1976 Lancia Stratos Pilots: C. Dacremont, M. Hoepfner Team: ESSO Aseptogyl Race: DNF (GTP class) at Le Mans in 1977 Spark - S0604 (resin)
Because of the Ferrari connection, Lancia was always associated with Pininfarina. But around 1970, Lancia wanted a replacement for the aging Fulvia. Marcello Gandini, of Bertone, saw the opportunity and designed the Stratos HF prototype for the 1971 Turin Motor Show. The prototype pleased Lancia and they struck a deal with Bertone. Aimed at rallying, but with a Stradale version for homologation purposes, Bertone produced the car in Turin with final assembly by Lancia. The engine came from Ferrari, the same power plant previously used in the Dino. It was a mid-mounted V6 with 2418 cm³, generating 190 hp. Later on the engine received turbo-charging, and power output went up to about 360 hp. Production went from 1973 to 1978, with a total of 492 units built. From 1974 to 1981, the Stratos was highly successful in rallying, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 75 and 76.
French dentist and amateur rally driver Bob Neyret established Team Aseptogyl in 1971. Backed by the French toothpaste brand, his team was composed solely by women. The team was mostly active in rallying, but they also tried their hand at La Sarthe. For the 1976 race they bought a Stratos Turbo and the team managed a second place in the GTP class. In 1977 they were back with the same Stratos, piloted by Christine Dacremont and Mariane Hoepfner. With the good result in the previous race, expectations were high.
The Aseptogyl Stratos started in 44th place, and at the 13th lap it was already in 25th. It stayed there until lap 35, when the engine temperature started climbing. On lap 37 Mariane was at the wheel, and temperature spiked. Even though she gingerly conducted the car back to the pits, the engine blew. So on the 37th lap, just over 7pm, #89 had to abandon the race. That was the last year of toothpaste racing at Le Mans.
As usual in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this is an underdog that unfortunately did not make it. But despite the lack of success, it’s fantastic to see a rally car at La Sarthe. The model is gorgeous, very well replicated by Spark. The only thing that look’s to be off is the rear wheels. From the few race pics I found, it looks like they should be black and not gold. However, wrong wheels or not, this is a special model – it was a Christmas present from my dearest wife 🥰.