1976 Ferrari 308 GTB Group 4 Michelotto Berlinetta
Ferrari’s competition successes have included forays in many more types of motorsport than the average tifoso suspects, as exemplified by the factory commissioned Michelotto 308GTB Group 4 racers. These works authorised rally Ferraris followed in the tracks of the 250GTs, 275GTBs and Daytona Group 4s seen at the Tour de France and other rallies throughout Europe in the fifties and sixties; infact a 275GTB even entered the Monte Carlo rally.
It came as something of a surprise that such a programme would be implemented in the Fiat era of Ferrari when the tendency was to concentrate quasi exclusively on Formula One, but nevertheless the Padova based firm of Giuliano Michelotto - vastly experienced in race preparation and tuning - turned out eleven Group 4 racing specification 308GTBs between 1977 and 1984. All of them were born out of used road car shells. Of these it should be noted that ‘08380’, the earliest chassis number in the series, was built from a 308GT4. ‘Our’ car, chassis ‘19051’, started life as an early production 308GTB with the desirable vetroresina (fibreglass) body.
Michelotto is the closest Ferrari has ever had to their own racing preparation subcontractor, a close and long lasting relationship which has included construction of the now highly sought after F40LM and maintenance and development of the open 333SP racer.
Michelotto’s preparation of these 308GTBs included direct mechanical injection by Kugelfischer, water cooling boosted by forced induction (holding no less than 15 litres of coolant), double circuit hydraulic brakes by Lockheed with 305mm ventilated discs and four piston calipers, rear wheel handbrake as favoured by rallymen and rack and pinion steering.
The engine, rebaptized type ‘F106 A21’, featured dry sump lubrication with an 8 litre oil tank, light alloy heads and crankcase and a compression ratio of 10:5:1, and delivered 305hp at 8,000 rpm. The limited slip differential was set at 80% and a roll cage was fitted. A rigorous slimming programme resulted in a weight of only 940kg, which combined with the extensive modifications above to give the Michelotto prepared 308GTBs prodigious performance.
‘19051’s first public appearance in its new Group 4 guise was on 2nd March 1978, serving as a works test car for drivers Pinto and Penariol. It first saw action at the following year’s Monaco-Vienna-Budapest rally in which it retired, driven by Pescarin and Alessandrini. Its golden era, was about to begin.
The 1980 Italian rally season was highlighted by the Rally Piancavallo, won outright by ‘19051’ driven by Nico-Barban. Later that year, still in the hands of Nico and Barban, it took 2nd overall in the Rally di Monza.
For 1981 it traveled abroad to Spain, taking 2nd overall in the Costa Brava rally round of the European championship, this time driven by taciturn French rally veteran Jean-Claude Andruet, who boasted an impeccable track record with Ferrari: winner of three classes at Le Mans in a Group 4 Daytona, driver in ’74 of the last Ferrari prototype at Le Mans for 20 years, and a class winner there with the Pozzi entered BBLM...
Small wonder therefore that when Andruet was announced as a driver for one of the Michelotto 308s, many Ferraristi with an eye for more than Formula One started following this very serious effort with great curiosity. They were not disappointed, for overall victory came in ‘19051’s next race, no less than the Targa Florio rally on 13th March, 1981, although no longer a world championship event surely as evocative as any. Andruet and co- driver Tilber had written a fine page of Ferrari history, and the waves and shouts of Sicilian tifosi harked back to the days of local hero Nino Vaccarella 15 years earlier.
This growing rally success was generating quite a bit of coverage in Autosprint, la Gazzetta dello Sport and foreign racing magazines who had become unaccustomed to any sort of Ferrari participation outside of Formula One, let alone Ferrari victories. The ‘winningest’ of all in this series would be ‘19051’ and, yes, it had barely begun.
In May of that year our car came 2nd overall in the Quattro Regioni rally in the hands of Pregliasco-Mannini before winning the Rally Gran Sasso overall that October driven by Venturato-Fiabon.
March 1982 saw ‘19051’ back in Sicily for that year’s Targa Florio rally, now driven by 27 year old Tonino Tognana. Again the Michelotto prepared 308GTB came home first overall, repeating this performance on July 1st in the Rally del Ciocco. Three weeks later the same team brought ‘19051’ home 2nd overall in the Colline di Romagna rally in hills not far from Modena. After the August holidays their victorious ways were resumed on 2nd September in the Piancavallo rally. The car’s last feat of 1982 was not a victory but even more significant.
‘19051’, Tognana and de Antoni stunned observers when they led the first day of the San Remo Rally which was none other than Italy’s World Rally Championship round, and despite the might of the factory teams fielding the best drivers in the world with dedicated state of the art rally cars, the Ferrari was first overall at the end of the first day, in front of rally stars such as Walter Rohrl, Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomquist! ‘19051’ and its crew ended the season as winners of the Italian International Rally Championship.
After a year resting on its laurels the Ferrari returned to competition in 1984 at the Rally delle Palme on 16th March where it came second overall with Martinelli-Gorla before a final overall victory in its last competitive event: the Rally Spiga on 30th June with Mirri-Rancati.
Chassis ‘19051’ was then retired from competition with no less than seven victories, six second places and one championship to its credit, and is very much likely to remain the only Ferrari ever to lead a world championship rally. Since its retirement the car has lived a peaceful existence, for many years owned by famed collector Massimo Ferragamo (of the eponymous fashion house) and, for the past decade, in the hands of its most successful original driver, Antonio ‘Tonino’ Tognana. Both car and driver have been frequently invited to historic events, including the Ferrari 60th anniversary celebrations at Maranello, and regular maintenance by original builder Michelotto and their associated workshop Autofficina Omega (Corrado Patella) ensures that the car is always ‘on the button’, ready to be demonstrated or, should a new owner desire, raced as its maker intended.
Chassis ‘19051’ is one of the last bespoke customer racing Ferraris, welcomed in the Ferrari Historic Challenge, elegible for the Tour Auto, Tour de Espana and a great number of other historic events. Of the eleven such cars built and ten remaining, only six survivors have racing history, and ‘19051’ is the most successful of these. To suggest that the opportunity to own such a Ferrari will not likely arise in the forseeable future is probably not an overstatement.