|Ferrari 308 GTB Group 4|
Established in 1969, Michelotto have grown from the Padova Ferrari dealership to a longtime partner of the Italian manufacturer, entrusted with the development and construction of Ferrari's GT and sports racing cars for nearly four decades. In doing so, the specialist company effectively filled the void left by Ferrari's withdrawal from sports car racing to focus completely on Formula 1 at the end of the 1973 season.
The first of the long line of Michelotto prepared Ferraris was the Group 4 rally version of the 308 GTB. This was not created on the behest of the factory but instead was commissioned by several Italian and French privateers. Among the initial customers was French importer Charles Pozzi, who needed a replacement for his ageing Daytona Competiziones and would go on to order no fewer than four Group 4 308 GTBs from Michelotto.
As base for the new rally car served the original, fibreglass bodied version of the 308 GTB, which had already been replaced by a heavier, steel bodied version by this time. This also explains why most of the 308 GTB Group 4s have relatively early chassis numbers. The steel tubular chassis was carried over pretty much unaltered but most body-panels were replaced with identical parts in composite materials like Kevlar. The wider wheel-arches were the only clearly visible changes to the Pininfarina-penned lines.
Michelotto also considerably modified the 308 GTB's all-alloy V8. It was fitted with lighter heads and high compression pistons. This raised the power to over 300 bhp from the 255 bhp available in the road car. The engine was also equipped with a revised dry-sump system and an enlarged oil tank. Optimised for quick acceleration, the Group 4 was also equipped with a close-ratio gearbox and a limited-slip ZF differential that could be adjusted depending on the type of rally stage.
Tipping the scales at just 1,050 kg, Michelotto's Ferrari 308 GTB Group 4 was launched in Padova on March 2nd, 1978. The first car was entrusted to Roberto Liviero to make its debut at the Targa Florio three weeks later. An engine failure brought a premature end to the first outing of the Ferrari rally racer. This would be the first of many retirements with a variety of issues for the Group 308 GTB that year. It was not until the Rallye de Monza in the spring of 1979 that the car scored its first victory, piloted that day by 'Lele' Pinto.
That long elusive win would be followed by many more outright wins. Particularly successful behind the wheel of the Pozzi-entered, and Pioneer liveried 308 GTBs was Jean-Claude Andruet, who scored back-to-back wins in the Targa Florio and the Tour de France in 1981 and 1982. After leading after the first five stages, Andruet also finished second overall during the 1982 Tour de Corse, which remains the only ever podium result for a Ferrari in the World Rally Championship.
Ahead of the 1983 season, the sport's governing body introduced the Group B category. Michelotto responded with a revised version of the 308 GTB, complete with four-valve cylinder heads but it struggled to the more advanced competition consisting largely of purpose-built racing cars. Only four of these Group B cars were constructed, in addition to the eleven Group 4 Ferrari 308 GTBs built between 1978 and 1982.
The strong results of the Michelotto developed and built 308 GTB Group 4 had not gone unnoticed and by the early 1980s, Ferrari tasked the small company to develop a more sophisticated machine. This was the 308 GT/M, which in a combined effort would ultimately lead to the 288 GTO Evoluzione and the F40 production. Significant in more ways than one, the 308 GTB Group 4 remains as the only successful modern Ferrari rally car and cemented the relationship between Ferrari and Michelotto that bears fruit to this day.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on May 15, 2013
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