Twenty WRC wins are the best proof of the superiority of Fiat 131 Abarth
There’s nothing quite like turning ordinary into extraordinary, and the world of motorsport has definitely been, and still is, an environment that nurtures such development, giving birth to many legendary scenes, characters, and machines. Each era has had a representative of this sort, and the late ’70s and early ’80s were no exception. Despite being based on a relatively small family car, the Fiat 131 Abarth was an extremely successful racing car, winning many World Rally Championship titles and earning great renown amongst its peers.
Fiat 131 Abarth – One of the most popular cars of the time
The basic model of the Fiat 131 was presented in 1974 at the Turin Motor Show and earned the nickname Mirafiori, after the suburbs of the Italian city where the cars were produced. Initially, the Fiat 131 was made with 1.3L and 1.6L engines, while the revised model came in 1978 and 1981 before the production ceased in 1984. More than 1.5 million Fiat 131s were produced in Italy, making it one of the most popular cars of the time.
Racing version of Fiat 131 was very successful
During 1976, with cooperation between Fiat, Abarth, and Bertone, 400 Fiat 131 Abarth cars were made for homologation purposes. Models with racing specifications had an engine which could produce 240 PS, 100 more than the street version of the car. Interestingly, these cars had the brake system of a small Fiat 127. After the first modifications in 1978, the racing version of Fiat 131 Abarth had the top speed of 180 km/h and was very successful, but the third and last modification, made in 1981, was an attempt to replicate the popularity of Fiat 131 as the demand was slowly fading away.
Group 4 World Rally Championship series debut in 1976
The Fiat 131 Abarth made its debut in 1976, in the Group 4 of the WRC. Success was imminent, but that was expected because when Fiat began rallying in 1970, its ultimate aim was to become the World Rally Champion. It had a great team of engineers, the project was backed by a big budget, and some driver superstars were behind the wheels, so anything but success might have been a surprise.
Video : Fiat 131 Abarth – the legend of rally
During the first year in the series, one victory was achieved by Markku Alén from Finland. But, in the next season, Fiat won the manufacturers’ championship title after taking five wins – Markku Alén was the winner in Portugal, Fulvio Baccheli in Australia, Timo Salonen in Canada, Jean-Claude Andruet in San Remo and Bernard Darniche at Corsica.
The following year was even better as Markku Alén won the FIA Cup for drivers and Fiat also defended the Manufacturers’ title. The same success was repeated in 1980, but this time Walter Rohrl was the one who won the Drivers’ title, driving Fiat 131 Abarth.
Twenty wins in five years
During the five years in the WRC, Fiat 131 Abarth Mirafiori won a total of 20 rally races. Alen was the most successful with seven victories while Rohrl has five wins in his books. Other well-known drivers of the Fiat 131 Abarth were Michele Mouton, Timo Salonen, Sandro Munari, and Attilio Bettega.