(MAIN) The great Mercedes W125s would be defeated at Donington in 1937 by Rosemeyer’s Auto Union (far left) after another classic fight. (BELOW) By 1938, with Rosemeyer gone, AU desperately needed Nuvolari’s talents to help fight Benz. (BOTTOM LEFT) The Mercedes’ classic straight-eight engine.
With a mid-mounted Ferrari Dino V6 engine,
a wheel-at-each-corner stance, and an
aircraft-style cockpit to give almost full
180-degree vision, the Lancia Stratos was a
cutting edge design that became one of the
greatest and best-loved rally cars of all time.
With a front-mounted four-cylinder
engine, a four-seater cabin and a sizable
trunk for luggage and groceries, the Ford
Escort RS1800 Mk II was a hugely popular
compact family sedan that became one of
the greatest and best-loved rally cars of all
time. Hmmm…spot the difference?
In truth, each was phenomenally
successful, but in different ways. Bursting
on to the world stage in 1974, the Stratos
carried on where Lancia’s Fulvia left off,
but in the case of the Stratos, success was
STRATOS vs. ESCORT
FAST ’N’ LOOSE
He ruled the
with an iron fist, but
to detail got results
for the Stuttgart
marque in the
1920s and ’30s.
He was still in
Mercedes made a
brief but dominant
return to Grand Prix
racing in the ’50s.
1938 couldn’t halt the Three-Pointed
Star’s charge. The 3-liter supercharged
W154 won six of the eight EDC rounds
over the next two years. After
Rosemeyer’s death in a speed record
attempt on a German autobahn,
Auto Union relied on the returning
Tazio Nuvolari to keep its outdated
D-type competitive, but he was
swimming upstream. And so the battle
ended in Mercedes’ favor as war clouds
loomed over Europe and put a screeching
halt to racing action around the world.
expected because it had specifically been
designed for rallying. As a result it won three
straight manufacturers’ titles in the World Rally
Championship from 1974 through ’ 76 and at
European Rally Championship level from
’ 76 through ’ 78, driven by the likes of Sandro
Munari, Bernard Darniche (ABOVE, the 1980
Monte Carlo Rally) and Bjorn Waldegaard.
As Lancia notched up the titles, the Mk II
earned a reputation for winning the WRC’s
toughest events – the RAC (BELOW, with
Roger Clark in 1977), Safari, Acropolis, and
even Finland’s 1000 Lakes in ’ 77. Ironically, it
was Waldegaard who finally took the Escort’s
first WRC title, winning the inaugural drivers’
crown in ’ 79 and leading Ford to a makes’ title
after three years of trying to conquer the Fiat
Group’s Stratos and 131 Abarth with the MkII.
The venerable Escort RS1800 went on
to claim the Drivers’ World Championship
again in 1981, with Ari Vatanen at the wheel.