Niki Lauda, Enzo Ferrari, and the Last 288 GTO
How a supercar ended a decade-long feud between Ferrari’s founder and star driver.
“Racing,” Enzo Ferrari once said, “Is a great mania, to which one must sacrifice everything, without reticence, without hesitation.” il Commentadore was not known for showing kindnesses to his drivers: He expected them to risk it all in the pursuit of triumph. When Niki Lauda walked away from the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix in 1976, leaving James Hunt to take the Formula 1 Championship, it left bad blood between the Austrian racer and the Italian regent of speed. “My life is worth more than a title,” Lauda said. Enzo, perhaps, disagreed.
However, towards the end of his life, Ferrari’s founder relented and made peace. By way of burying the hatchet with the mercurial, incredibly talented Lauda, Enzo offered him the last of the first Ferrari supercars. Just 200 Ferrari 288 GTOs were originally made for homologation in the Group B rally series, itself a fiery consumer of lives. Seventy-one more were built for VIP clients. The last one was made especially for Niki, and delivered in March of 1986.
To the uninitiated, the 288 GTO looks a bit like a contemporary 308, the Magnum PI car. Beneath the skin, however, is a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8, the casing of its race-spec transmission visible from the rear like the dog's bollocks. Created when Enzo was still a force at Ferrari, the 288 paved the way for everything from the F40 through to the LaFerrari. It is perhaps the finest modern Ferrari, a blend of beauty, rarity, and speed.
Joe Sackey literally wrote the book on the 288 GTO, and helped the current new owner add this very special one to his collection. When asked if it'll be tucked behind velvet ropes or actually driven, Sackey enigmatically answers, “Both. He does a little of everything.” You don't move in these circles if you don't have a reputation for discretion.
The last of a breed with two Ferrari legends' fingerprints all over it. The title says Niki Lauda. The bill of sale is signed by Enzo Ferrari. One must sacrifice everything in racing except, maybe, respect.