British Lamborghini importer David Joliffe was a man with a dream. Apart from selling some of the most desired cars on the planet, he also wanted to race them on an international level. To this end he planned to take Lamborghini’s flagship Countach Quattrovalvole (QV) model into Group B sportscar racing for 1985. Joliffe was not familiar with Group B’s regulations, and found that the car did not meet the minimum 200 examples required for homologation.
This meant he had to find another way to race his beloved Italian sportscar. He noted the higher level prototype Group C category did not require homologation at all, so he focused his efforts towards developing a car to Group C rules. Joliffe then managed to acquire a 5.7L version of the QV’s 5 liter carbureted V12 engine.
Almost nothing about the QVX revealed its link to the famous Italian sportscar brand it was constructed for.
A team of Lamborghini engineers lead by former Alfa Romeo engine wizard Luigi Marmiroli then set out to turn the unit into a powerful racing engine. Marmiroli’s team succeeded employing techniques used in the company’s successful line of powerboat engines. The V12 now produced somewhere between 650 and 700 horsepower. The massive grunt was then channeled into a Hewland VG-C 5-speed manual transmission.
The QVX's howling 5.7L V12.
David Joliffe’s next order of business was to find a chassis to harbor the mad stomping V12 bull. He turned to British Group C team Spice Engineering, who were just starting up in the engineering world. Spice had assisted more experienced manufacturer Tiga in the development of their GC85 chassis, upon which they based the new Lamborghini powered machine. The aluminium monocoque was no exciting feat of engineering, but did the job perfectly. Like all Group C prototypes, the chassis incorporated venturi tunnels to induce the coveted ground effect. Fully finished the car weighed just 900 kg (1985 lbs).
The only design cues linking the car to its parent were the Countach inspired taillights.
Joliffe did not have the funds to start his own full race team, so British outfit CC Motorsports was chosen to run the car in the 1986 World Sportscar Championship. The fresh team struggled to find sponsors, only attracting support from Unipart, the country’s biggest manufacturer of automotive spare parts. CC Motorsports had contracted future Fifth Gear presenter Tiff Needell and former F1-driver Mauro Baldi (ITA) to drive the new car.
Mauro Baldi and Tiff Needell doing some much needed promotion.
Financial troubles had already started plaguing the team, now renamed Portman Lamborghini after the British importer. The lack of sufficient sponsorship meant almost no funds were available to actually run the car. It was only able to conduct a few minor tests and small races in 1985. The powerful QVX showed promise, but much needed extra sponsorship still failed to arrive.
Mauro Baldi testing at Monza, 1986.
The lack of funds continued into 1986, resulting in the car failing to show up for the first round of the World Sportscar Championship at Monza. At Silverstone the car also did not make an appearance. The third round was the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, a prime opportunity to steal the spotlight and attract more investors, but the car again never made it to the track.
After a further missed connection to the fourth round at Brands Hatch the car was finally pulled out of the garage for the non-championship Kyalami 500 KM in South Africa.There non of the big factory teams of Jaguar, Sauber and Lancia were present, which left the QVX with a better chance of a good finish. Instead it would have to face off against semi-works Porsche’s 956 and 962, a privately entered Rondeau M382B and ironically the works Tiga team.
Tiff Needell qualified the car in an admirable 7th position behind all the Porsche entries. He would hold on to this position in the first heat of the event, finishing without trouble. In the second heat two cars dropped out, allowing Needell to take a splendid 5th. The two results were combined and resulted in a 5th placing overall for the car, proving it could run with the big boys.
The rather successful race at Kyalami proved to be the car’s one and only outing in an international event. Portman Lamborghini entered the Countach QVX into the 1987 Silverstone 1000KM and the 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans, but again failed to reach the grid. The financial troubles that had thwarted the team from the very beginning had finally caught up with them. As a result the team folded before the start of the season.
An amazing soundcheck of the QVX by its current Japanese owner.
The Lamborghini Countach QVX was an ambitious private project that quickly got out of hand. A persistent lack of funds meant the powerful and promising machine never truly got the chance to prove itself. As the car employed a similar concept to the race winning Jaguar Group C cars, one can only imagine what it might have been capable of with a bigger wallet.