The Ferrari 550 Maranello’s 1996 introduction marked a return to the front-engine two-seat V-12 Ferrari. Its spiritual predecessor, the Daytona of some two decades earlier, had a successful track carrier. Could history repeat itself?
The first competition Ferrari 550 appeared in 2000, in response to customer demand and a recent change in endurance-racing rules. No longer could thinly disguised full-race prototypes compete as “GT” cars. GT racers had to be just that, and the rules encouraged individuals, as well as automakers, to create competition versions.
That gave rise to the 550 GTS, constructed outside Ferrari by experienced companies such as Prodrive. The target was to compete at Le Mans for the FIA GT Championship and in North America in the American Le Mans Series.
Roadgoing Ferrari 550s were stripped of several hundred pounds through the use of composite body panels. The new body featured a fresh front and larger fenders to cover bigger wheels and tires. Engine displacement and compression ratio were increased, bumping output to more than 580 horsepower. A new six-speed gearbox was installed.
In the 2000 FIA GT Championship, the Ferrari 550 GTS suffered a string of race-ending failures. It fared considerably better in ’01, garnering a number of top-10 finishes. In 2002, it dominated the GT Championship, chalking up four wins, plus two more in the American Le Mans Series.
This piqued the factory’s interest, and in 2003, Ferrari introduced its own version, the Ferrari 575 GTC. It was designed in-house and built by a factory-approved subcontractor, N-Technology.
The Ferrari 575 GTC also had a composite body with bulging fenders, a new front end, and a large wing mounted on the rear deck. The 5997cc V-12 pumped out 600 horsepower, and the gearbox was a six-speed sequential. Brakes were large Brembo discs.
The Ferrari 575 GTC scored a victory straight out of the box in its first race, the October 2003 event in Portugal. But in a tribute to the skills of the nonfactory efforts, the older 550 GTS proved more consistent: It won the FIA GT Championship in 2004.
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