Group 5 was an FIA motor racing classification used from 1966 to 1982, redefined and applied to four distinct categories along those years. The first generation of Group 5 regulations defined a category for Special Touring Cars. Then, from 1970 to 1971, the classification was applied to limited production Sports Cars restricted to 5 litre engine capacity. For 1972, the FIA applied the Group 5 classification to what had previously been known as the Group 6 Prototype Sports Cars category and had a 3-litre engine capacity limit. In its final iteration Group 5 was for Special Production Cars, a liberal silhouette formula based on homologated production vehicles and it was used from 1976 to 1982.
This 4th generation allowed extensive modifications to production based vehicles which were homologated in FIA Groups 1 through 4. The regulations required only the bonnet, roof, doors and rail panel were to be left unmodified and so the category was also mostly associated with the wide wheel arches and extravagant body style. These cars would contest the World Championship for Makes series from 1976 through to 1980 and then the World Endurance Championship in 1981 & 1982.
The Beta Montecarlo Turbo was Lancia weapon for this silhouette category. It was based on the production 1975 Lancia Beta Montecarlo but of course almost nothing has remained of the road-legal car. The Group 5 Beta was the result of the joint work of Abarth (for mechanics and engine), Pininfarina (for aerodynamics) and Dallara (for chassis and suspensions). In the first development phase, the Abarth mechanics tried to modified and install the four-cylinder boxer of the Lancia Gamma, even in the supercharged version, but it was almost immediately abandoned in favor of a new 1.4259-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (equal to 1996.3 cm³ according to the 1.4x coefficient for supercharged engines) capable of delivering around 450 hp in race trim of its final 1981 evolution. Engine was linked to a five-speed manual gearbox and the total weight of the car was around 750 kg.
The car was very competitive and successful in its ‘less than 2.0 liters’ class and sometimes it was able to annoy upper-class race cars (Porsche 935 primarily). Lancia also tried to fight directly against Porsche and so for the 1981 season they developed a larger (1773 cc) and twin turbocharged engine. Unfortunately this version was never fully developed, with Lancia already looking ahead to the brand new ‘Group C’ regulations that would come into force in 1982. The larger engined Beta Montecarlo only managed to score points in just one occasion.
In this video you can see 3 different Betas. In particular:
– Martini Racing livery, but without any number. Chassis 1004. I recorded this car during the 2018 Motor Legend Festival at Imola Circuit, driven by Emanuele Pirro for some parade laps in specific and dedicated sessions. Back in the days the car obtained a victory at the Mugello 6 Hours driven by Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever and obtained other successes.
– Jolly Club (Italian flag) livery. Chassis 1006. Only saw this one briefly during the 2016 Imola Classic racing weekend. It was fielded by the Italian team in many events of the 1980 season.
– Martini Racing livery, No. 65. Chassis 1009. The one that you see the most in this video. I recorded it during various events in the last few years driven by historic racer Franco Meiners. It was one of the last Beta Montecarlo Turbos ever built and did both the 1981 and 1982 Le Mans 24h.