Fiat is relaunching one of the motor industry’s legendary performance and sporting car brands at next week’s Geneva International Motor Show, when it takes the wraps off its new Grande Punto Abarth, the first of a new range of high performance and sporting Fiats, as well as performance and sporting kits for the Fiat range.
Luca de Meo, CEO of Fiat Automobiles SpA, decided some time ago that Abarth had to be much more than merely a badge attached to certain models in the Fiat range. So the new Abarth division of the company will run its own racing and rally teams, starting with the successful Grande Punto Abarth S2000, which won both the Italian and European Rally Championship titles last year, in its debut season. The new Abarth division will also prepare racing and rally cars for customers in a wide range of series and one make championships.
For road car customers, Abarth will develop new models for the Fiat range, starting with the Grande Punto Abarth, as well as developing performance and styling packages for the owners of existing Fiat products. Promotion of merchandise and clothing lines will also be a key element in the company’s plans for Abarth.
Founded in 1949 by Carlo Abarth, the Abarth company produced classic sporting versions of key Fiat models and ran racing teams that were dominant forces on both the race track and on rally stages. The famous scorpion badge was chosen as a clear indication of what Abarth was all about – small cars with a big sting in the tail!
“The link with tradition is not just an idea, but tangible and concrete,” says Luca de Meo. “This is a real rebirth, that will start with the triumphant return of Abarth activities to our historic premises in Corso Marche, Turin, where the famous ‘Officine Abarth’ will be recreated.”
The first of a new generation of Fiat Abarth performance cars being unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year is the Grande Punto Abarth, which is equipped with a 1.4 Turbo petrol engine that delivers 150 bhp at 5500 rpm, boosted to 155 bhp when 98 RON petrol is used. Peak torque of 206 Nm (152 lb.ft) is developed at just 2000 rpm, but 230 Nm (169 lb.ft) is produced at 3000 rpm by driver activation of the Sport mode. And thanks to the availability of an aftermarket booster kit, some 180 bhp can be made available, representing a peak power output of almost three times that of the entry level Punto.
All of which is a revival of past traditions: for example, the 1957 Fiat 500 delivered 13 bhp at 4000 rpm with a top speed of 53 mph, while the Fiat 500 Abarth of the same year delivered over 20 bhp at 5000 rpm and a top speed of 73 mph. The new Grande Punto Abarth aims to revive the feats of these entertaining performance cars, and Abarth aims to offer young enthusiasts in particular an opportunity to enter the world of motor sport in complete safety and at an accessible price.
Abarth is planning to repeat the stunning 2006 competition debut of this car, by entering the 2007 Italian Rally Championship with Giandomenico Basso and his co-driver Mitia Dotta. On the international scene, the Grande Punto Abarth S2000 will compete in the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) with drivers Andrea Navarra, and co-driver Guido D’Amore, together with the young Umberto Scandola and Anton Alen.
Powered by a 2000cc normally aspirated engine that delivers 270 bhp, with 4-wheel drive, the latest Grande Punto Abarth S2000 is a development of the machine that won the 2006 Italian Rally Championship with Paolo Andreucci and Anna Andreussi, winning 7 of the 11 events in the series. During the same season, Giandomenico Basso/Mitia Dotta also won the European Rally Championship and the International Rally Challenge, with a similar car.
As well as possessing a highly successful standard bearer in the Grande Punto Abarth S2000, and an outstanding team of drivers, the new Abarth & C. company also boasts a staff with vast experience: a total of 113 experts, including 26 engineers, 43 on the manufacturing side of the business and nine dedicated purely to motorsport.