Lancia Doubles Down on Rally Revival, But Only If the Money’s Right

Sizing up a solid return on investment isn’t the only concern facing Lancia if it wants to take up rallying again.

byAdam Ismail|
Stellantis News photo
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images


When many of us think of the name "Lancia," we think of Ferrari-powered Italian wedges and hatches with boxy flares, dominating the competition on all surface types. Of course, Lancia hasn't really been about that in a very long time—more than 30 years, in fact. Last month, the brand's CEO expressed interest in a return to the sport at a press event, but a new statement from the company, relayed by DirtFish, puts into perspective how serious Lancia is about getting back in the game, and what their terms of engagement will be.

"We are working on the return of Lancia to rally, knowing that it is a significant marketing lever," the automaker was quoted Wednesday. "This means that we will return to the world of rally only if the return on investment meets our expectations."

The qualifier—"only if the return on investment meets our expectations"—is something brand chief Luca Napolitano didn't mention when he said that Lancia is "working on" a rallying comeback, the very same night he announced that the HF label will appear once again on high-performance vehicles. The Italian marque revealed the fourth-generation Ypsilon compact about two months ago, and a Delta EV is said to follow.

Now that's what I call "High Fidelity." National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The fact Lancia is still running numbers for its ROI here indicates that it probably isn't very far along in the plan. But the bigger issue for the company's aspirations in motorsport is that the World Rally Championship can't quite figure out how quickly it wants to go electric, and up until very recently, Lancia was intent on selling only electric cars by 2026.

Now, that timeline is likely out the window, since the new Ypsilon, like the Peugeot 208 it shares its architecture with, will offer both hybrid and battery-electric powertrains. If Lancia ultimately floats an entry in one of the WRC's lower classes, the Ypsilon could replace the 208 or Opel Corsa in the Rally4 class, two cars also united under the Stellantis umbrella, or perhaps the Citroën C3 in Rally2.

Things get murkier when we turn the conversation to a top-flight Rally1 entry. Excusing the fact it'd be enormously expensive and Lancia would likely want to take it slow returning to its former stomping grounds, the WRC recently decided that it will ditch hybrid powertrains in 2026, after just four years of use. It's pretty unusual to see a racing series, especially one of the WRC's stature, double back on progressive technology even for the purpose of saving costs. Though it'll likely drive investment from constructors and appeal to longtime fans and drivers alike, the optics broadly aren't great, particularly if you're an automaker trying to sell an uncompromised vision of the future.

These are some of the dilemmas that may face Lancia in the years to come, but the fact the company's top brass is even hinting at a desire to take them on is enthusiasm we haven't seen in decades. The Delta's last season of competition is about as old as I am, and the business of motorsport is nothing like it used to be.

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