A series of disasters afflicted their three expeditions to the Safari, the rough roads of Greece took their toll year after year and they never bothered to send such a nervous car to the smooth, fast roads of Finland. However the rally that the Stratos really should have won is our own RAC rally.
Fords dominated the event, but I wasn't the only spectator shivering by the side of the stage waiting for the Boreham boxes to pass so we could see - and hear - the exotic Italian supercar. If the Stratos looked out of place in the middle of Africa, it seemed no more at home in a cold, and frequently wet, British forest.
This was a rally the car really should have won at least once. Here's the story of how they failed.
However he's scored several fastest times on the way and had shown the car's potential. British fans took note.
Autosport journalist Peter Newton wrote of the experience "A deep musical throb among the distant trees, then with a bark of triumph, the Stratos leaps out of the gloom into the sunlight, its driver corrects and the red-and-white projectile hurls itself at the straining watchers on the corner. The sheer speed of its arrival takes everyone by surprise.."
Well, that was the plan anyway.
On the 1975 RAC Waldegard was flying in the new Alitalia liveried car. Literally. After 16 stages he had set 6 fastest times and was comfortably in the lead. He then flew too high on a yump in Pickering and broke a drive shaft. Mechanics changed it on the stage (that was legal then) but at a cost of one hour of delay and all of his rear bodywork.
|.... and after.|
Exclusion was the result and with Munari crashing out it was Lancia nil points.
Waldegard had ended the penultimate stage four seconds ahead of Munari. As it wouldn't do for the top Italian rally driver to be beaten on home soil Waldegard was instructed to let his team mate win. Waldegard came to the start of the last stage and was waved away. The car didn't move for four seconds. With everything square he then blasted off at full speed to win the stage, by four seconds.
Lancia were not impressed and sacked him on the spot. Ford signed him immediately and started cobbling a car together for the RAC.
Munari was again the lone Lancia on the rally. He set a few fastest times - including at the New Brighton spectator stage where little me was undergoing my RAC baptism - but mostly he appeared to not want to be there. Indeed the entire team appeared to have a case of the blues.
A second car, run by the British Chequered Flag team and driven by Per Inge Walfridsson struggled before retiring with electric problems in Yorkshire.
Shortly afterwards the world found out what had caused the long faces in the Lancia camp. Fiat group headquarters had decided that next year the Fiat team in their 131 Abarths was to be given priority in World Championship.
Munari was again the only Stratos man, and again he struggled with the conditions and the secret stages.
At the end of the first day he was fourth, at the end of the second he was fifth and by half way he was ninth. The Stratos's gearbox then jammed in gear, loosing him an hour, but he carried on for the fans and eventually managed 25th, setting a fastest time on the last stage.
Alen thought the car would be more suitable than the 131 for the RAC and so he and Munari entered their red, white and black Pirelli cars for what was supposed to be the last official outing for a works Stratos.
The press made the most of the occasion and Lancia managed some secret tire testing at Donnington whilst giving motoring journalists a ride in the car.
Thanks perhaps to this Alen stormed into a lead over the Sunday 'Mickey Mouse' stages and prepared for 'Maximum Attack' in the forests. However he was now entering Escort country.
The RS1800 had grown into the RS, with 15 inch wheels and various other tweaks. The Stratos meanwhile was going backwards, with its 24 valve engine banned.
Alen hung on grimly for a while, but was last seen by the side of the road in Twiglees with the back open. An Italian mechanic, asked to explain, just gave some exaggerated hand gestures and said "Mayonnaise..." The official reason was given as gearbox failure. With Munari parked up with electrical problems, that was that.
Or that should have been that.
Once again Alen led over the Sunday stages, and once again he was overtaken in the forests. He pulled a bit of time back later in the rally in the fog, but eventually could only manage fifth.
Unfortunately he was never on the pace and eventually put the car into a ditch in the Scottish borders.
That really was that.
2005 - 2012
However there were still people who remembered what it used to be like, and so in 2004 the De Lacy motorclub launched the Roger Albert Clark rally for historic two wheel drive rally cars.
In 2005 alco-pop king and former British Rally Champion Steve Perez entered a Lancia, and it was time for the next generation of little Porters to see a Stratos in action.
It may never have won an RAC, but for British rally fans, the Stratos is still a very special car.