Story by Roberto Motta and Pete Vack
Photos courtesy of FCA
The new Abarth 124 Rally to debut in the 85th Monte Carlo Rally
The racing career of the new Abarth 124 Rally will start with the debut in the 85th Monte Carlo Rally, the first race of the 2017 Rally World Championship to be staged this weekend, from January 19 to 22. And as the lead photo indicates, Abarth will try to recreate the success of the original Fiat Abarth 124 Rally. And of course therein lies a story we can sink our teeth into.
We hit the reference books for information; in this case, our own Abarth Buyer’s Guide, from which we quote here liberally. Seems that Carlo Abarth wasn’t too keen on rally cars and only prepared two models in the early 1960s for rally events. In 1962 a team of Fiat 1500S Rally Berlinas was readied for the Trieste Rally but as they did not fare well, Abarth lost interest. In 1963 Abarth entered the Monte Carlo Rally with 850 and 1000 TC Berlinas, but it was the day of the front drive Minis and Saabs; Abarth & C. did not pursue.
However, after acquiring Abarth in 1971, Fiat changed the situation dramatically. Suddenly International Rallying was to be the prime activity of the men at 38 Corse Marche, and out of the Abarth shop rolled the first winner in a long line of great rally cars, the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider Rally and Rally Stradale. Fiat began the development of a rally version based on the 1600 cc DOHC 124 Spider which in turn became 1800cc.
Homologation was required to enter certain classes so Abarth produced a both a team version called the Rally and a street version, the Rally Stradale. Both models had aluminum door panels, fiberglass hoods and trunk lids, no bumpers, and a fixed hardtop. The live rear axle was replaced with independent suspension with McPherson struts. A full roll bar strengthened the unitary chassis.
From 1973 to 1975, the displacement was raised to 1839 cc and horsepower increased to 210 for the team rally cars. Dual downdraft 44 IDF Webers were standard but late cars were seen with a sixteen valve head and fuel injection.
Unlike Abarth’s first attempts with rally cars, the Abarth 124 Rally was very successful and won the European Rally Championship and the Italian Rally Championship in 1975. A meaner Fiat 124 was never built – until perhaps, today.
And here we are today, some 44 years later, and Fiat Abarth has a new Spider. Never mind that it is Miata based, or that it is rear wheel drive. That’s a good thing. Here’s a summary of what Abarth is up to with the new venture.
Three private crews will contest the 2017 Championship with the goal of putting the Abarth brand again at the top again.
Frenchman Francois Delecour, with his mate Dominique Savignoni, was official driver and 1993 World Championship runner-up. He won the international FIA R-GT Cup, (which is the category in which the Abarth 124 Rally is competing) in 2015.
The young Italian driver Fabio Andolfi is paired with Manuel Fenoli, Andolfi is sponsored by the ACI Sport in the under of the ACI Team Italia young driver project.
The very fast Italian gentleman driver Gabriele Noberasco, whose co driver is Daniele Michi, has won many national events, and competed in the Monte Carlo Rally several times, once at the wheel of an Abarth 500 R3T.
The three drivers, supported by their respective teams, have just conducted several test sessions on the roads near Cuneo in Italy to prepare the cars for the Monte Carlo race. The drivers were helped in their test by Alex Fiorio, who worked on developing and tuning the car with the Abarth Racing Team.
During the three days together with Michelin, the drivers tested some different tires – crucial components of a winter competition on mountain roads like those of Monte Carlo.
The Abarth 124 Rally is a Group R-GT model and can compete in national and international races. The new Abarth 124 rally combines excitement and technology: with rear-wheel drive it guarantees ample spectacle, while the very high-level performance is the result of a careful development.
The Abarth 124 Rally Trophy is organized by Abarth and will consist of seven rallies: six races on road and one on dirt and all part of the Italian Rally Championship. Can the new 124 capture that Italian Rally Championship once again?
In any event, it appears like the Legendary Abarth Rally is back!