This Lancia 037 is a championship-winning Group B hero

15th October 2021
Adam Wilkins

In 1984, fresh from a World Rally Championship win the previous year, Lancia produced 20 Evoluzione 2 editions of the 037. They were all retained by the factory and used by the Martini Racing team and other works-supported cars. The one you see here, chassis number 412, was driven to 1984 Italian Championship victory by Fabrizio Tabaton in the same Olio Fiat colours it’s finished in today, and it's here at the 78th Members' Meeting.


The Evoluzione 2 cars were distinguished by engines enlarged to 2.1-litres with water injection, and the use of carbon/kevlar in the bodywork, which brought the weight down to a regulation-permitted 960kg. Power was up to 355PS (261kW).

Chassis number 412 has been in UK ownership since 2003, but owner Robert Whitehouse is more frequently seen driving the on continental Europe than at home. “I almost never use it in the UK because I’d rather go and do a three-day rally in Europe where there’s 80 or 90km stages,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to beat that. Next we’re going to a rally called Valpantena north of Verona in November. It’s an Italian clubby but it’s just fantastic. Fantastic stages, fantastic people.” The Goodwood Super Special presented by Cooper Tires at 78MM, therefore, provided a rare opportunity to see the car at speed in the UK.


Preserving the car’s originality is important to Robert. “I’ve used it in a lot of demonstration events.” he says. “You can’t really compete with them unless you modify it to an FIA car which destroys the originality.”

Having previously been a circuit racer, Robert moved to rallying after a 15-year break from the sport – and found the new discipline very challenging. “It’s ten times harder than circuit racing,” he says, “but I’ve been very lucky with good co-drivers. People who are far better than me as co-drivers have been great for me. It’s been great to have world rally championship-level co-drivers. It’s like playing in a band or an orchestra, you have to have that intellectual connection. While you’re busy doing your job there’s a part of your brain listening to them and you really need to connect with them.

“The first rally I did I didn’t understand why there were stones on the corner and the marshals hadn’t swept them off and then I didn’t know where the hundred-metre board was,” he jokes. “And then you have to get used to the fact you’ve done a recce and made notes and the notes say it’s flat through the grass and you can’t see the corner and you have to take a deep breath and believe it is flat. It takes a bit of a while do that.”


His first rally car was the notoriously tricky Stratos, and the 037 has proved much more user-friendly. “The 037 is not as iconic, but as you’d expect ten years on it’s a much better car. You’d expect the engineers to make a much better car. It’s a beautiful car to drive. It’s incredibly well balanced, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to bite you. You can feel it working all the way. You can feel the Pirelli P7 tyres working, they’re unbelievable. As amateurs, we’re driving them nowhere near how the works drivers did in period but I think this car for a proficient amateur is very drivable. It’s really more like a sports racing car than a rally car. It’s got a long wheelbase with wheels in each corner, the engine sits right in the middle. It’s got a ZF box the same as a GT40 and with the supercharger you have instant torque. From 2,000 revs it’s always got this torque plus it’s very light a bit like driving a Porsche it’s got no weight in the front. Where it’s fast is on tarmac stages, from corner to corner to corner, it accelerates really quickly and it just stops on its nose and turns in. It’s incredibly rewarding to drive.”

The car is old enough to be easy to look after, too. “When you get to the next generation of cars like the Quattro S1 and the Lancia S4 and the Peugeot 205, they become incredibly sophisticated with full works teams needed to look after them and with everything made from unobtanium. This car is really quite simple. It’s got AP brakes, a ZF gearbox. In simple terms, the engine block is a 131 Abarth engine with injection and a supercharger and a big 16-valve head. That’s really what it is so they were quite clever about making it. They made it for reliability.” Regular servicing is carried out by specialists in Wales, while for more involved work it goes to the Turin-based Baldi brothers – who are ex-Lancia works mechanics.

“What I love about rallying is you get in the car at 8am and you’re in it all day, driving from stage to stage.” 

Photography by Pete Summers.

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