International Innovation

Built in Britain from a mix of Italian and homegrown components, this unusual right-hand-drive Group B Ferrari boasts carbon-fiber bodywork and an F3000 engine.

Photo: International Innovation 1
December 1, 2022

Like many keen rally drivers of the 1970s, Tony Worswick began his career behind the wheel of a venerable Ford Escort. For competing in local events and learning how to run a team and prepare a car, the Escort was perfect.

By the early ’80s, however, the old rulebook was being ripped up in favor of a revolutionary new set of regulations that ushered in the fabled high-performance era of Group B. And before Audi came on the scene with its all-conquering, all-wheel-drive Quattro, there was a brief period ruled by rear-drive cars: the Lancia 037, BMW M1, Renault 5 Turbo, Porsche 911—and the Ferrari 308 GTB.

With his old Escort about to become obsolete and Group B looming, Worswick wondered what car he could step up to. This question was answered when a friend’s 308 came into his workshop for some repairs. Looking at its mid-engine configuration, Worswick realized it could form the basis of a great rally car; after all, wasn’t Jean-Claude Andruet doing well on the European rally scene with an earlier Group 4-spec 308? So when, in 1981, he found an accident-damaged Ferrari for sale, Worswick took a leap of faith and bought it.

Ferrari had been supporting 308 rally cars since the late 1970s, when Italian racing company Michelotto built 11 Group 4 examples. By 1981, Michelotto was in the process of preparing for Group B. Since there was no way anyone without close connections to Maranello could get their hands on Michelotto’s FIA-homologated parts, Worswick went to see Colonel Ronnie Hoare,

the legendary head of UK Ferrari importer Maranello Concessionaires, to ask for assistance. Hoare, in turn, put the project under the stewardship of parts manager Steve Lay, who Worswick credits for much of his future success with the car.

Photo: International Innovation 2

“If it was available, Steve could find it,” remembers Worswick. “If he couldn’t, it meant it didn’t exist and we weren’t going to get it. Steve managed to source invaluable parts like Michelotto’s close-ratio dog gearbox, as well as the longer rear wishbones and longer halfshafts.”

Although Worswick built his 308 in the north of England in parallel with Michelotto in the north of Italy, using the same homologation book, many Michelotto components, and starting with a bare chassis, his Ferrari wasn’t quite the same specification as the Italian-made cars. For example, while Michelotto’s main roll hoop was mounted to the parcel shelf, Worswick didn’t think that was strong enough.

“The roof is already quite low and I didn’t really want it to go any lower in the event of an accident,” he says. “We thought it would be fairly useful if the cage went all the way down to the chassis rails. It’s slightly heavier but much stronger.”

The Ferrari’s chassis received a number of reinforcements to prepare it for rallying, then Worswick turned his attention to the suspension. He lightened and reinforced the stock wishbones, then developed his own solid suspension bushings and quicker steering rack. Those last two items quickly became popular with enthusiasts running Ferrari track cars, and Worswick has sold hundreds of bushings over the years.

Michelotto supplied Bilstein shock absorbers with dual-rate springs. Worswick later modified the front shocks for a higher bump setting and fitted stiffer, linear-rate springs, which helped keep the front end off the ground. But increasing the rear rebound was only partially successful in preventing the back end from kicking up on jumps.

Photo: International Innovation 3

Four-pot AP Racing calipers clamp large floating brake discs, which Worswick thinks is the same hardware used on the 512 BB/LM. Worswick machined the disc hats and built the custom aluminum pedal box, which features a balance adjuster between the front and rear brake master cylinders.

The 308’s standard steel and aluminum body panels were replaced with lightweight fiberglass versions. Composite panels were fitted underneath to protect the dry sump, undercarriage, and front end.

Homologation rules restricted engine modifications, but Worswick did experiment with the V8’s cams. “We made several sets of cams, gradually wilder,” he says. “The initial ones were Lotus Twin Cam profiles; each bank is a similar capacity and we were familiar with them.” He also initially used Michelotto’s close-ratio synchromesh gearbox, but later replaced it with the aforementioned Michelotto-built dog ring ’box.

THE FERRARI WAS READY for local UK rallies in 1983. Far from being overly careful with such an exotic car, Worswick was interested in good results, so he pushed the 308 hard—sometimes to within an inch of its life.

On one of its early rallies in Ireland, Worswick hit an awkward crest at 135 mph, pitching the car high into the air. It wasn’t a happy landing; he spun between stone walls but fortunately missed a nearby telephone pole. The photo of the car in-flight, moments before impact, found its way into Steve Lay’s office. When Worswick called to ask if it was normal for 308s to have issues with cracking rear suspension brackets, Lay replied, “Most of our customers treat our Ferraris as motor carriages not light aircraft!” Nonetheless, Lay later provided forged lower rear suspension mounts originally used on the Daytonas that ran at Le Mans.

Photo: International Innovation 4

Damaged body panels were also a regular occurrence. So when a local company named Carr Reinforcements asked if Worswick would like some fenders made from an exciting new material called carbon-Kevlar, which was reportedly stronger than steel and lighter than fiberglass, he jumped at the opportunity.

“We were into new stuff like that, so we said yes, and made our panels from their rolls,” Worswick recalls. “This is going back to the early ’80s, so we must have been one of the first adopters of such things. We got the car down to 890 kilograms [1,962 pounds], which was the Group B homologation limit.

“We built a second car for the JCT600 Ferrari dealership in Yorkshire, and while it was in there a Ferrari SpA representative saw the material and asked where it came from,” he continues. “I told them, but then when I rang up Carr Reinforcements to get some more, they said that they haven’t got any because someone bought the whole lot. I asked, ‘Who’s that?’ and they said, ‘Ferrari!’ Looking closely, it’s a very similar match to the weave on the F40.”

Back in the day, as Worswick likes to call it, the financial structure of sizable rally events was pretty much the inverse of what it is today—organizers actually paid crowd-drawing teams to compete. A gregarious Englishman manhandling a bright yellow Ferrari around the stages was always going to be high up the list, so Worswick enjoyed being a professional Ferrari driver for a few years, taking the 308 to Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal, as well as many British events. The absolute highlight of this time, apart from picking up his kids in the Ferrari when they were born, was the 1984 Rali Vino de Madeira.

“It’s the only place I’ve ever been where the stage smells different from one section to the other,” Worswick says. “You’d go over a mountain pass, then it would be different through a flower area, and then you’d be down by the sea. And the crowds were insane!

Photo: International Innovation 5

“We wanted to do a reccy [reconnaissance] a few days before, so chose a road and went up with Patrick Snijers, Robert Droogmans, and Henri Toivonen, thinking we could block the road off top and bottom and practice,” he continues. “Nope. There were tens of thousands of spectators already there and they were mad! They threw rose petals on the ground in front of you—and rose pedals are bloody slippery, I can tell you! Still, great memories, even though we didn’t finish.”

The rally was also the first major event for a young Paul Howarth, who would later join Prodrive and run its Subaru WRC, Aston Martin racing, and MINI Dakar programs. Recalls Worswick, “a week before, he’d fixed a clutch on a stage and saved our rally, so I put him in my good books for that. The next rally was Madeira, so I invited him out and that really lit the rally fire for him.”

LATER IN 1986, a tragic accident in the Corsica Rally claimed the lives of Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresta. Group B was abruptly cancelled, and with the 308 suddenly no longer welcome at FIA-sanctioned events, Worswick was at a loss for what to do.

Scaling down from a full-blooded Group B Ferrari to an almost-standard Group A car wasn’t very appealing, not to mention that he’d have to start paying entry fees himself. He did enter the 308 in the Maranello Ferrari Challenge, run by the UK Ferrari Owners Club, which saw modified Ferrari road cars compete on various racetracks, but eventually decided to switch to Formula 3000.

Worswick bought a single-seater rolling chassis sans engine. Since the series used V8s, he then purchased a new four-valve 308 engine from Steve Lay and, unburdened by homologation requirements, began to fit new parts, including cams, high-compression pistons, slide-throttle injection, and a Zytec engine management system.

Photo: International Innovation 6

“It wouldn’t rev as much as a Cosworth DFV engine,” says Worswick, noting that he used many DFV parts—including the slides and camshafts—on the Ferrari engine, “but it did have amazing bottom-end grunt.”

Sadly, the F3000 rules changed before Worswick had a chance to race. But then he thought, Why not put this amazing engine in the Ferrari?

Small British rally events didn’t have strict homologation rules, so with the screaming F3000 engine Worswick spent a few more years enjoying the Ferrari out on the stages. And, as an engineer always wired for extracting maximum performance from a car, he constantly upgraded it.

“We always used to have problems with the gearbox,” says Worswick. “Michelotto ran zero dog gear angles so it always wanted to throw itself out of gear. One way around that was using some hard retainer springs, but that made the gear changes horrible and also wore out the selector forks at each event. Michelotto told us to just replace them, but at £800 ($960) for each one and about four days work to get to it, we said, ‘No, thanks.’ So we developed our own gear set with negative-rate dog angles.”

(Many years after the 308’s competitive career, Worswick redesigned the dog ring setup based on a Jordan F1 car he was racing in the Boss series. This gearbox remains in the car today.)

Eventually, the lure of small events, and ones he had to pay to enter, began to lose its appeal. In the mid-1990s, he wheeled the famous yellow Ferrari to the back of his workshop, where it was to remain inactive for over a decade and a half.

While Worswick never thought about selling the 308, it took an invitation from Lord March to demo the car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to inspire him to pull off the dust covers.

“If you ever find yourself in a such a position,” he advises, “you know such an invite is not something you turn down!”

Today, the Ferrari wears the number 10 on its doors, a tribute to the 1984 Madeira Rally. Worswick still thinks about how to improve it.

“The engine is nowhere near the spec it could be if it was developed properly,” he says. “But as we’re not competing there’s no point engineering bigger valves and doing the remapping. For only doing demo runs, as long as it looks and sounds great, that’s all you need.”

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  • Enrico Galliera on Purosangue
  • Flashback: 250 Europa
  • 456 Buyer's Guide
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