First drive: Lancia Stratos
Imagine making a modern recreation of your all-time favourite car, and having it built to such a high standard that it can be compared with the best supercars in the world.
That's what Michael Stoschek has achieved with his remake of the Lancia Stratos, the dramatic mid-engined 1970s rally-winner. This new Stratos has been designed and built by Italian design house Pininfarina as a one-off based on the Ferrari F430 Scuderia and we are among the very few to have driven it. And it's brilliant.
Michael Stoschek? He is the chairman of family-owned automotive components maker Brose, a super-keen Stratos enthusiast and a man who has had the resources, not to mention the commitment, to get this car built. The idea for it came from fellow Stratos enthusiast and car design services supplier Chris Hrabalek, who has pursued a 10 year dream to realise this 21st century Stratos. He provided the inspiration, and has driven this project through with Stoschek.
This is not simply a rebodied Scuderia either. The Ferrari's chassis has been shortened by 20cm to suit the Stratos's short wheelbase style, 150kg has been cut from its weight, the power output has climbed from 510bhp to 540bhp and the chassis has been retuned to produce more direct steering and more reactive handling. And the exterior panels are made from exposed weave carbonfibre finished to an incredible standard.
We get to ride in the car around part of the Paul Ricard grand prix circuit, before getting four laps ourselves. And even from the passenger seat, this car is exciting. My driver is Stoschek himself. Six-point harnesses pin us to the carbonfibre seats, we wear helicopter-style headphones and mikes so that we can talk, he pulls the right-hand paddle shift and we bolt off down the track. And it's clear from the first tight twist that this Stratos is keen with bends, darting towards the kerb with the eagerness of a race car. The body follows the wheels instantly, with no roll and no understeer. Stoschek gains speed and on the next lap, anxious to demonstrate his car's agility, flicks it into the kind of oversteer slide for which the rallying original became famous.
My turn. Getting going is simple enough with those paddle shifts, the steering feels light but well connected and the view through that dramatic, visor-like windscreen is excellent. This is an easy car to drive at first, but then your speed builds, you feel the cornering forces climb and in tight turns, the heft of that Ferrari V8 beginning to work on the rear wheels. With more pace, you realise - a lot more pace - those fat back tyres will want to break away. But at lower speeds, the weight distribution helps you dive through corners with arrow precision – enough that you must take care to position the car just so. And that's just the kind of challenge that you want from a driver's car like this.
As impressive as the lively, interactive handling is the feeling that this car is bulletproof. It might be a one-off – effectively a showroom-ready prototype – but there's not a squeak or rattle to be heard, the structure feeling incredibly taut. Which it is, the shorter wheelbase, the addition of a roll-cage and the carbon bodywork increasing its rigidity by 10 per cent. The robustness is matched by a standard of finish that any supercar maker would be more than happy with too.
So is this car destined to be an only car, a toweringly expensive tribute to the 1974 Stratos, or will there be more? That's to be decided. There's talk of a run of 25 cars, perhaps costing around £420,000 to £500,000, though a price has yet to be determined too. If they get built, there will be 25 very fortunate – if rather poorer – new Stratos owners out there. And a slightly better chance of seeing one of these impressive recreations.