Group B Evolved: 288 GTO Evoluzione

The Ferrari 288 GTO has some fantastically special cars in its family tree. It was the first Ferrari to bear the GTO name since the legendary 250 GTO, and its crazy cousin, the 288 GTO Evoluzione, served as the prototype for the equally legendary F40. AND it was designed to compete in Group B, the holy grail of motorsport lunacy. Crikey. 

Unfortunately for the 288 GTO, Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto’s fatal crash in the 1986 Tour de Corse put an end to the 600 horsepower monsters. Group B was banned just as the GTO was about to step into the fray. Based on the 308 GTB to save money and construction time, the 288 was in reality a very different car. It was wider, lower, and packed with goodies like upgraded suspension, extra lights and a racing transmission mated to a 2.9 litre twin-turbo V8. It produced 400 horsepower, and was the first road-legal production car to hit 300 kph. 

Not content with their amazing creation, Ferrari set to work once more. They wanted something nastier, scarier, more evolved. The 288 was lightened to a featherweight 2072 lbs, and the boost was turned up so that the engine now produced 650 horsepower. Incredible lightness, power, and an aerodynamically revised body put the Evoluzione’s top speed at a terrifying 225 mph. 272 288 GTOs were produced, but just 5 Evoluziones were ever built. Miraculously none of them were crashed as a result of monstrous turbo-lag and all of them survive to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday September 28th 2016.

Group B Evolved: 288 GTO Evoluzione

Berlinette Bébé

“Our French friends had the idea to wrap two lying men with fiberglass and put them on wheels. The skin consisted solely of blue paint, and they were so light, the wind had already dented them.” So starts the @petrolicious video on the Alpine Renault A110 ‘Berlinette’, the very first World Rally Championship winning car. 

Alpine began as a standalone manufacturer and tuner of Renaults, with company founder Jean Rédélé successfully campaigning his Renault-based creations in races around Europe. As with AMG and Mercedes, the larger company took interest in Alpine’s success and bought the smaller out to provide Jean with more money to do his thing. The A110 was produced and updated between 1961 and 1976, and its rear-mounted engine never exceeded 1.8 l. It featured a steel chassis with a fiberglass body on top, and was licensed for production around the world. In Brazil it was sold by Willys (yes that Willys) as the Interlagos, and was built in Bulgaria under the very sexy name ‘Bulgaralpine’. 

Through the early 1970’s the Berlinette was an extremely successful rally car, but by 1974 the Lancia Stratos (the first car designed from the ground up for rally racing) had joined the fray and the Berlinette, along with many of its pre-1974 peers, was in decline. Engine and suspension updates failed to produce any meaningful increases in performance or points, and the A110 was retired from active racing duty. Its elegant styling make it a crowd favourite at historic rallies around the world to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday July 27th 2016.

Berlinette Bébé

King of Imprezas: 22B

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Often referred to as the holy grail of Imprezas, the 22B is a very special car. Created to celebrate both Subaru’s 40th anniversary and their 3rd consecutive WRC Championship, it’s a rare beast. Just 400 were built for the Japanese market and all were sold within (at conservative estimates) 24 hours. Another 24 were built for export markets (Europe and Australia, sorry America) and were so valuable that rally legend Colin McRae had to pay for his even after bringing Subaru their third consecutive WRC title.

The 22B was the closest that mere mortals could come to driving the unstoppable cars that McRae and Richard Burns piloted to WRC glory. 22Bs came with engines enlarged to 2.2 litres, widened (and now likely irreplaceable) body kits, a massive adjustable wing, Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs. Under the skin a whole host of rally magic was at work to make the 22B rocket ship on 4 wheels whatever the road surface. Subaru rated the cars at 276 horsepower, but there was speculation that this was a little modest. Japanese manufacturers at the time had a voluntary agreement not to produce cars in excess of 280 horsepower. The 2.2 litre turbocharged four in the 22B actually made around 300.

When I asked a friend of mine who really knows his Subarus how much a 22B would cost today, he laughed and stated simply: ‘You can’t find them’. You’ll likely never see a 22B grace the pages of Autotrader, as the ones that do come up for sale easily command auction prices. Costing three times as much as the next Impreza down the food chain when it was released, Subaru knew what they were on to. Boxer Prince Naseem Hamed’s 2500 mile example recently went to auction and brought £73,000, or about $108,000. Finding a 22B is one thing, affording one is another altogether.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram Wednesday June 8th 2016.

King of Imprezas: 22B

Rally Legend: Lancia Stratos

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The Lancia Stratos is one of the most legendary rally cars of all time. It was devised re-invigorate Lancia’s ailing motorsport efforts, and was the first rally car that was designed as a competition vehicle from the ground up. The Stratos was a purebred rally car, and was by all accounts an awful road car. It had brutal performance, zero rear visibility, and a very uncomfortable cabin thanks to its tiny size. Homologation rules dictated that 400 road cars had to be built, but Lancia wanted to go rallying sooner than that could be achieved. When officials turned up at the factory to inspect the 400 cars, they were initially shown 200. Then, they went for lunch and returned to inspect the other 200. These were the same cars that they had inspected before lunch, which had been parked in a different place and order.

The Stratos was a tiny car, weighing around 2000 lbs. The engine chosen to power it was a Ferrari V6 sourced from the Dino. Enzo Ferrari was wary of releasing the engines for Lancia’s use, but the brutality of the Stratos convinced him that the road-going versions would be no competition at all to his luxurious GT cars. Road-going versions had 190 horsepower, while in competition trim they had 275-320. Two closed-circuit racing versions were also built and turbocharged up to 560 terrifying horsepower.

If the Stratos had an Achilles heel, it was transmission failure during competition. In spite of this issue, Sandro Munari and Bjorn Waldegard piloted the Stratos to victory in the 1974, ‘75, and ‘76 WRC seasons. In total the Stratos won 18 WRC rallies, and was the last car to win an event using rear wheel drive. Despite the competition brilliance, dealers found it difficult to shift road-going models due to their scary performance and terrible ergonomics. Underappreciated in their time, the road cars now sell for upwards of $500,000.

Published @Whippstagram on Instagram, March 16th 2016.

Rally Legend: Lancia Stratos

King of Group B: Audi Ur-Quattro

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The Quattro’s debut in 1980 took the world of rallying by storm. Making use of recently changed rules which allowed all wheel drive in competition the cars were nigh-on unbeatable. Michėle Mouton became the first female driver to win a world rally in 1981 doing so behind the wheel of a Quattro, and also won the 1985 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in one.

The Quattro’s final incarnation, the S1, was produced to compete in the FIA’s infamous Group B. The rules allowed almost anything manufacturers could dream up in terms of technology and boost pressure. As a result the Quattro S1 E2 sported carbon-kevlar bodywork and its 2.1 litre engine was rated at 470 bhp. In reality it had well over 500 thanks to a turbo system that recirculated oxygen to keep the turbo spinning at high RPMs at all times. The system eliminated turbo-lag at any engine speed and provided fantastic power.

The golden age of rallying couldn’t last forever. Incredibly light and powerful cars combined with poor crowd control at rally events led to a series of accidents, and in 1986 the FIA was forced to bring an end to Group B. By this point the Quattros had somewhere in the region of 590 bhp. As a result, 0-60 mph took only 3.1 seconds.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Febuary 1st 2016

King of Group B: Audi Ur-Quattro