Love Your Lancia: A Mint Delta Integrale Evoluzione Tours Sicily
Photography by Armando Musotto
I love to push myself beyond my limits, and in this regard I have always been inspired by the men and machines of motorsport. To me a sports car—and better yet a racing car—is the perfect embodiment of the necessary ingredients to explore our boundaries: on one hand, their tendencies to breath fire and cause hearing loss represent the same kind of giddy madness that sends us far from our comfort zones, but this is all balanced by a level of near-absolute precision, in the case of the driver and development team alike. Like so many young boys, I was completely pulled in by the gravity of fast cars.
I was lucky to spend my teenage years in the early ‘90s at all manner of local and international hillclimbs, circuit races, rallies, sprints, you name it. There were certain benefits to being born and brought up in Sicily in that time, and I remember traveling to historical tribute races like the modern Targa Florio as well as contemporary races quite frequently with friends and family back then. It was always a nice excuse to put everything else aside and revel in a day dedicated to our common passion.
I also recall the headboard above my childhood bed flanked on all sides by posters and magazine cut-outs of my favorite sports cars. I’d scan them absentmindedly in that way we look at things we’ve seen thousands of times before, but yet there was one that always stood out even so. It was a white box, with extreme edges and a general sense of sharpness about its body, and a far-cry from the curved fenders and flowing lines that typically drew me in. It was a bit awkward looking, the Lancia Delta Integrale, but it aroused emotions in me that few others have. I’d seen them in action in their Group A rally guise at almost every rally in or near Sicily, and it was this car that made it so easy for me to wake up for such events at the crack of dawn and oftentimes earlier.
It was a downright juggernaut in the WRC, winning six world championships in a row at the dawn of the Group A era (seven if you count the Delta HF 4WD that preceded it), and just saying the name is enough to conjure up images of a Martini-striped square sending a shower of what was once on the ground into the air.
To me and many others, this car was also a matter of some pride, a bastion of Italian engineering. It was wonderful to see the tricolor flag leading the finishing order of rally stage after rally stage, but of course its cult of fans extends well outside any border and its accomplishments are known around the world.
In my relatively short career as a photographer I’ve been around a few special machines, but the Delta has always done it for me. Last year I met someone who felt the same way about the legendary Lancia. He goes by Antonio, he’s extremely personable and friendly, and his Integrale Evoluzione is one of the nicest examples of the model (in any variation) I’ve come across in person. Or online for that matter.
It shows just over 20,000km on the odometer, it hasn’t been modified, and it presents as if it’s just been stolen from the showroom. Yes, I know people say these things all the time, but when it’s true, it’s true. There’s something about an original car that even the most skillful restorations can never approximate, and it does wonders for one’s nostalgia glands. Seeing this car brought back memories of a time when owning a Delta meant you owned something alive, a car bred to compete.
After a series of conversations with Antonio and the belief that we could not hurt such a car like this, we climbed one of the more tortuous roads in Italy: the scene of the European hill climb championship: the Cefalù-Gibilmanna. It is 11km of pure tangle that connects the pearl of the Tyrrhenian to the sanctuary of Gibilmanna, and it’s a place of worship frequented by those who pray at the altars of boost and four-wheel drive.
The Delta, just like all the rally icons, delivers emotions at every (literal) turn. Challenge the hairpins like you don’t mind being sent off a cliff, brake as late as you want to, change direction continuously, it will do it. With Antonio driving, the car performs a ballet of aggression as we snake upwards, and the sound of each gear change is the perfect choir for the performance.
Fittingly, our journey ends under sunset, and we hold the attention of geezers and grandkids alike as we head back towards home through the towns and cities laid in between. The bittersweet departure from the Delta at my front door brings me back to that old poster above my bed, and having just realized a piece of all those dreams I used to have about it as a boy, I can say with confidence that nothing has waned in the slightest—especially not the Lancia.