The RAC Rally-Winning Lancia Delta S4—The Ultimate Group B Monster—Is Heading To Auction In London
Group B rallying existed for only four years, and it says a lot that even so, and even now, it is harked back to regularly as the ultimate rally era. It had few holds barred, creating unprecedented levels of car performance and scintillating action. And heading to auction with RM Sotheby’s in London on October 24 is a car that not only is a genuine Group B competitor, it also won a Group B World Rally Championship event and in so doing became the only Group B car to win outright on its debut. It also arguably is the most potent Group B machine there ever was. It’s the actual Lancia Delta S4 that won the 1985 RAC Rally driven by the late and legendary Henri Toivonen, and it’s estimated to sell for £725,000 to £800,000.
Lancia in 1984 found that its ‘83 championship-winning two-wheel-drive 037 was getting long in the tooth. It therefore worked on a replacement to compete from the final round of 1985. This was the Delta S4. It featured a carbon fiber spaceframe chassis as well as a 550hp engine in the rear. It also had an ingenious ‘twin charging’ system of a supercharger and turbocharger operating in sequence to reduce turbo lag.
In total 28 Group B Delta S4s were made, as well as 200 road-going versions for homologation. And this S4 going under the hammer—chassis 202—is one of only four S4s to win a World Rally Championship event. Indeed this very S4, as part of Lancia’s famous Martini-sponsored factory effort, won on the S4’s competitive debut, the 1985 season-concluding RAC Rally, in the hands of Toivonen with co-driver Neil Wilson. Combined with its sister S4 driven by Markku Alén with Ilkka Kivimäki which finished runner-up, the S4 won 41 of the rally’s 63 Special Stages.
Chassis 202 was used mainly as a spare car the following season, and then Group B was suddenly brought to a halt after a series of tragedies in that 1986 year. First on the Portuguese Rally Joaquim Santos’s Ford RS200 crashed into the crowd, killing three spectators and injuring more than 30. Then on the Tour de Corse Toivonen—driving Delta chassis 211—crashed down a ravine and both he and co-driver Sergio Cresto were killed.
After this several Delta S4s were sold to privateers for a variety of events, such as slalom, hill climb, rallycross, and ice-racing. Chassis 202 was used by Roberto Rosselli in slalom events, prior to being sold to Adriano Raffagnato in 2008. During Raffagnato’s ownership, the car was used in a number of rallies, including the Rallylegend Star in San Marino and the Group B Rallyelegenden in Austria. Poignantly, the car also was driven by Harri Toivonen—younger brother of Henri, and an accomplished rally and long-distance sports car driver himself—in a 2016 Rally Finland demonstration to mark the 30th anniversary of his brother’s passing.
The car has been restored to its original specifications, and retains numerous period features such as the original Kevlar-shelled Sparco seats still embroidered with the names of its illustrious driver and co-driver, and its Halda Rally Computer. Also the accompanying Abarth Classiche Certification documentation states that only the left-front portion of the frame was replaced, which did not affect the torsional rigidity of the car.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s