Thursday 20 August 2009

Ferrari 288 GTOs Gather At Monterey

Ferrari 288 GTO

Nasty. That’s the first word that springs to mind when I see mention of Ferrari’s 288 GTO. It was a car that grew out of the 300 “series” (the 308 of Magnum PI fame, the 328 & 348) and eventually lead to the wicked F40 …which begat the F50 … which lead to the current King of The Road, the Enzo. From these comparatively modest beginnings came a car that looked better than its original base, out-performed anything else the factory was making at the time and became highly collectable.

And a whole slew of them gather together at this year’s Monterey Historics.

To call a car a GTO is throwing down a mechanical gauntlet, especially if the company doing so is Ferrari. Saying that your car is the measure of one of the greatest sports racers of all time is a helluva thing to say. The 288 GTO was just such a boast, and although it never turned a wheel in anger (at least sanctioned by the factory), it WAS intended to race and win. Back in the mid-80s, there was growing manufacturer fascination with a group of race cars, rally cars actually, known collectively as Group B. It went from homologated specials like Renault R5 Turbos to things like Peugeot 205s and Lancia Delta S4s and pretty soon people like Porsche (with there 959) and Ferrari (with the 288 GTO) were interested.

But before all of this could get properly going, a bunch of spectators were killed at the Rally Portugal, and then Henri Toivonen turned his Delta S4 into a crumpled flaming ball in Tour de Corse and the FIA said “Basta!”, and that was that.

The 959 was modified to race (and win) in the Dakar, and the 288 GTO went on to be one hell of road car, although a handful to drive. This was back in the days before “mash-it-and-point-it” traction control, and from the friends I have that own 288s, these things are a real handful, especially in the wet. Although somewhat mitigated, there is, apparently, still turbo lag in there, and the car can go from 200+ horses to 500+ in the blink of an eye … say mid corner … at night … in the rain.


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