The Lancia ECV was a concept rally car that never rallied
Welcome to another episode of Cars Of Future Past, a series here in Jalopnik where we travel through the pages of history to explore long-forgotten concepts and how they helped shape the cars we know today.
Typically, COFP focuses on concepts intended more for production than competition – or neither, in the case of the last episode. Mitsubishi HSR-II. But this week’s topic contradicts that trend, as he was ready to race in a rally class that was canceled long before he had a chance to prove his worth. This is the story of the Lancia ECV, or experimental composite vehicle.
What is that?
The ECV was a prototype for the Group S class of the World Rally Championship, scheduled to replace Group B in 1987. It was an evolution of the Delta S4 that Lancia introduced in the last round of the 1985 season. The S4 itself was a four-wheel drive replacement for rear wheel drive 037 this won the 1983 campaign, but by the middle of the decade the 037 looked very long in the tooth against more sophisticated machines from Audi and Peugeot.
The S4 was a much more formidable opponent. In addition to sending power to the ground all four corners, the S4’s combined 1.8-liter inline supercharger and turbocharger officially puts out around 480 horsepower, although the actual numbers have far exceeded that. The car was very fast, winning three rallies in its only full 1986 season on its way to what could have been a constructor’s title, if the results of Rally Sanremo in Italy were not hit due to inconsistent technical checks.
As all of this was going on, Lancia was simultaneously preparing its competitor for the next wave of Group S rally cars, and that was the ECV. Unlike the S4, the ECV would have been limited to 300 HP to comply with Group S rules, as the FIA was determined to slow the cars down after a rash of injuries and deaths among competitors and spectators due to the faster pace of group B.
The ECV was very strong and very light due to a intensive use of advanced materials rare at the time, even in racing. The chassis took the form of a tub, made of carbon fiber and honeycomb aluminum with a tubular steel structure at the front. As for the bodywork, it also incorporated carbon fiber, in conjunction with Kevlar. Even the wheels contained carbon fiber. You can figure out where Lancia’s head was with the name, then.
The ECV tipped the scales at 2,050 pounds – still a bit heavier than the S4’s 1,962 pounds, although that minimum weight was required by Group S regulations. Either way, it was more. robust than its tubular frame predecessor.
Lancia was clearly proud of what it built, showing off the ECV at the Bologna Motor Show at the end of 1986 as well as at the Memorial Bettega rally in December. Of course, the silhouette of the car was generally similar to that of the S4, but everything below was cutting edge. It was the future of rallying, although he might not have necessarily looked at it at the time.
There was just one problem: the ECV had virtually no chance of making it to the WRC, a fact for engineers and insiders alike. were well aware of by the time the car began its press tour.
On May 2, 1986, Lancia driver Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto were killed when their S4 took off from a cliff in front of a tight left turn on a stage of the Tour de Corse rally in France. Moments before starting on that same stage, Toivonen reportedly said the following in a media interview: by Wikipedia:
After four hours of driving, it’s hard to keep up with the speed. So with a modern car like this it is simply impossible to race here. It’s physically exhausting and the brain can’t keep up.
Everyone already knew that Group B was dangerously fast – the death of Toivonen and Cresto only reconfirmed this fact in the worst possible way. FISA, the governing body of the WRC, quickly canceled Group B at the end of the 1986 season. Group S was still to take over in 1987, but this was also canceled, in favor of the group formula. A based on production cars. Just like the Porsche 959, the ECV remained a boxer without a fight.
Why is it good?
One of the things I love about the ECV is that Lancia didn’t give up on the project immediately after learning of the Group S cancellation, as you would imagine any manufacturer still conservative automotive would do it today. Instead, he kept turning keys, kept tweaking things, hoping his innovations might find a purpose in the team’s Group A rally schedule or spill over into the field more. off road Fiat cars.
That brings us to what might be the most impressive quality of the ECV: its engine. Group S rules sought to cut production in half of what Group B allowed, but that did not stop Lancia from designing a hugely ambitious 1.8-liter. bi-turbo four in-line equipped to completely replace the double-load motor of the S4. It was called the Triflux, and rather than trying to badly explain it myself, I’m going to throw it on an excerpt from a very enlightening article. Speed hunters published a few years ago:
The idea behind this engine was to come up with a small capacity and compact engine design that would not only produce high power, but also allow linear power through the use of two turbochargers. The problem, however, was how the heck could you fuel and run two separate turbos from a four-cylinder layout. [Abarth engineer Claudio] Lombardi had the brilliant idea of supplying the four valves of each cylinder alternately. So instead of having a conventional “hot” and “cold” side at the head where two pairs of valves feed the intake charge and the other two discharge exhaust gases, the valves are fed in a cross pattern. or FID (Flusso Incorciato Doppio or double cross flow) as Fiat called and patented it. This meant that the two top-fed valves (imagine an “X” pattern) would allow the compressed charge to enter the combustion chamber, and the other two would dump the exhaust gases on either side of the head.
At lower engine speeds, only one turbocharger was involved; the second wound up to add extra horsepower higher in the rev range. Lancia set the output of the inline-four Triflux at 470 kW, or around 600 horsepower, and is said to have built five examples.
And despite all this hard work and not having a forum to really show it, Lancia refused to stop there. In 1988, as Group A Delta HF began to establish a dynasty of six consecutive WRC constructors’ titles, Lancia refined the design and engineering of the ECV to create the even more radical ECV. race!
Did it happen?
Having established at this point that the ECV program has never given any direct compensation to the competition – let alone a road car – you could argue that Lancia’s unparalleled research and development has finally yielded results. , and that’s all that matters for a racing team. The biggest tragedy could be that the Triflux design has never been validated, neither in motorsport nor on the road.
Only one ECV was made, and it was taken apart to create ECV 2. Fortunately, a replica using some ECV parts and a donor car (some say a Delta S4 Stradale, others claim a race car) was built in 2010. Abarth engineers Giuseppe Volta and Claudio Lombardi who had originally worked on the ECV were involved in its construction.
Fiat was able to source one of the Triflux prototypes for the project, so the only major component that this ECV lacks is the carbon composite chassis of the original. Miki Biasion, who won the WRC driver titles at Deltas in 1988 and 89, drove the replica when it was unveiled at the 2010 San Marino Rally Legend event.
Can you drive it in a video game?
Strangely, for a long time you couldn’t. Even though Lancia was active in motorsport, neither the ECV nor the ECV 2 has ever appeared in a contemporary racing game.
Everything started to change with the years 2007 Sega Rally Revo – a reinvention of the classic arcade racing franchise, developed by UK-based short-lived racing studio Sega Racing. Revo was a Wonderfully simple arcade racer, as you don’t often see these days, with a sublime physical model and imaginative track design. This is the game that introduced me to ECV, just like the original Sega Rally made with the Delta Integrale.
Since then, ECV has appeared in Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo and Gravel, both produced by the Italian studio Milestone, as well as by indie darling Rally art. In fact, Rally art is the only title to present both ECV prototypes, although unlicensed; in the game they are nicely renamed Il Gorilla E1 and E2. They constitute a part of the Group S class of the game, which essentially asks players to imagine how rally could have turned out had the sport never been sidetracked by the Group B tragedies.