the days when ferrari went rallying

ferrari's sad history in rallying

3y ago


Its peculiar to think that one of Marelleno's finest once decided to change course and head into the world of rallying. Strange though this may be, considering rallying was full of astonishing machines such as the Peugeot 205 T16, Lancia 037 and Audi Quattro (all of which were purpose built rally cars which), Ferrari's approach was slightly different, instead of building purpose built cars they started off by modifying a series of 308 GTB models in oder for them to meet the neccessary regulations and then unleashed them into the world of rallying.

Ferrari 308 GTB (1982 - 1983)

The Group B 308 GTB was prepared by Michelotto, an independent firm that specialised in turning road-going Ferrari's into race cars. Michelotto of Padova benfiited from having Ferrari engineers assisting his team and ensuring that the cars were built to Ferrari's high standards. Three of the Group B 308’s were fitted with QV four-valve engines which produced 310bhp at 8000rpm, the first car used a 288bhp two-valve motor. Despite the slightly modified engines from Michelotto, the Group B variants came out some 30kg heavier because of their steel body panels. Just four of these wonderful machines were constructed by Michelotto over the winter of 1982/83 to participate in various European Group B rally events.

Sadly only a handful of these rare beauties were built for Group B competition and sadder still, the Ferrari 308 GTB group B was comparably un-competetive when raced against its homologation spec rivals, which were designed purely for Group B rallying. As such, the project was called off and the remaining Group B 308's were sent off and given to privateers who were to race them in non WRC rallies. The four Michelotto cars were raced by the Italian Rally team 'Pro Motor Sport'. One particular car was very successful in multiple major rallies, winning the Marca Trevigiani and Città de Bassano, whilst coming second in both the Targa Florio and Isola d’Elba. This shift to non Group B rallying and withdrawal from WRC marked the end of the rallying programme for now, but Ferrari didn't give up yet, they still had a plan...


Ferrari 288 GTO (1984)

After the lack of success for the 308 in WRC, Ferrari came up with a new beast aimed at taking down the likes of Audi, Peugeot and Lancia. The 288 GTO was built to compete in the Group B race series. Ferrari met all the necessary regulations and built over 200 road going vehicles, however the end of Group B rallying resulted in all 272 cars remaining as strictly road cars. The GTO was based on the mid-engined 308 GTB, however unlike the 308 the engine capacity was increased to 3997 cc, which was just under the Group B limit of 4.0 litres. (the 288 refers to its 2.8 litre V8 engine). Furthermore dissimilar to the 308, the engine was mounted longitudinally, using the 308’s rear boot space. This ensured that the power output increased to 400bhp which equated to 140bhp per litre. As such the 288 GTO reached 60mph in just 4 seconds and went on to a staggering 190mph.

Production of the 288 GTO started in mid 1984 and having produced the required 200 units, it was officially homologated in Group B on June 1st 1985. As such, the 288 GTO is not a prototype but a fully fledged Group B car. However, before the racing program had started, news of the cancellation of Group B was received - meaning that the 288 GTO would never compete. Ferrari did produce an extra 73 units (a number of which was used to build the first Evoluzione version) up until 1987 when it was officially replaced by the legendary F40.


Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione (1986)

After building the required 200 homologation units, Ferrari went on, with the help of long time partners Michelotto and Pininfarina, to start the production of the 2 “evolution” cars for competition. That year in 1987 a majority share hold of 90% had been acquired by the Fiat Group, which had no official rallying ambitions for Ferrari (as that duty was given to Lancia), yet they still intended that the 288 GTO Evoluzione would be run on predominantly tarmac events of the World Rally, European, and Italian Championships by privateer teams (as it did with the 308). The Evoluzione sported an modern lightweight body with advanced aerodynamics which resulted in a dry weight of only 940 kgs. The engine was also improved and the boost on the turbochargers was cranked up a notch, a combination which provided 650 HP and was fed using a new 4WD drivetrain.

However after the heroic Henri Toivonen and his co-driver joined the list of fatalities, the death of Group B was imminent which meant that the production of the racing cars ended with 6 prototypes (one of which was derived from the road going 288 and the 5 others from scratch). Despite the fact that the Evoluzione never turned a wheel in competition, the entire exercise was not futile for Ferrari as many of the 288 GTO Evoluzione’s features and prototypes were carried over to the iconic F40 and its development programme in 1987. Its commonly thought that all of the 288 Evoluzione's were distributed throughout private collections and all of them thankfully survived.


Nonetheless Its rather sad to think of what could have been for Ferrari in rallying, as their cars were either comparably uncompetitive or produced at the wrong time. The 308 GTB gave Ferrari the taste for rallying, whilst uncompetitive in Group B their Michelotto prepared cars continued to race across Europe in non-WRC series with reasonable success. In light of this, Ferrari decided to dedicate more resources to their rallying programme - with the 288 GTO being the stunning end result. Impressively they were able to simultaneously produce the 288 GTO Evoluzione along with third party companies. The end of Group B in May 1986 killed off both 288 iterations and resulted in an end of Ferrari's attempts to dominate rallying. Whilst the 288 evolution led way to both the F40 and F50 programmes it's nevertheless sad that these incredible machines were never able to go head to head with the titans of Group B such as the Audi Quattro and Peugeot T16. Hopefully one day Ferrari will go back to building such capable machines, however I don't think will happen any time soon due to the current regulations. Despite this it's important to remember what incredible lengths Ferrari went to in their rallying programmes and how close to success they came.

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