Le Mans - Martini Racing’s Lancia LC1 Spider
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Le Mans - Martini Racing’s Lancia LC1 Spider

Having only competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours once, the little known Lancia LC1 Spider went on to become the symbol of the Italian marque

In the late seventies, Lancia finally moved on from the Stratos in the World Rally Championship and invested money and manpower in endurance racing. Between May 1979 and July 1981, Martini Racing (successor to the Lancia Corse) took part in three World Sportscar Championships in Group 5 and wound up with three titles thanks to the Beta Montecarlo Turbo.

Galvanized by this undeniable triumph, the Turin manufacturer remained engaged at an international level and set its sights on Group 6, the most prestigious category and one in which overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours was within the realm of possibility. Martini Racing and its charismatic team manager Cesare Fiorio turned to Dallara to design and develop a car to meet the requirements of the category hitherto dominated by the unshakeable Porsche 936. On the strength of the many titles won by the Beta Gr5, the same robust powertrain was adopted for the new Lancia LC1 Spider, launched in January 1982.

Unfortunately for the Italians, the regulations introduced for the World Endurance Championships and the Le Mans 24 Hours were significantly altered during the 1981 season when the Group C category was announced as the new reference. Porsche and Ford were quick off the mark and presented their 956 and C100 models before anyone else. In 1982, in the paddock at the Silverstone 6 Hours, the Martini Racing team felt a little lonely, with only Osella, Chevron and Lola to keep them company in Group 6. Despite this initial stumble on the world prototype stage, Lancia LC1 Spiders were present throughout the whole season, except in Fuji.

Two cars were in the Le Mans 24 Hours line-up, with Piercarlo Ghinzani, Hans Heyer, Riccardo Patrese, Michele Alboreto, Teo Fabi and Rolf Stommelen at the wheel. Faced with opponents in closed-cockpit prototypes, the seemingly vulnerable Lancias fared well and their qualifying times proved their good form. With 4th and 5th place on the grid, the Martini Racing teams started in front of the official Ford C100 entrants and the n°3 Porsche 956. The outcome of the race though, was rather crueller. The n°51 abandoned for engine failure in the ninth hour and the n°50 had the same fate in the 17th hour due to electrical issues. After a changeover season in which Cesare Fiorio’s men notched up more experience, in 1983 the official Lancia team introduced a new weapon, the LC2, complete with a V8 Abarth engine.