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!
Group C was introduced for the 1982 season, but FISA decided it would be a transition year, and cars complying with the previous rules could compete and be eligible for the Driver’s title, but not the Manufacturer’s crown. The aforementioned Lancia LC1, sponsored by drinks company Martini, wasn’t restrained by Group C’s fuel limits and won three races that year, but the Porsche 956 and Belgian star Jacky Ickx won both championships.
Only Group C cars would be eligible for the ’83 season, so, with continued backing from Martini, Lancia set about building a new model to take on Porsche. Gian Paolo Dallara, who had worked on the racing version of the Stratos, the Group 5 championship-winning Beta Montecarlo and the LC1, was tasked with the project.
The LC2, of which only eight were built, featured a riveted and glued aluminum monocoque structure with pontoon sides and a sturdy roll-over hoop, cloaked in a body of carbon-fiber and fiberglass. A rather useful touch was a heated windshield. Suspension was double wishbone front and rear with coil-over shock absorbers. Brembo disc brakes were mounted outboard. Wheels were by Speedline; the fronts measured 10.5×15 inches, while the rears, at 16×19 inches, covered the maximum allowable width.
Air was ducted from the front intake, through the water radiator in the nose and channelled via ducts on either side of the cabin to the intercoolers, the gearbox oil radiator on the left and the engine oil radiator on the right. The rear wing helped draw the hot air out the back.
The LC2 tipped the scales at 810 kilos, just ten over the minimum weight. Thanks in part to its powerful Ferrari engine, the Lancia’s theoretical top speed was calculated to be 225 mph.
Speaking today from the Dallara factory in Varono Melegari, near Parma, Dr. Dallara, now 75, recalls the small scale of the LC2 project. “We did have people working for us but not like now, where there are a lot of specialists and their activities are divided in many departments,” he says. “It was a small design room with maybe three or four people involved. The car was basically mechanical, with some look at aerodynamics. CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics] was in the early stages, and it wasn’t enough to really understand the car. We tested the car in the wind tunnel at Fiat without moving ground, so we did not fully understand the aerodynamics of the car. It was still the time of trial and error. Now you can simulate everything before doing the car.”
On February 9, 1983, the striking new race car was unveiled to the press at Pessione, near Turin, but it wasn’t yet race-ready. Testing took place at Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit, where experienced tester Claudio Maglioli and 23-year-old racer Alessandro Nannini shook down chassis 001, the test mule. Chassis numbers 002, 003 and 004 were soon completed. The LC2s would be piloted by young Nannini, Grand Prix drivers Riccardo Patrese, Michele Alboreto, Teo Fabi and Piercarlo Ghinzani, and touring-car champion Hans Heyer, who habitually sported his trademark Tyrollean hat. “Always, Fiorio chose very good drivers for his cars,” notes Dallara.
THE MARTINI-LIVERIED LANCIAS would contest the seven rounds of the World Championship (Monza, Silverstone, the Nürburgring, Le Mans, Spa, Mount Fuji and Kyalami) as well as the European Championship, which comprised the five European rounds of the World Championship plus Brands Hatch, Imola and Mugello. Two cars were entered by the factory, while the third was run by Scuderia Mirabella Mille Miglia. Their main opposition would be a plethora of Porsche 956s piloted by top drivers, including Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Stefan Bellof, Stefan Johansson, Thierry Boutsen, Jan Lammers, Bob Wolleck and John Fitzpatrick.
The LC2’s first race was the Monza 1,000 kilometers in April 1983. Two works cars were entered, one for Patrese and Alboreto, the second for Ghinzani and Fabi. Straight out of the box the Lancias proved to be right on the pace, but, worryingly, both cars suffered tire failures over the weekend. Ghinzani had a tire burst in practice and another let go when he was leading the race, which led to his retirement. Patrese too had a tire burst and then suffered from fuel starvation, but at least made it to the checkered flag.
Porsche 956s filled the top seven places, followed by an old Lancia LC1 entered by Scuderia Sivama, and then Patrese in ninth, 22 laps behind the winner. There was clearly much work to be done, especially on the tire front.
“The car was supposed to race with Pirelli tires at the beginning,” explains Dallara. “But it was Pirelli’s first time with this kind of car, and they didn’t have time to test properly. We needed a tire, so we moved to Dunlop. Again there was no winter or springtime testing with the tires, so we had to adapt the suspension to a different tire. The problem was that the car wasn’t tested together with the tire.”
At the next round at Silverstone, the two Lancias qualified fourth and fifth, and Patrese set the fastest lap of the race. However, both cars retired with overheating engines; another double retirement followed at the Nürburgring. This lack of reliability did not fare well for Round 4, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There, three cars were entered and all three retired by one-third distance.
The Lancias next finished sixth, seventh and eleventh at Spa, but were well behind the front-running Porsches. At Brands Hatch, Patrese and Alboreto finished fourth, while the other two cars retired.
When the team arrived at Imola in October, they had made suspension modifications to better suit the tires. In qualifying, Nannini got pole and Fabi, who was second quickest, went on to win the race, partnered with Heyer. Nannini set fastest lap but finished fifth with gearbox gremlins. Patrese and Nannini then secured second places at Mugello and Kyalami, while the other LC2s suffered various problems.
The Lancia unquestionably had a great turn of speed, but tire, gearbox, differential, overheating, fuel and electrical problems meant that it was unreliable. Porsche won the manufacturer’s title with 100 points, with Lancia second on 32 and Aston Martin and Nissan equal third on 4 points. Only Lancia was taking the fight to Porsche, but as the old saying goes, to finish first, first you have to finish.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE LC2 continued over the ’83-84 winter. The Ferrari engine’s displacement was increased to 3 liters, raising output to more than 700 horsepower. The LC2’s chassis was stiffened, its gearbox was revised, the nose, rear wing and wheel arches were redesigned, and the gearbox and engine oil radiators were moved to the rear. Wider wheels and tires were fitted, along with lighter brakes.
New regulations increased the minimum weight by 50 kilos, so some of the car’s trick magnesium and titanium components were replaced with more mundane steel and aluminum items. There were all kinds of other rules changes for 1984, including the expansion of the World Championship to 11 rounds and the cancellation of the European championship, as well as a further 15-percent reduction in allowable fuel. Two more chassis, numbers 005 and 006, were produced, and Scuderia Jolly Club joined the LC2 lineup.
The ’84 season-opening race at Monza must have felt like deja vu for Lancia, because, as in the previous year, the team again suffered tire problems—this time with the rubber flying off the rims. Reverting to the previous setup, Mauro Baldi and Paolo Barilla finished third.
At Silverstone, the Lancias finished fourth, seventh and eleventh, with Porsche again dominant. Hopes were raised at Le Mans, when Bob Wolleck, sharing with Nannini, qualified chassis 005 on pole with Baldi second. In the race, the two Martini cars led 137 of the 359 laps, but then both encountered problems. Wolleck and Nannini set fastest lap and eventually finished eighth—behind seven Porsche 956s.
“In endurance racing you find the limits of the components,” explains Dallara. “The Porsche was slightly better. The Lancias had problems on the gearbox because the power was increased and it was not tested enough on the track. This was the major problem, really; the rest was refining of components. There was not at the time enough knowledge to understand better the car, not enough testing and not enough budget to test to propose different solutions.”
At the next race at the Nürburgring, Porsche 956s claimed nine of the top-ten places, the only exception being third for Nannini and Barilla. Lancia opted to sit out the next three rounds in Canada, Belgium and Japan, then returned for the last race of the year at Kyalami.
The Lancias arrived in South Africa bristling with newly developed parts, including thicker brake discs and brake-pressure sensors, a larger water radiator, new electronics and a new front spoiler. The LC2s qualified first and second, then trounced the Porsches in the race. Patrese and Nannini took the win, followed by Wolleck and Barilla.
After ending the season on a high note, Lancia had great hopes for 1985, further updating the engine (new cams, higher compression) and chassis (redesigned suspension, wider bodywork, relocated intercoolers) and even building a new car, chassis number 007. Alas, it was the same old story: The LC2s secured pole positions, set fastest laps and led races but poor reliability let them down.
Early in the season, Porsche driver Jacky Ickx noted, “Every race [the Lancias] become more and more competitive. Maybe they are very good, maybe as good as us. The only way to know it is to have a Lancia winning a race once without having any mechanical trouble.” Wolleck, Patrese and Baldi did win at Spa, but the result was overshadowed by the death of Stefan Bellof in his Porsche, which had led to the race being stopped.
The Lancias received more tweaks over the winter of 1985-86, including a new differential and fuel-injection system, revised bodywork and a 20-kilo reduction in weight. But while Andrea De Cesaris and Nannini took pole and finished second in the season-opening race at Monza, Lancia was losing heart. The Martini factory cars only raced once more, at Brands Hatch in July, then Lancia pulled the plug.
The cars were sold to privateer teams who struggled even more to make them reliable. The last LC2 created, chassis 008, was built as late as 1989, possibly from stockpiled spare parts, and was run by Gianni Mussato. It failed to qualify at Le Mans that year, and crashed out of the ’90 event. Lancia’s Group C program had run its course.
FOR THREE FULL SEASONS, the Lancia LC2, the only Italian Group C car ever made, was the lone machine capable of matching the speed of the all-conquering Porsches. The race results don’t really do this Lancia justice, and with a larger budget and more testing and development, it could well have been a different story.
There’s one other chapter to the LC2 story, one which brings us back full circle to Ferrari—and perhaps part of the reason why the company agreed to develop the Lancia engine in the first place. In 1984, Maranello unveiled the 288 GTO, an homologation special meant to be the basis of a new Group B race car. That never came to pass, beyond a few prototypes, but what was interesting to racing fans was the new Ferrari’s engine.
The 288 GTO’s 400-hp Tipo F114B was essentially a detuned 2,855cc version of the Lancia’s 286 unit, complete with a longitudinal layout, dry sump, twin turbochargers (now provided by IHI), BEHR intercoolers and Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injection. And while the LC2 has mostly been forgotten, the 288 GTO remains a storied model in the Maranello pantheon. It’s a fitting tribute to that long, fruitful and sometimes odd relationship between Lancia and Ferrari.
Thanks to Marco Belletti of Fiat, “Lancia Corse” authors Alfio Manganaro and Paolo Vinai, Joe Sackey, author of the upcoming “The Book of the Ferrari 288 GTO,” and Henrik Lindberg, owner of the red LC2 (chassis 008) seen in the detail photos, for their assistance.