Abarth 124 Spider Rally testing

Mazda has its one-make MX-5 racing series, but Abarth has chosen a dirtier motorsport route for its version of the lightweight roadster, the 124 Spider.

Unveiled alongside the road-going version at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the Abarth 124 Spider Rally has been built to the FIA's R-GT regulations, which are aimed at getting more exotic, more exciting cars involved in rallying.

Sadly, it hasn't quite taken off as hoped, with Aston Martin and Lotus dabbling, while the most committed effort came from private outfit Tuthill Motorsport, who ran a Porsche 911 GT3 during the 2015 WRC season.

Abarth 124 Spider Rally frontUndeterred, Abarth has jumped into the ring, with three 124 Spider Rallys set to make their debuts at the 2017 Monte Carlo Rally. They all feature a 224kW 1.8-litre turbo four, rather than the road car's 125kW 1.4-litre unit, and a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Other modifications include the requisite safety gear and a hardtop that replace's the standard car's folding fabric roof. Add bigger brakes and a stripped-out interior and you have the makings of a very angry and quite specatacular rally car.

Arguably the car's most striking aspect is its sound, the heavily turbocharged engine emitting a deep growl with a vicious serrated edge when the anti-lag system kicks in whenever the throttle is lifted.

Abarth 124 Spider Rally rearOn cold, slippery alpine roads it also looks quite a handful, with even drivers the calibre of French legend Francois Delecour looking to be working hard to keep the twitchy rear end in check.

It's guaranteed that the Abarth 124 Spider Rallys will be far from the fastest cars on the Monte, however they should be some of the most spectacular, particularly if it snows. Hopefully Abarth sees fit to produce a proper road-going version in the future.

The Abarth 124 has a rich rallying heritage, competing in the WRC with moderate success in the mid-1970s before being replaced by the 131.

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