With its production meeting the necessary FIA requirements, the 288 GTO Evoluzione was created as an opportunity for Ferrari to break into the world of Group B and its soon-to-be founded circuit racing championship.
However, the 288 GTO Evoluzione would not see competition under Group B regulations. After the horrific accident at the 1986 Portuguese Rally involving Joaquim Santos in a Ford RS200 killing three spectators as well as Henri Toivonen at the Tour de Corse, the FIA moved swiftly to ban the Group B regulations halfway through 1986. This marked the end of the regulations in top-tier motorsport.
This all occurred before Ferrari were able to complete the homologation process for the 288 GTO, which required 200 road going examples before a car was eligible for Group B racing. Despite the series being banned, Ferrari pressed on with the 288 GTO, making 272 examples between 1984 and 1987, all of which were sold before production.
The 288 GTO debuted at the 1984 Geneva Motor Salon, and was a return to a limited series of cars which Ferrari had not produced since the 365 California of the 60’s. GT stood for Gran Turismo in the car’s name, while the O stood for ‘Omologato’, which means homologated in Italian, while the first 288 GTO Evoluzione bring produced in 1986.
The GTO name was also known as a throwback to the legendary 250 GTO, Ferrari’s iconic GT race car of the 60’s of which the 288 GTO was named as the spiritual successor, while the 288 GTO was only available in red.
Production of the 288 GTO Evoluzione was handed to Ferrari’s partner firm, Michelotto in Padova. While the chassis bore some resemblance to the original 288 GTO design by Paninfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti, it was a completely different machine in terms of engine power and performance.
Notable differences found in the Evoluzione were the car’s length and width compared to the original model, with the Evoluzione being 65 mm wider and 20 mm shorter. The whole body of the car itself was constructed using composite materials, which made the car three times stiffer and 40% lighter than that of the Ferrari 288 GTO.
Two Ferrari engines were used during the course of the Evoluzione’s development, with the Tipo F114 CK proving to be the most powerful engine at 650 bhp, capable of pushing the Evoluzione to 360 kph (223 mph) and to 100 kph (62 mph) in under three seconds. The car also featured a specially designed five-speed gearbox as well as a limited slip differential.
Evoluzione and the Ferrari F40
Had the Group B era continued beyond its sad demise in 1986, Ferrari had intended to produce 20 models of the Evoluzione a year. However, much like it’s rival from Germany in the guise of the Porsche 959, and the Group S prototypes from the likes of Lancia and Peugeot that never saw a circuit or rally stage, the Evoluzione went on to be used for something it was not originally intended for.
Most notably, the Evoluzione was critical in the development of Ferrari’s newest supercar, the F40. Actually, if you compare the two cars, you can see many advancements and compartments which were carried over from the Evoluzione to find a new home on the F40.
As Ferrari was left with six finished Evoluzione models (five production models, one prototype on a standard 288 GTO chassis.), it has often been reported that Ferrari used a prototype of the Evoluzione to test mechanical elements that found its way into the F40, itself coming into production and going against Porsche’s technologically advanced 959 in 1987.
Written by Cóilín Higgins. Join our email list if you’re interested in receiving the latest on our online magazine and store.