Fire destroys Lancia Delta electric rally cars

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Special One rally cars have been destroyed, prompting cancellation of British round of World Rallycross Championship.

The electric rallycross cars based on the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale have been destroyed in a serious fire that broke out in their service area at Lydden Hill, UK last weekend – leading to the cancellation of the British round of the World Rallycross Championship (WRX).

French firm Special One Racing had been running a pair of Lancia Delta Evo-e RXs in WRX’s top RX1e category for electric supercars, with nine-time World Rally champion Sebastién Loeb and Guerlain Chicherit driving. The cars sported a Martini-style livery, reminiscent of the original Delta Integrales that competed in the World Rally Championship between 1987 and 1992.

The team was at Lydden Hill in Kent for the fourth round of the 2023 WRX when a fire broke out in the paddock early on Friday morning. According to the team, the fire began at around 08:45 on Loeb’s car, quickly spreading to Chicherit’s car before engulfing one of Special One’s workshop trucks.

While the fire brigade attended the scene, none of the three vehicles could be saved. Nobody was injured in the blaze.

In a statement, the team said: “An investigation has been launched by the FIA [motorsport’s governing body] to determine the origin of the fire, which broke out while no one was physically working on the car but during the electrical recharging of the propulsion system, which had been under way for several minutes. At this stage, we can already state that no handling errors were made by the staff of the Special One Racing team, nor by those of its partners.”

Championship organisers initially cancelled Saturday running while the cause of the fire was investigated, with the FIA event Stewards deciding that evening to “permanently stop” the event “for safety reasons”.

The stewards’ decision read: “Video evidence shows that the fire was initiated at the battery of the car while it was in the team area charging, but it is not clear why this happened. It was evident that only extremely quick thinking by the team members saved them from injury.”

The stewards said that “urgent investigations” into the cause of the incident had been conducted by the FIA with the help of the Kent Fire Service, Lydden Hill staff and championship bosses, along with Kreisel, which produces the batteries used in the WRX.

But it added that investigation “has not progressed far enough to determine a root cause for the failure that led to the fire”, and that it would be unable to do so for the event to run “with the assurance of the appropriate level of safety”.

Various alternative options were considered for the event, but the stewards said that they had been ruled out because they would “be based on speculation on the causes of the extremely dangerous fire”.

They added that Kreisel was “unable to provide an appropriate level of assurance in the system” while investigations were ongoing.

The other categories that were part of the WRX package at Lydden Hill raced on Sunday as planned.

Special One has said that, without its cars and much of its equipment, it won’t be able to compete again this season.

The team added: “We’re proud of the response to our two magnificent Delta Evo-e RXs, of which all that remains today are photos and videos.”

What was the Special One Delta Evo-e RX?

The car had been powered by two 247kW motors on each axle, providing a total output of 494kW for a 0-100km/h time of 1.8sec – claimed to be 0.7sec faster than an Formula 1 car.

It was designed and manufactured by GCK Performance, a French motorsport engineering firm.

The two cars made their track debut last November at the Nürburgring. Both made their first public outing on 21 May at the Charade Super Show in France before the planned campaign in the full WRX.

Loeb’s last appearance in the WRX prior to this season was in 2018, when he drove a Peugeot 208 RX for Hansen Motorsport, taking victory in Belgium.

Chicherit founded Special One Racing and had made more than 40 starts in the premier category after making his debut in the French Rally Cup.

Loeb said: “I’m from a generation that was brought up seeing wins by Lancia Deltas in rally racing, so I naturally have a weakness for this car. Then I tried it in December 2022, and I was immediately won over by its dynamic qualities.”

The next round of the 2023 WRX season is scheduled to take place in Belgium on 6 August.

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