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Lancia Stratos

GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

blue_stratos_gt2.jpg
racing a historic battle at Rome


Year: 1973 ````````````````````````````````````````````` Type: sports car
 
Country: Italy ```````````````````````````````````````` Host: GT2
 
-------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY-------------------
 
According to www.carsfromitaly.com/lancia - the Stratos was built to replace the Lancia Fulvia, which had seen many rally successes since 1966, but was facing intense competition from Alpine-Renault, Porsche, and other makes. By 1969, the Italian exotic car industry was in trouble; in fact, at one point Ford was actually planning to buy Ferrari (for a measly $18 million!) but this endeavor was shelved after Enzo learned that Ford would decide when and where Ferrari could race their cars. Long story short: Fiat wound up merging with Ferrari to own 40% of the company, but fully took over Lancia. It was this atmosphere that allowed such a car as the Lancia Stratos to be created.
 
Originally a concept car at the 1970 Turin Motor Show, this radical automobile was actually designed to be a race car first...production car 2nd. At the time, Group 4 rally rules specified that at least 500 production autos had to be in existence for a carmaker to even be able to enter into any of the works rally events. Nobody had even figured that such a carmaker would even consider going the other way: creating a car for racing, and then building the mandatory 500 for the public just so the manufacturer could actually race! Lancia set a trend here that others followed, soon it was becoming commonplace for carmakers to do what Lancia did back in the '70s. The Stratos was able to win a few prototype car events in 1973 while still waiting for their production vehicles to be finished.
 
The original Stratos was highly conceptual, in fact, the very name 'Stratos' is short for stratosphere. The first cars were hand-built, and one could only get inside them by entering thru the windsheild! After some negotiating, Bertone took over building the Stratos chassis and bodies, adding gull-wing doors as well as increasing production (since they had the tools, body shop, and assembly line to do so). It still took about 3 full years for all the required vehicles to be finished. By 1974, the number of cars required for WRC racing had dropped from 500 to 400, thankfully; otherwise, it may have been another year before the Stratos could see any racing glory.
 
And glory it saw: the car won the World Makes Rally Championship three years in a row. In 1977 it won the European Rally Drivers Championship, and won the same series again in 1978, even though new regulations meant that the Stratos engine had to use to a SOHC engine rather than a DOHC. 1979 saw the last year of the Stratos as an official works car, but the winning continued even though 4-wheel drive was fast becoming more practical for rally courses.
 
The official figure on how many Stratos HFs were produced ranges anywhere from 450 to 1,000...the generally accepted number is 490, although Bertone claims they made 502! It is notable to illustrate that one could still buy one of the original 400+ Stratos's (Strati?) several years after 1974, simply because some of these cars sat unsold.
 
Of all the Lancias available in Gran Turismo, the Stratos is the most exotic. It is also hard to obtain, since the only way to get one in GT2 is to win the Apricot Hill endurance race. Race-modify it, and you'll get the famous wedge-shaped rally car, with its 4 foglights in a row. The rally version of this car can be won in GT4 after completeing the Chamonix Rally on hard level. The car in these games (rally or street versions) has several styish paint jobs and copper-colored wheels. 
 
The Stratos is also a lightweight...starting off at a Miata-ish 2,160 pounds. Weight reductions won't take much off, so you can skip them (or you can use some of that Apricot or Chamonix money to easily afford all three), but you'll definately need the race modification & extra downforce if you want to excell in rallying. The car is small: only 146 inches long, 68.8 wide, and 43.8" high, with an 85.8" wheelbase. It is low-slung and all about performance...highly maneuverable and stable, despite the mid-engine layout.
 
In the egotistical words of Stratos racing team manager Cesare Fioro: "With the Stratos, we had a tremendous car, frightening some other manufacturers, so that some dropped out". Oooo-kay.
 
 
 
-----------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN-----------------
 
Original Stratos autos were powered by Lancia's wimpy 1.6 liter 4-cylinder Fulvia HF engine, which only produced 114 hp, but this changed. After production of the Ferrari Dino ceased in the late 60's, there were still several hundred  2.4 liter V6 Dino engines sitting around. How convenient. Lancia was fully able to use these in their Stratos and Beta models after the Fiat merger, which helped immensely. It is possible that the Stratos (and therefore, Lancia's reputation on rally courses) would have never made it as far as it did without this help from these dormant motors.
 
These V6s were SOHC units at first, but were replaced with double overhead cams as production started. Lancia used 3 Weber carbs to power the engine, giving it 190 horsepower (193 @ 7,400 rpms GT2 test track figure) and 167 ft-lbs. @ 4,000. It therefore has a very wide powerband for such a small powerplant, and the car's stock gearing takes advantage of this. 0-60 mph is acheived in 6 seconds, 100 follows in 15.6; quarter mile passes by in 14.572 @ 96 mph, and the KM mark falls past in 26 seconds @ 125 mph. The top speed is a healthy 158.24 mph in GT2, though the car wanted more, necessetating the purchase of a racing gearbox to increase the 8,000 limit potential.
 
This is one of those engines that will accept either normally-aspirated tuning or a turbo, which will give us a wide range of power options (mainly, the 3 turbos will shorten the powerband by about 1,000 rpms in GT2, making NA tuning an option for those wishing to preserve this lower-end torque for whatever reason). NA tuned engines also have a beautifully flat torque band, guaranteeing power over a wide spectrum, and even turbocharging doesn't destroy this. Peak power in GT2 from the tuned engine is 277 @ 7,800 rpms, the turbo will raise this to 360 @ 7,600 rpm. Though this seems rather low, remember that this car weighs little, so that the pound / HP ratio can be reduced all the way down to about 5 and a half! Yes, you will have a blast driving this exoticar.
 
Enough said.


 

red_stratos.jpg

------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------------
 
As the story goes, the Stratos originally featured a double-wishbone suspension all around, but later Lancia decided to go with MacPherson Struts in the rear, possibly because this system allows more lateral space than wishbones. Coil springs and anti-roll bars also come standard, as well as vented Girling disc brakes all around.
 
This car, when we drive it as a street machine, basically IS a race car without the decals. You can win many events even before you modify the suspension, and the tires will provide a good mixture of grip and drift capabilities. The sport tires will go a long way, though we won't rule out slicks for those who want lower lap times.
 
This car is very fun to drive at a course like Autumn Ring, where one can power-slide it and easily perform other manuevers. The 225/50ZR-15 rear tires will comply with those who want a more exciting ride. The Stratos loses to some of the higher-powered 4WD cars on rally courses, but is surprisingly maneuverable depite the mid-engine / rear drive layout. Lots of fun.
 
It is a great rally car, but tempermental. At low speeds, it is just rock solid, man. It seems difficult to get the Stratos to drift, so unimpressively short slides + regualar out-in-out type cornering strategies are a great way to get ahead of the poorly-driven Ai in GT2's & GT4's easier rallies. At higher speed, the Stratos seems to have a mind of its own at times, and you'll really need dialed-in settings if you don't want any spins. It's not so bad at cornering; it's when those rallycross jumps start showing up that you'll need extremely careful steering & acceleration work. You might even simply want to do something you don't want to do here: SLOW DOWN! This seems to be the best strategy if you want more control, unfortunately ...this is a MR car, you can't simply rely on 4WD stability to keep you going where you want.
 
But control the Lancia Stratos, and it'll reward you.

 

-------------------------PROS---------------------
 
1). Power may seem low, but this is a small, light car and will win many races.
 
2). One of the easier mid-engine cars to drive. One can take advantage of its weight distribution if he or she knows what they're doing.
 
3). Lots engine / tuning options. Gotta luv that Ferrari Dino V6 & its flat torque curve and wide powerband!
 
4). Great acceleration, 158 mph top speed, tachometer is set high with a 7,500 rpm redline (GT2).
 
5). Light weight.
 
6). Minimal body overhang and low height create what is essentially part race car, part exotic mobile.
 
 
 
--------------------------CONS--------------------------
 
1). Power is ultimately limited, even though the weight to power ratio can be lowered significantly.
 
2). One must 'endure' 50 laps of racing to win this car, which can 'only' be sold for 75,000 credits.
 
3). The standard gearing is tall, but not tall enough. Racing gearbox required to get more top speed.
 
4). Some may have problems controlling this car. Suspension and brake settings must be dialed in to help control occasional fishtailing and spin-out danger.
 
5). Not the best choice for high-paced rallys, unless you've got the control of a trapeze artist.
 

 

 
 
 

 
Published: June 20, 2004

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