In the beginning of 1978 Fiat South Africa decided to enter motor
racing for Standard Production Cars.
The series was called Group One racing for standard production cars
with very limited modifications. At that stage the series was
dominated by the Mazda Capella Rotaries with the odd win also from
the 3L Ford XR6 Cortina and 2L Alfa GTV’s.
Gigi Fincati, who was employed at Fiat South Africa Local Motorsport
department, was given the task of developing a racing car to compete
in Group One Racing and so the Fiat 131 Racing was born.
Gigi went to Italy and sourced around in the Abarth spare’s buckets.
At that specific stage spares from the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth’s were
still available. He came back with enough spares to complete 16
cars. The SA rules stipulated that 100 cars were to be produced to
qualify for Group One Racing. An order was placed with Italy for the
remainder of the extra spares but the cargo ship with all the spares
sank at the coast of Kenia and that is the reason why only 16 of
these cars were ever produced.
Three cars campaigned in 1978 and were driven by Pop Diedericks,
Tony Viana and Brian von Hage. They won just about all the races
they entered that year. Because of the homologation rules that
stipulated that a 100 cars had to be produced, they were barred from
racing at the end of 1978.