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Cars
24/05/2018

When Ferrari made a rally car

The Ferrari 308 GTB rally car actually made the WRC podium

Since 1973, Ferrari has concentrated its Scuderia motorsport programme solely on Formula One. Many race wins and title championships have followed, and for 2018, Sebastian Vettel is once again in the title hunt. But did you know there was once a Ferrari racer that swapped the circuit for the mud and gravel of the rally special stage? The car was a 308 GTB and, although it wasn’t an in-house Ferrari project, it was developed with Maranello’s blessing. Introduced in 1975, the 308 GTB was the second mid-engined Ferrari to use a V8. Famed racing specialists Michelotto, who prepared road-going Ferraris for the track, felt the car would be perfect for Group 4 rallying. Ferrari helped the Padova dealer develop the car, supplying bare chassis that the technicians developed into genuine rally cars.

 Jean-Claude Andruet and 'Biche' on the 1981 Tour de Corse

Even to the untrained eye, their intent is clear, thanks to suspension that gained greater ground clearance and travel, plus a full set of high-intensity rally lights. The cars look superb. The Group 4 rally Ferrari 308 GTBs first ran in 1978 and, after some initial shakedown tests including a drive by Roberto Liviero on the 1978 Targa Florio, proved highly competitive in the European, Italian and French rally championships. It was famed driver Raffaele ‘Lele’ Pinto and co-driver Claudio Penariol who gave the 308 GTB Gr4 rally car its first victory a year later, at the Monza Rally. The car’s best days were still to come, though. In 1981, 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Jean- Claude Andruet (he drove a 365 GTB/4) triumphed in the famed Tour de France Automobile event, in a car ran by Paris Ferrari dealer Charles Pozzi.

 The Ferrari 308 GTB Gr4 had a raised ride height: perfect for mud, gravel... and snow

He had a female co-driver, Chantal Bouchetal – and a partnership with another female, Michéle Espinosi-Petit (also known as ‘Biche’), saw Andruet win the 1982 Tour de France too (in the famous ‘Pioneer’ branded car). A 308 GTB Gr4 driven by Tonino Tognana and Massimo De Antoni won the 1982 Italian Rally Championship, with a triumph in the Targa Florio along the way (Andruet and ‘Biche’ came second). The car’s crowning glory, however, came in the 1982 Tour de Corse, an official World Rally Championship (WRC) round. Andruet drove to second place in Corsica, giving Ferrari its first and only podium in the top-line WRC. Even in 1983, the 308 GTB Gr4 was still winning, although by then Michelotto had another project in development – a Group B version of the well-loved rally car, with plans to take things further into the radical turbocharged 308 GT/M.

 The rally Ferrari 308 GTB's finest moment came on the 26th Tour de Corse in 1982

Sadly, the banning of Group B cars on safety grounds in 1986 brought an end to the project, although the work wasn’t wasted – a lot of the engineering was transferred into the GTO and, then, the Ferrari F40. A total of 11 308 GTB Gp4 cars were built by Michelotto, with an additional car assembled in Great Britain for events in the UK. Four Group B cars were also built, one with a two-valve engine and three running a more powerful Quattrovalvole V8. And today? All are highly sought-after as mementos of Ferrari’s bold, successful foray into the mud-splattered world of top-level rallying.