists Dallara. They penned a straightforward aluminium monocoque with double wishbone suspension on all four corners. The rear-end featured a separate sub-frame to locate the suspension components. The LC1 was clothed in a very slippery, open body. The airflow was only interrupted by a single central intake in the nose for the front-mounted radiator. Benefiting from the interim regulations, the LC1 also featured ground-effect aerodynamics with tunnels running on either side of the cockpit.
Like the Group 5 Monte Carlo, the new LC1 was powered by a diminutive turbocharged engine. With a swept volume of 1,425.8 cc and taking in account the 1.4 equivalency factor for turbo engines, the straight four qualified for the two-litre class. This in turn allowed the LC1 to run at a very low minimum weight. Thanks to the KKK-supplied turbocharger, the engine produced 430 bhp in race trim and as much as 460 bhp with the boost at 1.65 bar for qualifying. Tipping the scales at just 140 kg, the compact 'four' was mated to a Hewland TG 300, five-speed gearbox.
Compared to the new generation of closed cockpit cars, the LC1s were down on power but more than made up for it because their very low weight of just 665 kg, which was a full 25% under the Group C minimum weight. The first race of the eight-round World Endurance Championship was the Monza 1000 km. With the main opposition coming from modified GTP cars and privately developed Group C cars, it was hardly surprising that the local favourites qualified first and second on the grid. Mechanical issues dogged the cars during the race, with a broken distributor ending the charge early for both LC1s.
At the following round, the Silverstone 6 Hours, a far more serious rival appeared; the Porsche 956, which was the first works Group C car. Michele Alboreto and Riccardo Patrese nevertheless managed to score the LC1's first win. Assisted by Teo Fabi, they won again at the Nürburgring. Despite these promising results, the LC1 still proved fragile, and as the new Porsche 956 came on song, Lancia lost their edge. In the final five rounds, the slippery Lancia took just one more victory. Patrese eventually ended the year second in the standings, a handful of points behind Porsche's Jacky Ickx.
With the LC1 rendered obsolete, Lancia moved on to the new V8-engined LC2 Group C racer. The three surviving LC1s - one was destroyed by Patrese during practice - were sold to the privateer Sivama team, who had Bellasi add a roof to make them Group C compliant. Having to run at Group C's 800 kg minimum weight, the LC1 had however lost its edge and due to disappointing results, Sivama ended the season early. The cars were returned to the factory where they were restored to their original configuration and livery before being sold to collectors.
Blisteringly quick but more often than not led down by poor reliability, the Lancia LC1 does deserve more credit than it usually gets. With three victories and pole positions, it did remarkably well for a single season special.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on July 26, 2012
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