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HF Squadra Corse (HF Racing Team)

Between high fidelity and authentic passion.

The HF Squadra Corse was founded in February 1963, by a young man who was more passionate about racing than any driver: Cesare Fiorio, son of Sandro, the then Director of Communications at Lancia. The name HF is rooted in the “Lancia Hi-Fi” association, which brought together passionate owners of the prestigious Turin cars.


At the 1960 Geneva Motor Show, a group of enthusiastic owners of Lancia cars led by Commander Guido Alberto Rivetti – whose large family over the years appears to have purchased as many as 712 of them – founded the “Lancia Hi-Fi” (High Fidelity), a club with the purpose of bringing together the most diligent clients of the Turin-based brand. The association's statutes demonstrate the strict nature of its regulations, and at the same time the attachment to the brand: “The Lancia Hi-Fi is the perfect way to bring together all the motorists who have shown how loyal they have been to Lancia over time. Its purpose is to strengthen the bonds of empathy and esteem between the members and the brand. All motorists who have purchased at least six new Lancia cars over time are entitled to sign up”.

In February 1963 Cesare Fiorio – son of Sandro, the then Director of Communications – together with other drivers founded a team outside Lancia, to avoid acting against the wishes of the Technical Director Antonio Fessia, who thought it was a waste of time and money for the company to pay large amounts to take part in competitions. The decision to rely on the association of passionate owners of Lancia cars then became the basis for its name: from Hi-Fi (high fidelity) came the simpler HF, with Squadra Corse (racing team) added on.

Throughout the history of the Lancia brand, the approach to racing has gone through different periods. The founder Vincenzo Lancia – who had had a great deal of experience as a former Fiat driver and test driver before he founded the brand that bears his name – decided it was too expensive to make the official commitment to racing in competitions. But his son Gianni, who took over the reins of the company after the untimely death of his father on 15 February 1937, laboured under a fascination for racing both on the road, most of all with appealing, victorious cars such as the “D24” and the Aurelia models (mainly used by private drivers), and on the track all the way to Formula 1 with the Lancia D50 single-seater driven by Alberto Ascari. 

But everything it all stopped dead when the Milan champion lost his life on the Monza Circuit, in 1955, while he was testing a Ferrari that belonged Castellotti, a friend of his. Deeply shaken, Gianni Lancia completely abandoned all ambitions by selling the D50s to the Maranello team, then even left the company. A necessary digression to understand how, less than a decade later, it was still very difficult to talk about any Lancia official presence in motor racing. 


Among the founders of HF Squadra Corse, Cesare Fiorio was juxtaposed by young drivers, all of whom were passionate about the brand: Giorgio Pianta, Leo Cella, Claudio Maglioli, the Frescobaldi brothers, Enrico Pinto, Luigi Cabella, Francesco Patria and Mario Crosina. The young Cesare – then the team's sporting director – would soon become the architect of great successes for Lancia, Fiat and Abarth in the rally and endurance championships; in the late 1980s he went on to take the helm of the Ferrari F1 team. 

But not only for Fiorio, the HF Squadra Corse would become a springboard for his brilliant career: for example, Giorgio Pianta became a driver and test driver for years, then team manager of Abarth and Alfa Romeo at the time of his successes in the DTM with the Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI. Claudio Maglioli was both a driver and a skilled and brilliant mechanic: from an idea developed together with Cesare Fiorio, he built a “barchetta” made from a Fulvia HF, to take part in the Targa Florio in 1969: the F & M Spyder. Years later, his workshop in Biella would produce the winning Stratos that competed in the colours of French dealers after the baton had been passed from the Lancia Stratos to the Fiat 131 Abarth.

The mascots forming part of the symbol of the HF Squadra Corse were four running elephants: curiously, the pachyderm was chosen by Gianni Lancia as a lucky charm for the racing cars. The team experienced major successes from 1966 onwards, starting with the Fulvia Coupé HF and going all the way to the unbeatable Stratos.


The coat of arms selected was made up of HF in white capital letters on a black background, with four red running elephants as mascots. Below it was an inscription, also in capital letters: SQUADRA CORSE, in white on a red background. For a short time, the logo would take the colours of the city of Turin, yellow and blue, which also ran in a strip on the bonnet, roof, boot and tappet cover of the Fulvia HF. Later, the letters HF would take on a three-dimensional design without the inscription at the bottom, but maintaining the running elephants.

The apparently paradoxical presence of the pachyderm on racing Lancias was down to Gianni Lancia. Between legend and reality, it seems that for him the meaning was to be attributed to the idea that, once they start running, elephants are unstoppable. Other legends attribute Lancia’s passion for a comic that he loved to read to his children. The origin is uncertain, but what we do know is that Fiorio and his companions, as well as the Lancia Hi-Fi association mentioned above, decided to use the same lucky charm.

The first cars in the team were the Flavia Coupé and the Flavia Sport Zagato. The first race the team took part in was the Rally dei Fiori, held in Sanremo from 22 to 24 February 1963. The race had national relevance, but one year later it would become one of the most important stages in the world, all the way to becoming the Sanremo Rally. The newly founded HF Squadra Corse lined up six Lancia Flavia Coupés, which took the top six places at the finish line, in a truly encouraging debut.

Their first major international engagement was the Monte Carlo Rally in January 1964. In the previous few months, in the workshop of the Turin outfitter Almo Bosato, seven Lancia Flavia 1.8 Coupés were tuned up, five of which were entered in the “Monte”. Piero Frescobaldi and Romolo Rossi took eleventh: not a victory, but the first time it had faced up to outfits that were much better organised and structured, such the BMC team with the Mini Cooper S.

The rise to the top of the rankings in the most important races came with the Fulvia Coupé: Leo Cella and Sergio Gamerana led the newly created elegant Lancia coupé to take eighth place in the Tour de Corse in November 1965. Starting from that race, Lancia management began to understand how the positive echo of racing could have an effective impact on sales, so much so that HF-branded models went into mass production. These included the first Fulvia Coupé HF in 1966, followed by the 1.3 HF and the winning 1.6 HF, which took victory in the Monte Carlo Rally in the glorious “notte dei Turini” in 1972, to mention only its most striking win. 

The strengths of the HF Squadra Corse were becoming increasingly evident: Fiorio was joined by Gianni Tonti, motor engineer at the Sale Prove Motori (engine test rooms), who left a strategic role in quality control of the company to become Technical Director of the Lancia HF Squadra Corse, which was then made official. As Sporting Director, Fiorio later managed to have an authoritative say in the sporting future of Lancia. In the wake of the successes of the Fulvia HF, Fiorio created a car designed specially for competitions: the Lancia Stratos HF. When the baton was passed to the Fiat 131 Abarth, the HF brand remained unused, but returned to its winning ways from 1987 with the most grandiose epic: the story of the Lancia Delta HF.

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