It was forty years ago, during the Monte Carlo Rally in 1976, that the Abarth 124 Rally participated in what had been its last official race. For 2016, the Abarth 124 Rally is making a comeback with the same goal in mind, which is to examine the technical solutions of road cars when undergoing extreme situations, whether it is an icy road or a sunburnt tarmac.
There is also the objective of providing customers a road car that is reliable and delivers amazing performance. This newest version is therefore a mix of performance and technology resulting from the Abarth Racing Team’s experience in bringing the Scorpion back.
Overall, the new Abarth 124 Rally is for those who carry the racing world values of the brand and its sense of challenge.
In order for the new 124 Rally to be competitive, engineers at Abarth Racing Team made sure to reduce the weight and provide an overall balance.
This is the reason why a fixed composite hard top was used instead of a soft top and light materials were chosen as materials for the engine compartment and cockpit. With regards to the balance, the team mounted the engine just behind its front axle. Because of these different features, the weight has been distributed just a little bit to the rear axle giving it maximum traction even when under low grip conditions.
To improve the balance, its center of gravity was moved lower unlike that of the road car. The advantage of this was it offers road grip in addition to performance. The Abarth 124 Spider was made to be agile and light with the rally version being improved for competitions. In order to ensure that the Spider is certified under the FIA R-GT category, structural reinforcements had to be added. This allowed greater stress resistance as well as giving the crew the highest of safety standards.
In addition, a safety roll cage was also placed in the body. In fact when looking at the additions, it is clear that the goal was to have maximum ergonomics and optimum efficiency to allow both the driver and the co-driver to have superior performance. Important attention to even the smallest of details was made, such as with the space in the cockpit and how the interior controls are arranged. It is a well-known fact that rally cars suffer from extreme stress.
To solve this particular issue, the mechanical layout of the production car was developed even more despite the fact that it was already an outstanding one. For example, its multi-link rear suspension and the high front-end double wishbone suspension have certain kinematic features that allow for sufficient control when cornering. It also has metal joints that enable maximum steering precision. Finally, it even provides greater excursion for handling regardless of the road surface.
Outstanding grip is assured despite of the condition due to the adjustable dampers settings. For this particular project, the team used the code SE139 which traces its history as far back as Karl Abarth. The S stands for "Sports" while the E is for "Esperimental", referring to the technical upgrade and value of craftsmanship by Abarth.
The 139 in the code meanwhile refers to the fact that for 67 years, Abarth has made an average of two racing projects on an annual basis. This is a feat that only a few automakers can proudly claim. For this project as well, the team chose the best sponsors, and more importantly, the right technical partners.
One of these is Petronas Selenia which is the leader when it comes to high performance and technologically advanced lubricants. Petronas Selenia also helped in developing the engine. Other partners include Adler Pelzer Group which was responsible for making the composite components and Michelin which is its partner for tires development. This Abarth 124 Rally project is likewise a good way to showcase different Italian companies that have been part of racing history.
Take Sabelt for example. This is a brand that is recognized for safety equipment like seatbelts and bucket-belts. Kappa is another partner which is a sportwear brand whose products are worn by the "Abarth Squadra Corse". When it comes to the car mechanics, that task falls to LM Gianetti. Started around 40 years ago, LM Gianetti was present when the first-ever Abarth 124 Rally was manufactured and it has continued to work with the technical team in order to reengineer the suspensions and the bodywork.
EXT SHOX meanwhile helped with its knowledge on 4-way adjustable dampers, a first for a rally car. Continuing with the list of partners, BMC helped the team with the air-intake system, an important component as it ensures a reliable and constant engine performance. The wheels were developed and made by OZ, which are not only light but robust as well. On the interior, the road-going version uses Alcantara from its dashboard up to its seat trimming.
The technology used in the interior is 100% "Made in Italy" and helps in lowering the sun reflection thereby making sure that that the vision of the driver is not impeded. It also helps improve the grip on the steering wheel. This technology also saves on weight. When the team revamped the Abarth 124 Rally, they wanted to ensure that it would not only be for professional drivers but that it would be enjoyable to the public too.
People can line up and see this rear wheel drive transmission vehicle powerslide, a rare sight these days. In addition to using the best technologies in the world today, the 124 Rally also brings back memories of rallies especially in the 1970s when such races were not only more appealing but also attracted much larger crowds.