It was ambassador and consultant for Zenith Watches, former Formula One driver Erik Comas — and 2015 Italian historic rally champion at the wheel of his Zenith-sponsored Lancia Stratos — who had the idea to create a meet to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stratos victory at the 1976 world rally championship.
In recognition of the global status of the legendary Stratos, which continues to fascinate generations too young to remember its heyday, Zenith Watches decided to organise the El Primero World Stratos Meeting in Biella.
This Piedmont town is known as the Stratos capital, with Biellesi test driver Claudio Maglioli creating his workshop here in 1977 to continue the development of this rally queen after the official Lancia team withdrew from competition.
It was then that the French team Chardonnet, the Lancia importer and their driver Bernard Darniche won the greatest successes in the Lancia Stratos' career.
The Zenith El Primero World Stratos Meeting took place in Biella on the 24th, 25th and 26th June 2016.
24-26 of June 2016 - Biella - Italy
24-26 of June 2016 - Biella - Italy
History will record that it was the Swiss watch brand Zenith which restored the Stratos, recognised as the best rally car of all time, to its former status. Forty-five Stratos owners answered Zenith's invitation to the World Stratos Meeting .
On Friday 24 June, under a scorching sun, the participants took to the Piazza Duomo in Biella, which was newly restored for the occasion.
Aldo Magada, President and CEO of Zenith Watches and Erik Comas officially welcomed the guests and press during the presentation of the El Primero World Stratos Meeting watch created specially for this occasion.
Next was a dinner, where the delighted competitors were able to meet former drivers and co-drivers from the classic Stratos era: Sandro Munari, Tony Fassina, Piero Sodano, Piero Gobbi and Gianni Besozzi.
On Saturday, under dark skies interspersed with bright spells, the 45 Stratos left the Piazza Duomo, following a winding route to Bielmonte where they stopped for lunch high up in Oasi Zegna.
Daniel Audetto, Mauro Pregliasco, Amilcare Ballestrieri and Sergio Maiga joined them for the meal, and were delighted to share many anecdotes from their glory years at Lancia.
In the afternoon, participants had the pleasure of taking part in a special untimed trial at the Lana Rally, an event organised in parallel to this meet and also supported by Zenith.
During the gala evening held at the I Faggi sports association, Erik Comas honoured the brand's other guests. First of these was Michael Stoschek, organiser of the previous Stratos Meeting in 1986 and creator of the prototype New Stratos in 2010 in Biella.
Second was a key person in the history of the Stratos: Cesare Fiorio, former sporting director of Scuderia Ferrari and the man who launched the Lancia Stratos project (see www.LanciaStratos.com )
To close the Zenith evening, Mark Ketcham was awarded a special prize to honour the epic journey that he undertook to get to Biella with his Stratos, travelling in from California!
On Sunday morning, a second special 12 km test awaited the competitors, followed by the highlight of the week: lunch organised in the grounds of the home of Guido Avandero, owner of three legendary Stratos.
Erik Comas and Vincent Steinmann, marketing director of Zenith, would like to extend their thanks to the owners on the final podium at a meet which shall go down in the annals of both motor sports and watchmaking history, two very closely-linked worlds.
In tribute to the fabulous destiny of a cult car, the El Primero Chronomaster World Stratos Meeting boasts a powerful engine and streamlined bodywork. The watch is limited to 40 piece worldwide. This paragon of performance and reliability beats at the brisk pace of 36,000 vibrations/hour, enabling it to provide a tenth-of-a-second display. The silver-toned dial, adorned with a dedicated medallion, is punctuated by luminescent facetted hour-markers, swept over by equally luminescent facetted hours and minutes hands, as well as a red central chronograph hand. Its emblematic 11 o’clock opening reveals the engine throbbing inside: El Primero Calibre 4061, chronometer-certified by the COSC and a worthy descendant of the world’s most precise series-made chronograph developed by Zenith in 1969.
Powering central hours and minutes functions, along with chronograph and tachymeter functions, while enjoying 50 hours of autonomy, this high-frequency mechanism is housed in a 42 mm-diameter stainless steel case topped with a domed sapphire crystal and flanked by a ratcheted crown as well as red and green-accented pushpieces.
Oozing Italian style sporting elegance, the El Primero Chronomaster World Stratos Meeting is equipped with a black alligator strap with red topstitching, secured by a triple folding clasp. In an ultimate reference to the mean machine that inspired it, the timepiece is delivered with a miniature model of the car in a white lacquered wooden presentation box adorned with the Italian flag and featuring a lining reminiscent of the upholstery of the original Lancia Stratos. A collector’s model already!