Sat 08 Jun 2024

Lancia recruits ERC legend Biaison to inspire next generation of rally drivers

Miki Biaision, who won the FIA European Rally Championship in 1983, his first year driving for Lancia, will bring his considerable experience and expertise to the company’s Ypsilon Rally4 project.

Biaison’s recruitment has been described by Lancia brand CEO Luca Napolitano as “another step forward in its renaissance journey” and follows last week’s announcement that the legendary manufacturer will be returning to the sport it once dominated with a Rally4 version of its Ypsilon HF model.  

“I’m highly honoured to be able to support the Lancia product team in the adjustment of the set-up and handling of the Ypsilon HF, offering genuine sporty driving pleasure to its drivers,” Biaision, 66, said. “I’m also delighted to work with the Stellantis Motorsport team on refining the performance of the Ypsilon Rally4 HF: set-up, braking and engine calibration. I hope I can inspire all the young drivers making their way with our Lancia Ypsilon Rally4 HF, towards becoming the professionals and champions of the future. The Lancia of victories and races is back, and I’m more than glad to be part of that.”

Napolitano said: “In late May, we previewed two major new models, to be launched officially in 2025: the new Lancia Ypsilon HF, the high-performance version in the first car of the brand’s new era; and the Lancia Ypsilon Rally4 HF, the model that will mark Lancia’s official return to the world of rallying, in line with its legendary sporting history. The natural spokesperson for this dual comeback could only be Miki Biasion, the most successful Italian rally driver of all time, who contributed to making Lancia the brand that won more than any other in the sport’s history. His many years of experience with the Lancia Corse team will be fundamental to the development of both cars. It is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the brand’s renaissance, characterised by ambition, pragmatism and humility, fully in line with the brand’s DNA.”  

With Tiziano Siviero co-driving his Jolly Club-run Lancia 037 Rally, Biasion completed the 1983 ERC season as a seven-time winner having joined the Italian manufacturer after narrowly missing out on the Italian championship with Opel the previous year.   

“The European Rally Championship was a beautiful experience for me and very important to have the opportunity to drive outside Italy,” Biasion said. “I wanted to do as much rally as possible far from Italy because I wanted to have a new experience and to be involved with the European Rally Championship as, also today, it’s the first step to be in the WRC.

“It was not easy because in each country I used to go to there were the local drivers who were very, very competitive and the distances were double that of a WRC event now. But it was a fantastic experience for me, and I was also very competitive with the Lancia 037.”  

Biasion took the first of his two WRC crowns in 1988, five years after his ERC title triumph. He has been quick to acknowledge the important role the ERC played in his career development.   “In Italy most of the rallies were on Tarmac so to compete outside Italy on gravel was a big help to me,” Biasion explained. “In Italy I had done for four years the Italian championship and the rallies were always the same. Going outside Italy gave me the opportunity to do the pacenotes, check the notes and then go flat out in the stages. The ERC helped me to be involved and have the right mentality.”  

Asked how he got his chance to go for the ERC title with Lancia in the first place, Biasion said it was a case of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer.  

“In 1982 I was fighting for the Italian championship with Opel, I lost the championship but I was very competitive. Cesare Fiorio, [the Lancia boss at the time] said, ‘okay it’s better to have Miki in the team instead to have him like a competitor’. But it was part of my agreement to drive outside Italy and the ERC was a very good school and very good training.”

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