GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1974 Lancia Stratos Group 4 Film Shoot
Lots of people will tell you how they feel about a car, but if it’s Érik Comas you know he’s not parroting some review he read in a magazine once upon a waiting room. He’s raced Skylines for Nismo in Japan, 911s at Le Mans, and after taking up karting as a teenager he turned his talent into a path that got him to Formula 1. He’s raced touring cars, multiple formula series, and dabbled in some rallying for good measure, but of all the incredible machines Comas has driven in his day it’s the Stratos that earns the most emotions when he gets behind the wheel. It doesn’t hurt that this is garden variety Stradale version either, and after watching Erik slide his Group 4 rally car around on wet pavement it’s not hard to imagine why this racing driver says it handles “perfectly.”
The Stratos story doesn’t need to be retold for the umpteenth time, but a refresher course can’t hurt. As Comas mentions in the film, this was the only rally car that was built from A to Z as a racing car, not an enhanced version of something more sedate on the road like the later 037s and S4s that came after the Stratos’ reign in WRC. And what a reign it was. The Stratos scooped up three WRC championships once Lancia had constructed enough to homologate it for Group 4 competition (it was approved for the 1974 season, and promptly won that year, and the next, and the next), and it proved its worth early on by winning races like the grueling Tour Auto before the car was WRC-legal. They tested some turbocharged variants of the motor for the gauntlet of Group 5 (remember that the Stratos used Ferrari V6s from the Dino, in both 12 and later 24-valve configurations), but along with a silhouette body it didn’t make much of a difference to the dominant Porsche and their 935.
Comas has had a handful of Stratos over the years, four in all, with two street cars and two in Group 4 specification. This is a special one though, a remarkable car even relative to its remarkable siblings. There is no such thing as an average Stratos, that’s objectively oxymoronic, but the car in this week’s film has a special bit of provenance; it is an ex-Claudio Maglioli car, Lancia’s official test driver at the time of Stratos development.
When Comas acquired this car he wanted to get a deeper understanding of its history so he took a trip to Biella, Italy where the car was originally constructed. Sadly, Maglioli had passed away a few years earlier, but through meetings and conversations with those in the area who worked with and knew the legendary Lancia race tester in the days of the Stratos, Comas started to get a sense of his philosophy—Maglioli not only helped the factory develop their world-beater, but when they stopped supporting the car in favor of things like the Fiat 131, he became an engineer for the privateers at Chardonnet who kept adding victories to the aging Stratos’ legacy into the late 1970s.
Erik competes with his Stratos today in historic rally championships, and after winning the Italian championship back in 2015 he’s only gotten quicker and more dedicated to driving this Lancia in competition. He’s also won the Tour Auto and the historic Targa Florio in this car, and together with his sponsor, Comas also organized the Zenith El Primero World Stratos Meeting. For a kid who grew up in karts as a teenager and went on to compete on the world stage in multiple premiere series, it says a lot when someone with these talents speaks so highly of the Stratos. Though, it’s not like you’d expect someone to hop out of a one of these and say it wasn’t all that great. This is a hero car that you shouldn’t shy away from meeting should you have the chance to.