Power Play

When Lancia decided to go Group C racing, it turned to Ferrari for a brand-new, turbocharged engine.

January 20, 2012
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Over the years, Ferrari has enjoyed as much success with sports cars and prototypes as it has in Formula 1. From the company’s earliest days in the 1940s, closed-wheel cars helped blaze Maranello’s path across the motorsport world, with machines like the 166 MM Barchetta, 250 Testa Rossa, 250 GTO, 275P and 330P, and 312 PB scoring numerous wins.

By the mid-1970s, the factory had decided that, while it would still build such cars, it would not race them. Thus, later models like the 512 BB/LM and 333 SP were campaigned exclusively by privateers. But in the early 1980s, Ferrari did get involved with one more factory racing effort—this time, on behalf of Lancia.

Ferrari and Lancia shared an unusual history as both competitors and allies. When Lancia retired from racing in 1955, it famously gifted its V8-powered Grand Prix cars to Ferrari; the following year, Juan Manuel Fangio won the World Championship in one. In the early 1970s, with both companies now owned by Fiat, Lancia utilized the Ferrari-designed 2.4-liter Dino V6 engine in the Stratos; the rally version went on to win World Championships in 1974, ’75 and ’76. In the mid-1980s, Lancia stuffed a reworked 3-liter V8 from a Ferrari 308 QV into its four-door sedan, creating the Thema 8.32. And then there was the sports-racer shown here: the Lancia LC2.

Introduced in 1983, the LC2 combined a Dallara-built chassis with a turbocharged Ferrari V8 engine. Although Lancia had built its own turbocharged 1,425cc four-cylinder for its LC1 sports-racer in ’82, team boss Cesare Fiorio and project engineer Gianni Tonti turned to corporate stablemate Ferrari to create a new powerplant for the LC2.

At first glance, this may not seem like an obvious choice. Ferrari had never turbocharged a road car, let alone a prototype, while Lancia had the in-house expertise to do just that. What Maranello did have was plenty of experience turbocharging engines for Formula 1. Looking at the spec sheet, it seems clear the LC2’s powerplant was inspired by Ferrari’s 126C family of F1 cars; both engines share longitudinal mounting, twin KKK turbochargers, BEHR intercoolers and Weber-Marelli electronics.

Designated the Tipo 268, the LC2’s engine was a 2,599cc 90° DOHC V8, with four valves and one spark plug per cylinder. It featured an aluminum block with Nikasil liners, steel crank, titanium rods, Mahle alloy pistons, aluminum heads and dry-sump lubrication. The turbochargers, one on each side of the motor, contributed to an output of 520-650 bhp, depending on boost. Engine management, ignition and indirect electronic fuel injection systems came from Magneti Marelli and Weber. The gearbox, with its Hewland internals, was mounted on the back of the engine, while a Borg and Beck clutch transferred the power to the wheels.

While it has been widely reported that the Lancia engine was a development of the Ferrari 308 powerplant, it was in fact built from scratch. However, Maranello likely had a plan for the design beyond the LC2; we’ll examine that later. First, it’s time to look at the birth of Group C.

IN 1982, THE FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE SPORT AUTOMOBILE (FISA), under the leadership of French hard-liner Jean-Marie Balestre, shook up the existing rules of World Championship sports-car racing and introduced a new top formula called Group C. This was to be an endurance-racing championship consisting of a series of 1,000-kilometers-or-six-hours races, plus the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The new regulations imposed strict fuel limits, and it was hoped these would stem the sport’s relentless increases in speed and show the world that motor racing was acting responsibly in the wake of two oil crises.

The Group C cars would be of closed-cockpit design, with two opening doors, a maximum length of 4.8 meters (189 inches), a maximum width of 2.0 meters (79 inches), a height between 1.0 and 1.1 meters (39 to 43 inches) and a minimum weight of 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds). Ground-effect underbodies were allowed, but side skirts were not.

There was no restriction on engine size or configuration, and engines could be either normally aspirated or turbo-charged, but they did have to come from a mainstream, homologated manufacturer. The fuel system could hold no more than 100 liters, and the rules further stipulated a total allowance of 600 liters per 1,000-km. race and a maximum of five fuel pit stops. FISA reasoned that if it limited the amount of fuel that could be consumed during a race, that would be sufficient to regulate power output, as well as increasing fuel efficiency by nearly 20 percent—albeit only to around 4.7 mpg!

Also from Issue 116

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  • 458 shoot-out: Challenge vs GT
  • A 330 GT 2+2 fit for a Prince
  • Saving an F40 from the ravages of time
  • The 2011 Formula 1 season finally ends
  • V12 Ferraris starting at $25,000!
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