Undoubtedly one of the toughest tests in world motorsports is the Rally Safari. And not just for pilots who face the challenge of encountering impossible obstacles in Europe. But also for the co-drivers - faced with the challenge of a very complex navigation - and the teams - forced to a logistics more similar to that of an exploration than to that of a sporting event. For all this, the results are always as unforeseen as it is necessary to prepare cars that can encounter mud flats, potholes and suspended dust.
A series of elements that screens the best, making it important not only for power, but also for bulletproof robustness. Which is why the Rally Safari does not have myths like the Alpine A110, Lancia Stratos or Audi Quattro among its winners. In fact, during its first two decades and until the arrival of Datsun 240Z With the official Nissan team, the record is dominated by the VW Beetle and Peugeot 404. Sober models with simple mechanics where a Volvo PV544 is even cast in 1965.
A time of bravery where small teams with stamina and mechanical skill were able to successfully challenge unbeatable brands in the much more professionalized Europe. Nevertheless, during the eighties this trend was completely reversed with the arrival of the Opel, Datsun / Nissan and Toyota. A land where Lancia wanted to reign with its Lancia Delta. Not only proving that this was his most versatile and ultimate rally car, but also removing the thorn of never having been able to win the Safari with his Fulvia.
LANCIA DELTA SAFARI HF INTEGRATES THE GROUP TO SAFARI. VICTORY AT LAST
Until the arrival of the Japanese, if there was a car company linked to rallying, it was Lancia. Away from competitions on asphalt since the sale of the company closed Scuderia Lancia in 1955, the natural terrain of its competition cars was dirt tracks thanks to models such as the Fulvia. An outstanding sport thanks to its excellent weight and behavior, after which a time of high precision has arrived, inaugurated by the Stratos. Possibly the first rally car not adapted for them, but designed from scratch to win the World Championship.
Thus, there were units of the Lancia Fulvia trying to win the very tough Rally Safari. In fact, only with the official equipment it was tried ten times. Of course, thrown back by the Peugeot 404. Which took in the deserts an unexpected performance thanks to the simplicity of its mechanics for day to day. A kind of "upside down world"In which Lancia became so stubborn that even in 1974 it released a special series of the demominated Fulvia Safari. Limited to 900 units, these removed the bumpers and finished off various parts in matte black. Details that gave a tougher appearance, but insufficient to win the test.
Even more so when the most modern Nissan / Datsun and Ford disembark, kings of this rally while Lancia was ruminating its final shock. This came with the second evolution of the Lancia Delta Group A. The 1988 Integrale, upgraded from the HF 4WD with longer-travel reinforced suspensions and a new six-speed transmission. A perfect machine for the time, achieving both the constructors 'and drivers' titles. This situation was used by the pilots Miki Biason and Tiziano Siviero to finally give Lancia the victory in the Safari.
PREPARED FOR THE RALLYE. ONE OF 17 LANCIA DELTA GROUP A FROM 1988
Obviously each race needs different settings. A fact that in the case of Rally Safari goes further, requiring important modifications in at least two elements. On the one hand, the bodywork needs protections and reinforcements for the sections of wild nature. Sections where you can run over a zebra, as happened in this case and it is still evident in the front left area. In addition, and to take full advantage of the power on the straights, the gear ratios have to be adjusted to generate gears with a longer travel. Work done on the Lancia Delta Safari HF integrale by Miki Biason. Number six of seventeen prepared for the 1988 season by the Lancia Racing Team.
With this preparation, the departure from Nairobi was finally taken on March 31st. In front There were more than 4.000 kilometers and 82 checkpoints left, configuring what would be one of the toughest editions of the Safari. So much so that, out of fifty-four registered cars, forty abandoned on the road. Something that allows us to get an idea of the toughness of the Rally Safari. Character that has given him no little problems when it comes to being homologated by the FIA within the World Rally Championship, of which he has been out for almost half of its editions.
Nonetheless, Lancia seemed to learn the lessons well, repeating success in 1989 and 1991 before falling victim to the boost of the Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD. Protagonists of four consecutive victories before the overwhelming presence of the Mitsubishi Lancer. The biggest dominators of the Safari Rally with 14 victories. Meritorious to the fullest, but certainly with much more elaborate means than those used by the pilots of the Peugeot 404. A game of contrasts where the Lancia Delta Safari HF Integrale appears as the conquest of the test by the brand after ten attempts with its Fulvia.
Photographs: FCA Heritage