GALLERY: A Pack Of Lancia Race Cars Honor 50 Years Of Martini Racing At Imola
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Let’s address the technicalities straight off: Martini & Rossi began racing back in 1962 with a pair of Alfa SZs entered in the 3 Hours of Daytona, but the Martini Racing name that we revere today didn’t arrive on the flanks of a race car until 1968 when the German PR man for the company put his friend in a Porsche 910 and sent him hillclimbing. This past weekend, the Imola Motor Legend Festival honored the 50th anniversary of the latter with an assembly of white Lancias wearing the well-known blue and red stripes of the Italian vermouth. Our friend and photographer Rosario Liberti was there to capture these exalted race cars in an intimate gallery at the famed Italian circuit.
For a sponsor with so much scope—“Martini Racing” could be seen under a few coats of African soil as well as in the paddocks of Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham F1 outfit—it’s tough to try to pin one marque as the definitive one, but if the hard choice between Lancia and Porsche needs to be made it’s best to go with a national theme—and it doesn’t hurt if the relationship yielded seven WRC season titles in the span of a single decade. Of course they were successful with Porsche as well, scoring three outright 24 Hours of Le Mans wins with the 917 and later the 936, as well as an outright win at the ’73 Targa Florio with a Martini Racing RSR, among other achievements.
When it comes to Lancia though, the relationship gelled best when they went rallying, and between the different derivations of the formidable Group B and Group A Deltas, they more or less defined the discipline for a decade. They went to the track too though, and while the LC1 was quick but short-lived and Lancia LC2 was not as successful as some of the others that made up the early Group C grids of the ‘80s, their Group 5 silhouette machine, the turbocharged Beta Montecarlo, fared far better, winning its division for the World Championship of Makes in its debut season in 1979, and going on to win the same series overall the following year in 1980, the same in which it would also clinch the title in the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft. It wasn’t always the Martini cars that gave the wins to Lancia, but they were instrumental in doing so. Ex-works driver Riccardo Patrese was on hand for some photos and autographs, and to have someone who drove these cars in period back again in their midst lent that much extra weight to the history of these Lancias.
It was unfortunate to hear that Martini Racing will be leaving F1 after the 2018 season with Williams, but even if the future of the team is uncertain, we’ll always have the alcohol and cigarette-fueled past to fill in the gaps.