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Hammond vs Lancia Delta Integrale Evo II

  1. This is about confronting an old enemy, tackling and taming a personal dragon. Nearly 20 years ago, riding the Pennines route between Yorkshire and Lancashire on my motorbike, I met one of these, a Lancia Delta Integrale Evo II.

    Words: Richard Hammond
    Photos: Justin Leighton

    This feature was originally published in the March issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. It was, I could see immediately from the bulging haunches stretched tautly over fat wheels and the various scoops and grilles embellishing its Giugiaro-designed body, a potentially potent thing. And I knew immediately that the driver was rather pleased with both it and himself. I also thought he should probably be given a lesson in real performance by me on my Kawasaki ZZR600. But just as I was preparing my bike versus car tutorial, he pulled away from me. Somewhat surprised, I wound the throttle back to the stop, but he continued to extend the daylight gap between us. And then, just to show off, he did it some more.

  3. In fact, he caned my arse across the Pennines. A genuinely
    startling achievement, seeing as even a moderately powerful bike like mine
    would generally outgun anything on four wheels. The fact is though, that the
    Delta Evo II was one of the most successful rally cars of all time, and the car
    that had just left me in the weeds was the final incarnation of a string of
    homologation cars. Cars that existed only to gain Lancia admission into the
    World Rally Championship in their competition-spec Integrale - which won just
    about everything, including the Group A Constructors’ Championship six times
    between ‘87 and ‘92.

  4. It had four-wheel drive, a turboed, 215bhp, 2.0-litre engine
    and independent suspension front and rear. Driving it today, it feels every
    inch as fizzy, as potent and as exciting as it must have done in the hands of
    the lucky hooligan who blew me away on the Pennines road. This is not some
    delicate classic that needs to be driven like it’s made of paper chains and
    porcelain. This is still a grunty, grippy thing that snouts about the place,
    looking for corners to burrow itself into and come roaring out of, with all
    four wheels firmly planted and straining to attack the next one.

  5. It became almost predictable when yet another Lancia Delta
    won in competition back in the day, and driving it now, a real sense of
    competence and capability comes throbbing through the wheel. Fractionally more
    power is sent to the rear wheels than the front, but it’s not a complicated,
    high-tech four-wheel-drive system, just a very good one, feeding back through
    the wheel until it communicates the grip at each corner and how much you can
    push it.

  6. The Alcantara Recaros and functional dash add to a sense that this really is a serious bit of kit and not a hot-hatch pastiche designed to look good on the high street. The body shape, with those swollen arches and ruthlessly practical grilles and spoilers may have inspired legions of imitators down the years, but this was a homologation version of one of the most successful rally cars of all time. It looked the way it did so that it could do its job very, very well. It was, and is, a very special car that achieved greatness and is still raced today.

  7. So the next time some goober leans an affectionate hand on
    the bonnet of his classic and tells me that he uses the old girl every day, and
    I just know that he is lying, I shall mention the Integrale. Because here is a
    proper, authentic, important, classic with functional beauty and an incredible
    history that could be used every day without ever shaming itself in front of
    modern traffic.

  8. LANCIA DELTA INTEGRALE EVO II: SPECS

    Produced: 1979-1994
    Engine: 1995cc, turbo four
    Power: 215bhp
    Torque: 231lb ft
    0-60mph: 6.4secs
    Top speed: 140+mph
    Weight: 1,340kg

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