Spain is not well known for its automotive history, but every now and then they surprise the world with small acts of innovation.
In the mid 80’s Seat were a fresh young company recently separated from Fiat, and were keen to show their presence in the automotive world. The decision was made to enter the world of rallying to demonstrate the ability of their products. However that time in Spain was a time of political uncertainty and little cash for developments, so innovation was the way forward.
For its part, the Ibiza twin – engine has been one of the most ingenious solutions that have been carried out in a rally car. Developed in the beginning by the pilot/driver Jose Maria Servia and Valentin, his trusted brother and mechanic, the Twin Ibiza was one of the great entertainers of the Championship of Spain in the second half of the 80’s.
Very few people expect the extravagant design of SEAT Sport to prove so successful, particularly because of the need to synchronize the two 1.5 – litre engines perfectly together, 125hp (250hp total), each engine had its own gearbox direct to one axle of the car, making this the first SEAT with a true four wheel drive system.
The term “Bimotor” was coined and the vehicle was presented to Seat Sport who gave it the seal of approval for entry into the new “Group S” FISA (now FIA) prototype rally class.
After working with Karmann and Porsche during development of the Ibiza, this project seemed the logical way to provide Seat and the new Ibiza credibility in the automotive world.
Development of the car was not smooth as you can imagine, one issue being the front engine ran 1500 to 2000 rpm’s higher than the rear due to inertia. Also allowing the front and rear transmission linkages to work in sync. The decision was made to use the front end of two Ibiza’s welded together and hidden under a standard steel body, with rear engine cooling coming via side window ducts. The dash display was doubled up with dials and clocks for each engine, making a rather complicated monitoring task. Even with the twin engines, gearboxes and steel body, the car weighed in at respectable 1001kgs.
In a late tweak to the car, the engines were increased to 150hp, giving 300hp total output.
The plans for the car were to eventually meet approval for Group B classification. However, as we now know the decision was made to scrap the Prototype Group S and Group B, so the car was never able to prove its self on the international rallying scene.
Piloted by José Maria Servia himself, plus Alex Brustenga and Antonio Rius, between them they won several victories in the Spanish Nationals as well as two second’s in 1986 and 1987.
The car then disappeared for decades until 2011, where it made an appearance at Goodwood Festival of Speed. It now sits in an automotive museum within a Seat display.
Check out an original video of the Ibiza in action …