The FIA’s Group B regulations introduced in 1982 led to the development of some of the most iconic and insane cars ever produced. The Lancia Delta S4, Peugeot 205 T16, Audi Quattro, Ford RS200 and the Porsche 959 were just some of the cars that took advantage of the more relaxed Group B regulations.
While many of the cars were designed for the crazy world of rallying, some of them were destined for the circuit, like Jaguar XJ220, Porsche 959 (also competed in the WRC) and the Ferrari 288 GTO. The GTO in the name stood for Gran Tursmo Omologato (‘omologato’ is the Italian for ‘homologated’) and had appeared on a Ferrari once before, the legendary 250 GTO.
Ferrari and Porsches approach to the Group B regulations were totally different. The 959 was a space age rocket ship that featured a high-tech four-wheel-drive system, while the 288 GTO was more simple in comparison. The 288 GTO featured none of the complicated systems of the Porsche and combined raw power in a lightweight body.
The 288 GTO was the first Ferrari race car that could be legally driven on the road since the 250 GTO. This was due to the fact that Group B regulations required manufacturers to build road legal versions of the car. While the car was designed around Group B, the 288 GTO never actually competed in the race series as it was cancelled before Ferrari could enter it.
Although the 288 GTO bore a similar appearance to the ‘entry level’ 308 GTB, the car was different in almost every way. Pininfarina’s design chief Leonardo Fioravanti remodelled the body, making it shorter, but with a 110mm longer wheelbase, and gave the GTO flared wheel arches to accommodate for the wider Goodyear tyres used. A completely new front splitter was fitted and four driving lights were installed at the front. Ferrari also fitted a kicked-up integrated spoiler that was reminiscent of the old 250 GTO and put three slanted air vents behind the rear wheel arches.
The 288 GTO’s aerodynamics were designed around the Group B regulations and as such had to be road legal. Ferrari managed to make the GTO stable up to its terminal velocity, even though the car has none of the sophisticated undertray aerodynamics of modern Ferraris
Ferrari also threw out the 308’s semi-monocoque design and replaced it with a separate body over a high-tensile tubular-steel chassis. To save weight Ferrari made most of the panels out of fibreglass except for the doors made of steel (Ferrari originally used fibreglass for many of the 308’s panels until quality problems resulted in them returning to a steel design).
F1 designer Harvey Postlethwaite convinced the design team to use a Kevlar fibreglass honeycomb composite for the bulkhead and front bonnet, which created the ultimate combination of strength and lightness. It was also used in conjunction with aluminium in some places like the engine compartment.
The GTO’s chassis was made up of a series of subframes, each formed to its purpose and attached to the central section around the cabin. The rear subframe contained all the rear suspension and drivetrain components, which could be dropped out from the car for quick maintenance.
Occupants of the GTO were protected by a full roll cage/hoop that was invisible to the eye and was contained within the roof and B-pillars. The light, yet strong GTO chassis could easily handle the large amounts of torque and power that the car produced on and off the track.
A longitudinally mounted 2,855cc twin IHI turbocharged V8 all alloy engine was used to power the GTO. This was installed behind the passenger cabin is where the 288 in the name comes from (2.8litres, eight cylinders). Essentially an underbored version of the 308’s 2927cc unit, the capacity of the GTO’s engine was chosen because once multiplied by the FIA’s 1.4 ‘equivalency factor’ for turbocharged cars, it just snuck in under the 4-litre engine size limit.
Ferrari’s reason for the longitudinally mounted engine in the GTO was to help accommodate the new turbos. The engine produced an impressive 400hp at 7,000rpm which was sent through a five-speed gearbox and a limited-slip differential. The enormous power and lightweight body meant that the GTO could go from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, almost two seconds faster than the 308. Top speed was just over 300km/h at 304kmh and the 650hp ‘Evoluzione’ race spec model could hit around 360km/h.
While Ferrari’s engines have always been special, the twin-turbo unit in the GTO was a real masterpiece, with its fuel injection, four overhead camshafts, 32 valves and those turbos. The engine was similar to the one developed for Lancia’s wild competition cars as Fiat owned both Lancia and Ferrari at the time.
The transmission and differential were both housed in magnesium and alloy cases. Additionally, the location of the transmission and differential was placed to give the GTO the best possible weight distribution.
Fully independent suspension employing unequal-length wishbones with coil springs over manually adjustable Koni shock absorbers was used on the GTO. The wishbones were high-tensile tubular steel and the strut assemblies were located differently at the front and rear of the car. Anti-roll bars at the front and rear of the car aided the GTO’s cornering stability.
A unassisted rack and pinion steering system was used and the car was fitted with special two-piece Speedline aluminum wheels carrying 225/50-16 tires at the front and 255/50-16 at the rear.
Ferrari removed all of the unnecessary interior features of the car, but kept the GTO both roomy and comfortable. Although two interior schemes were available, almost all GTOs were built with extremely supportive kevlar-framed black leather seats. The alternative featured bright orange inserts in the leather. The centerpiece was a three-spoke, leather-rimmed wheel and there was no storage or luggage space in the cockpit. A access panel to the engine was nestled between the seats.
Five 288 GTO Evoluzione models were built. These featured a more aggressive aerodynamic package and power increased to 650hp. With a weight of 940kg, the Evoluzione was seriously quick and was a clear link between the 288 GTO and the soon to be announced F40.
All five are still in existence with one on display at Ferrari’s engine manufacturing facility in Maranello.
288 GTO and Formula One drivers
Enzo Ferrari offered several GTOs to various F1 drivers including Michele Alboreto, Keke Rosberg and F1 legend Niki Lauda who was gifted the last of the 272 units produced.
Due to the lack of interest from other manufactures, the Group B race series was cancelled. Porsche went rallying with the 959, but Ferrari abandoned its GTO racing dreams altogether. While Ferrari didn’t have to produce 200 GTOs for homologation, the demand was so great for the car that they went ahead and built 272 GTOs anyway.
The 288 GTO is one of the greatest cars of all time and was named Sports Car International’s number two car on their list of the Top Sports Cars of the 1980s, just behind its rival the Porsche 959.
This is the complete history of the Ferrari 288 GTO and everything you need to know about the special car.
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