Reading Matters: Rally Giants – www.veloce.co.uk

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 Fiat 131 Abarth by Graham Robson – ISBN 978-1-84584-182-9    £14.99

As a young, keen motoring and rally fan, the trip to the Irish Motor Show at the RDS, Dublin was an annual occurrence.  Memories of my attendance of the 1978 event came to mind after reading the history of the Fiat 131 Abarth by Graham Robson.  Between 1976 and 1981, the successor to the Lancia Stratos from the Fiat Group began winning World Rallies within months of its launch and went on to take three ‘Makes’ World Championships (1977, 1978 and 1980).  In fact the 131 replaced an Abarth prepared Fiat X1/9 rally car project that was abolished in favour of the ‘family car which wins’ concept, as Fiat realised just how much this objective had done for Ford’s Escort.

While the 131 Abarth programme competed successfully with the Escort RS 1800, Vauxhall Chevette HS and Porsche 911 at rallies all over the globe it failed to make any serious impact in the British Rally Championship.  That said, works-driver Markku Alen finished third in the Circuit of Ireland in 1978 but Timo Salonen’s effort the following year is best remembered for a spectacular roll down a bank.  Our own Rally Legend Billy Coleman is pictured (on page 75) on his way to fourth in Scotland in 1977.  An excellent read.

By the way, I have still got the Olio Fiat sticker from the 1978 Show that depicts the 131 Abarth as per the front cover!

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Ford Escort RS Cosworth & World Rally Car by Graham Robson  –  ISBN 978-1-84584-181-2   –  £14.99

As the RS brand name lives on in the Focus WRC Car and newly launched Focus RS Road Car, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth and World Rally Car from the ‘90s were Ford’s most successful rally cars since the legendry Escorts of the ‘70s.

According to the write Graham Robson, “the combination of Cosworth power, four wheel-drive transmission and an effective aerodynamic package made it a ‘Rally Giant’ in all conditions and until the all-new Focus WRC was launched in 1999, this generation of Escorts was the most effective rally car that Ford had every produced.” 

When the Escort RS Cosworth was conceived, the most serious competition came from Lancia with the Delta Integrate and Toyota, with the Celica GT4.

Malcolm Wilson, through his own company’s prepared ‘cossies’ successfully campaigned in Ireland winning the Ulster Rally in consecutive years 1993 and 1994.  Wilson’s M-Sport outfit continues to build Ford’s World Rally Cars to this day.

Robson’s book contains around 100 photos within its 128 interesting pages.

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Jarlath Sweeney