Following the mid-70’s oil crisis, the World Championship for Makes was in a stalemate situation, their top category, namely the Group 6 class, being unable to attract substantial factory involvement. This meant that the championship did not have a truly marketable category to use as the ”star of the show”. This led to the appearance of the fourth iteration of the Group 5 which was, beginning with 1976, used to cover the “Super Silhouette / Special Production Cars”. These were special GT’s that were loosely based on road-going versions, the shared components including the chassis frame, the hood, roof, doors and rail panel. Other than that, teams were left with a lot of room to play with in designing the cars which featured extreme widebodies with boxy arches since the rule book also made it mandatory for the width of the car to be the same to that of the road car.
Porsche was the first to jump at the opportunity of building a Group 5 car, the Weissach engineers piecing together an all-new car based on the 911 Carerra RSR. It was to be called the 935 and, for years, it was the benchmark for all the other Group 5 cars. Only in 1979 did someone bring Porsche’s reign to an end, that someone being Lancia with their ludicrous Beta-Montecarlo. Despite running with a smaller capacity engine than the 935s, the Lancia won the overall World Title in 1980 and 1981.
Notwithstanding the success of their fellow Italians, Ferrari was never really interested in Group 5 – quite the same way that they weren’t interested in Group 6 almost a decade prior. The first attempt at building a Group 5-esque Ferrari was made in 1978 when NART and Ch. Pozzi came at Le Mans with a modified 512BB/LM to run in the IMSA category. It had potential so the factory developed a completely redesigned body for the 512BB which debuted in 1979. It always ran in the IMSA category of the World Championship for Makes but was essentially built to Group 5 rules and also ran in the super-competitive IMSA GTX class which also welcomed different widebody interpretations of American cars.
Towards the end of the Group 5 era, namely in 1981, a private effort was launched to put together the quickest silhouette-formula Ferrari ever. It was to be based not on the outdated 512BB, but on the new 308. The men behind it? Martino Finotto, winner of the 1979 European Touring Car Championship, and Carlo Facetti, ex-works Alfa driver and a skilled engineer in his own right who ran the Jolly Club racing outfit. Finotto was the man with the money and Facetti was doing most of the driving.
They were given, thanks to Finotto’s links with Italian motorsport big shots, a Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo for him to campaign that year which he did with some success, adding to Lancia’s points tally. Seeing how things go about in Group 5 racing, the two set out to beat Lancia and Porsche with a design of their own using a Ferrari as the base. It was a bold idea since the factory offered little to no help in the process.
The 1981 model which they built was an evolution of an earlier design which they ran in 1980, as a side project to running the Lancia. They decided to improve on the technical bits mostly as the aero remained similar to what they came up with in 1980. Finotto designed a new cylinder head, threw in the mix a couple of turbochargers and got a helping hand from Giorgio Stirano of Alba Engineering (well-known in C2 competition) who designed the lighter front and rear subframes.
The car produced a mere 700-hp and with the shortest gear ratios, the top speed nearing 290 km/h. But given full boost pressure, the engine had 840 ponies and, with long gears and enough road, the 308 GTB Turbo which was baptized “Carma” (CARlo Facetti / MArtino Finotto) could reach over 400 km/h.
La Ferrari del ritorno - titled the italian Autosprint magazine upon seeing the 308 at Daytona
The potential was there from the get-go, as the one-off car with chassis number #18935 posted the 6th best time in qualifying at Daytona. Facetti followed up on his storming drive in qualifying with some thunderous laps early on as the Ferrari got up to 2nd overall and set the quickest race lap. It all ended just minutes later after five laps completed. The car was retired with a cracked weld on the inlet manifold and faulty electrics. Luckly for Jolly Club, Finotto decided to bring the Beta Montecarlo which soldiered on for a little while longer.
After Daytona, the Ferrari returned to Italy where it raced at both Mugello and Monza, both races yielding retirements. At Mugello it was taken out while running 6th while at Monza Facetti put the car on pole with a top speed of just about 200 mph. It was in vain as the fuel pump gave up while the car was circulating on the warm-up lap.
After these Italian ventures, the 308 GTB Turbo showed up at Silverstone for the 6-hour race. Sadly, it was incredibly wet that year so it was damn-near impossible for Facetti to get the car to point in the right direction as it was a handful to drive. Luckly, he didn’t have to fight for long as the gearbox let go quite quickly.
For reasons that are beyond me, Finotto decided it would be a good idea to bring the Ferrari to the Eifel mountains for the 1000 kms of the Nordschleife. If the car was an animal to drive on the Monza autodrome, you could only imagine how much Facetti had to work on the Green Hell. Indeed, even for Carlo it was too much as he crashed the car in practice after setting the 28th best time, a 8:44:940.
With the car fixed again, Finotto took the start in a minor race at Valellunga counting for the Italian Group 5 championship which he duly won. It was a vague ray of sunlight for the two men who retired at the 6-hours of Enna Pergusa just a month later due to a fire. The fact that the 308 was again the quickest in qualifying was not much of a consolation.
With dwindling spirits, team Jolly Club next travelled to Salzburgring in Austria for a race in the Deutsche Rennwagen Meisterschaft (DRM). They qualified 4th and finished 7 laps behind the winner.
Sick with the car’s inexistent reliability, Finotto decided that the last straw would be the Kyalami 6h race. They again showed promise in qualifying by setting the 2nd best time but this time the engine blew up. Facetti and Finotto just about had enough and decided to ditch their courageous project of running a “Porsche-beating” Ferrari in Group 5.
They regrouped and bought firstly an Osella and then an Alba with which they went on to dominate the C2 (C Junior) category in 1983. Still, the 308 GTB is arguably the most interesting car in Jolly Club’s stable and it is sad that the whereabouts of chassis #18935 are unknown nowadays since it was put up for auction in the late ‘90s.