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brilliant montage of the original Lancia Stratos in the heat of competition
battle is playing on a big screen, backed by some great period rock tunes. One
of the most successful rally cars of the 1970s, the Stratos is one of those
cars that exerts a magical hold over the people who lived through its imperial
period, and for many beyond that too. Just 492 were made, and it was conceived
purely as a pretty terrifying competition weapon. It is, to use an over-used
word, a legend.

Now it’s
back. To the strains of Rolling Stones classic ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’,
it’s obvious that for German businessman and Stratos enthusiast Michael
Stoschek, sometimes you can get exactly what you want.

The new
Stratos represents an eight-year labour of love for all involved. Car designer
and Stratos nut Chris Hrabalek worked up a full-sized proposal which he showed
at Geneva back in 2005. Then he badgered Stoschek into building this one-off,
literally popping out of hedges to ambush him. Hrabalek’s persistence has paid
off, and the result is almost certainly the best one-off special to have
emerged in the past 20 years.

into the ultra-lightweight carbon-backed race seat and clamped into place by a
six-point harness, I’m about to become only the second journalist in the world
to drive the new Stratos. It’s worth around three million pounds, it’s the only
one that exists, and just to crank up the pressure a bit more, former F1 driver
Tiago Monteiro is my co-pilot. Nervous? You could say that…

See more pics of the new Stratos

instantly apparent that this is an exceptional bit of kit. Designed and built
by Pininfarina, its carbon-fibre body clothes a cut-down Ferrari 430 Scuderia
chassis. It also uses the Scud’s powertrain, so the underpinnings are about as
good as it gets.

The gearchange
is sensationally fast, and with a new free-flowing titanium exhaust and a few
other electronic mods, the Scud’s 510bhp output is up to 540bhp. Weight is down
80kg to just 1,247kg. You do the maths…

is a successful competition driver, so the new Stratos feels like a racing car:
there is almost zero slack in its steering and handling. It’s one of those cars
that thinks its way from one corner to the next and gets there so fast, it
takes your breath away. It’s 10 per cent stiffer than the Scud, and feels
amazingly tight and beautifully engineered. The development team benchmarked it
against the Scud, but also the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Yes, it’s that good.

Top speed
is close to 200mph, 62mph about 3.3 seconds. It’s also a proper handful, and
moves with the wired nervousness of a competition car. We weren’t able to really
stretch it, but its high-speed stability and overall balance are said to be

admits that it would need to be tweaked a bit depending on which circuit it was
being driven on, and there was a bit of understeer here at Le Castellet in the
south of France. But that’s true of any hi-po car on a track and for a one-off,
the new Stratos really is an astonishing achievement, a phenomenally well-executed,
ultra-modern version of a quixotic rally legend that pulses with all the spirit
of the original.

The talk
now is of a run of perhaps 25 production cars. Stoschek is keen for his project
to be validated in that way - he wants to share the love rather than keep it
all to himself - and the likely cost is half-a-million pounds plus the donor
car. For that, the lucky owner wouldn’t just be getting a rich man’s retro
folly, they’d be getting a seriously, seriously good car.

Next up, a GT2 version. Bring it on…

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