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  Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello      

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:2001 - 2004
Numbers built:10
Designed by:Pininfarina
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 14, 2018
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAlthough 'GT Racing' cars have existed since the 1950s, there has never been a universal definition for what qualifies as one. The minimal production number of road cars changed almost every season and at one point even unique cars like the Porsche 917 were homologated as a 'GT'. After a very popular period in the 1960s and early 1970s, GTs were overshadowed by prototypes for almost two decades. When powerful street machines like the Ferrari F40 and McLaren F1 took to the track, a revival was initiated that peaked with the GT1 racers of the late 1990s.

Apart from an annual appearance at Le Mans these cars initially competed in the BPR Championship created by Jurgen Barth, M Peter and Stephane Ratel, which was superceded in 1997 by an official FIA mandated GT Championship. Although major manufacturers like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz competed in the championship, organizer Ratel felt that to reach the popularity GT racing enjoyed in the 1960s there needed to be a Ferrari entry. In 1998 he convinced Ferrari motorsport principal Jean Todt to explore the possibility of constructing a competition version of the F50 supercar. Three cars were constructed, but for various reasons the project was scrapped shortly after.

Not surprisingly, the rules were changed two seasons into the championship and the highly exotic GT1 cars were no longer eligible. Two classes were setup; 'N-GT' for mildly modified cars and 'GT', which allowed for more modifications. To level the playing field all cars were fitted with restrictors. Most importantly independent racing shops could now homologate a racing car without the original manufacturer as was previously required. This paved the way for a Ferrari racing car developed and constructed completely independent from Ferrari works.

Ratel easily rallied a number of interested privateers together and proceeded to commission Italtecnica in Italy to develop a GT racing car based on the Ferrari 550 Maranello. Existing and reportedly crashed road cars were used as a base for these racers, which debuted late in 1999. They were intended to compete in the new millennium, which earned the competition car the name 'Millenio'. Two cars were completed in time for the new season and proved to be quite fast right out of the box. Unfortunately they were unreliable and as such the third customer registered to get a car, Frederic Dor, cancelled his order.

Still very interested in campaigning a 550 Maranello in the FIA GT championship, Dor contacted Prodrive in Great Britain. Founded and run by 3-time Rally Champion David Richards, this racing shop had already proven their worth in touring car racing and rallying with a wide variety of cars. After a Prodrive feasibility study showed that there was plenty of potential, Dor's newly incorporated Care Racing Development commissioned Prodrive to build him two 550 racers. The carefully planned and executed program was completed early in 2001 when the first Prodrive 550 GTS Maranellos took to the track.

The GT class rules state that the basic structure of the engine, body and chassis remain similar to the production counterpart, but this left plenty of room for Prodrive to rework the 550. First up was the engine, which had proven fragile in the Italtecnica cars. The strengthened V12 was slightly increased in size and fitted lower and further back in the chassis for a better weight balance. Extensive use of carbon fibre throughout the car dramatically reduced the weight to the 1100 kg limit set by the FIA. A huge rear wing finished off the carefully designed and very attractive aerodynamics package.

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  Article Image gallery (230) Chassis (6) Specifications User Comments (4)