The history of four world-leading Italian motoring brands
From the most emblematic models to the most successful, revolutionary people, and the most significant events, this section illustrates and celebrates the cornerstones of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth.
North and South of the Equator, from urban circuits to African deserts, Miki Biasion has written his own geography of legendary victories. Race and test driver, he formed a historic partnership with the “Super Delta”, taking it to the summit of world rallying in 1988 and 1989.
“I come from Bassano del Grappa, where the Rally was one of the year's key events. We used to go out well in advance to get the best spots, and we'd wait hours for the cars to arrive. Then, sooner or later, we'd hear the distant roar of the engines. Adrenalin, attraction, a sense of vocation: it's difficult to explain what I felt at that moment, but when I saw the great Sandro Munari driving his Fulvia with skill no-one in the world could rival, I was spellbound. I realised back then what I wanted from life: I wanted to be an official Lancia team driver, whatever the price.
I've always felt a sense of duty towards the Lancia brand, far greater than that of an ordinary fan. As a professional driver, you're in the car 330 days a year, 14 hours a day. You strike up a really intimate relationship with your vehicle. My work and that of all the engineers succeeded in transforming the Delta, a road car, into a rally racer capable of winning on every continent. The six consecutive world titles were far more than just a confirmation of this. The Delta is a child I brought up and carried to victory. And for an Italian, winning in an Italian car is a privilege.
After retiring from competition, I started to collect historic Lancias. A chance sequence of events led me to my Fulvia Safari HF, which has a baby elephant as its symbol. And the story behind the baby elephant is incredible, too.
“I've never raced in a Fulvia; for me it's rather like the woman I've always desired but never managed to seduce.As the only Italian driver to have won the Safari Rally, I wanted a Fulvia which would remind me of the name. I found out that in 1976 Lancia built a limited edition of Fulvietta cars with the Safari name, with distinctive colours, especially on the wheels. I only managed to trace one of them and I contacted the owner: not only was it not for sale - it was his wedding car. His wife wouldn't hear of selling it and he wasn't very keen either. He said something to me that I'll never forget: I'd never sell this car, unless you were the one buying it. So here it is: it still performs brilliantly, handles like a dream and corners immaculately. It's a car with a 1300 cc engine and power around 100 HP, with front wheel drive, of course. To get the best from it you need good bodily awareness and all the steering goes to the front wheels, so you can control the traction and trajectory. When I began to drive it I realised that Munari was really an outstanding driver, because the Fulvia is a car built 40 years ago, with lots of great qualities, but very difficult to control in some situations. The front wheel drive means it can be a little slow starting to corner; you have to go into the bend very fast, and brake hard at the same time. They used to use the heel-toe downshift, then Munari adopted a technique invented by the Scandinavian drivers, who used their left feet on the brake.
This keeps the engine revs high, and at the same time you have more control over the trajectory. It's not a move that comes naturally, so you have to develop a great deal of sensitivity in your foot. I believe that a car like the Fulvia Safari HF deserves recognition from Lancia Classiche, so I decided to have it certified. The FCA Heritage services are a form of reward and guarantee for enthusiasts who have taken good care of their cars. Returning to the metaphor I used earlier, about a woman you want to “seduce”, I really do think that a relationship with a car is like a love story: it must be cultivated and fostered over time. With passion, at all times. And I could feel the same passion in the people working at the Officine Classiche workshops: the Authenticity certificate is more than just a document - it recognises value that goes beyond the material substance of the car itself.
And the baby elephant? Of course, the baby elephant. The Fiat Group had been trying to win the East African Safari Rally for nineteen years, without success. In 1988-89, during a reconnaissance on the Somalian border, a local chief ran into the middle of the road asking for help. A baby elephant had got itself trapped in a swamp and was dying of thirst. I radioed for help, we put slings around the elephant and we tied it to the two Delta Martinis Recalde and I were driving. It took us four hours to pull it out of the swamp, but in the end we managed to save its life. This adventure probably brought me very good luck, because I won the Safari Rally for two years in succession.
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