This Heavenly Garage Only Works On Lancia Rally Cars
Photography by Rosario Liberti
K Sport is a Lancia-centric competition car garage in Rimini, near the Adriatic Coast of Italy’s “Motor Valley”, and is exclusively dedicated to Lancia rally cars from the Stratos onwards. It’s one of those places that’ll transport you back, straight to 1989, when Lancia was an unstoppable force in World Rally Championship competition.
Besides all the regular maintenance and racing done for customers, the real importance of K Sport is its work to preserve and keep these cars away from the status of becoming static trophies: they’re living, performing, and running machines.
If you want to know what it’s like to keep these icons working, we have an interview with one of K Sport’s master mechanics, Luca Malatesta.
Thanks to the help of master mechanic Luca Malatesta, I was able to discover much more about K Sport and what means to race a vintage Lancia in 2015.
JV: Why Lancia?
LM: We choose Lancia for a matter of Italian pride, and passion for the brand. We didn’t accept to put the word “end” on this story. We started with the help of race car driver and collector Bianchini, and we developed our business through the years. We’re a race shop and not just restoring experts.
Our target is keeping these cars in race condition, because most of our customers want to race them. We restore some of them for collectors, but our main activity is to keep them race-ready. We store the cars for the customers, we handle the logistics, the maintenance or, like for the black Delta you see behind you, we rent them.
JV: What is your philosophy?
LM: As I said before, we’re a race team, so everything we do is to keep the cars competitive. Racing with cars like these is first and foremost a matter of heart. Money always comes second. You always need to rebuild missing parts, and we have a race-focused mentality. We can’t always use the steering wheel Sandro Munari used back in the day, nor the same pistons or other parts. It’s inevitable to use newer and better components, partly because originals are impossible to find and because we want the driver to be comfortable during racing.
However, we do care about originality and we try to replicate as many parts as we can, like the headlamps, the fenders, the doors, the dashboard. You can’t do the same with the oil, spark plugs, tires: let’s say that if the car doesn’t have the Alitalia livery it’s still good for us.
JV: How do you work on a Stratos?
LM: Racing cars like the Stratos are completely different from cars like Porsches. 911s are a popular choice in historic rally racing today, and that’s because they’re easy and relatively cheap to maintain. Parts are easier to find and they’re a more “all-around” car. Stratos are just different.
The engine is maybe the best one made by Ferrari. It has a consistent torque delivery all the way up to the rev limiter and it’s an awesome piece of machinery. We’re constantly improving safety, comfort and performance. Despite these cars being 40 years old, they’re still very fast, and they need to be reliable and safe for the driver.
Again, we’re still talking about racing and not restoring. Our mechanics have the experience required to make the Stratos win again in historic racing and the methodology to keep it competitive and reliable and not just a collector’s piece.
JV: how much horsepower are you pulling out of the engine?
LM: With this two valve, dual OHV heads we’re pushing out around 250 to 260, depending on the situation. Horsepower is not everything and we hate to […] compromise the engine. We prefer durability and have the car light enough to increase the performance. With cars like these, you cannot raise the turbo boost if you want more power, like in the Delta: if you want to add performance, just work on the handling and the suspension set-up. It’s a combined exercise from the driver and the mechanic. Sometimes, it is better to have a less powerful car with better set up to win races, especially because you’re imposing less stress on the components and you have more reliability.
JV: How much does it weigh?
LM: It’s approximately 1,985 lbs (900 kg). Some may be lighter over the road version, but in the end with all the racing harnesses the weight will be the same for all.
To find places like K sport, where the word “end” to the history of Lancia Rally and the Stratos has never been said, is a wonderful experience. Finally, a special thanks to Francesco for his help in immersing us in Lancia rally heaven.