The very first Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive built, developed and campaigned by the Works Prodrive team
The car which scored the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive’s maiden race victory – the first of 69 accumulated by the model between 2001 and 2008
Finished third in both the 2003 and 2004 FIA GT Championships
Entered 42 races from 2001 until 2005, scoring three victories, four pole positions and 15 podium finishes
Undertook testing duties for Ferrari at the Prancing Horse’s legendary Fiorano test-track, where it was driven by the Scuderia’s Formula 1 driver Luca Badoer
Recently prepared for historic racing by former Prodrive engineers and shaken down by the period 550 GTS Le Mans-winner Peter Kox
Recently sourced for a client by Girardo & Co. and DK Engineering
Did you know that Prodrive homologated its GT racing version of the Ferrari 550 Maranello as a 550 GTO? We appreciate that comparing the car to the fabled 1960s Ferrari with which is shares its ‘Gran Turismo Omologato’ nomenclature sounds bizarre, but there are, in fact, parallels to be drawn.
Both are front-engined 12-cylinder Ferraris. Both were utterly dominant in their respective (golden) eras of GT racing. Both won their class at the most famous and challenging endurance race of them all: Le Mans. Both emit soul-stirring symphonies from their exhaust pipes. And, perhaps this goes without saying, both are also exceptionally beautiful.
Conceived by the Frenchman Frédéric Dor’s Care Racing Development outfit and designed, developed and constructed by Prodrive, the Ferrari 550 GT1s, as they were more commonly known, entered 343 races across the globe between 2001 and 2008, scoring 60 pole positions, 69 victories and 151 podium finishes.
They’re extraordinary statistics, and a testament to the expertise of Prodrive, whose skilled designers and engineers were able to unlock the racing potential of the 550 Maranello – something a range of other motorsport companies tried and failed to achieve. Even Ferrari had a crack with the 575M, though we bet it wished it hadn’t.
“The story of the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive is a fairytale, studded with awe, intrigue, romance and, of course, success.”
Prodrive raced just 10 of these cars, and today, they warrant the recognition they unequivocally deserve. Especially now that the model has received its full Ferrari Classiche Certificate of Authenticity from the factory.
The first born. Chassis CRD01 is where the extraordinary tale of the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive begins – the first precious fruit of the relationship between Prodrive and Frédéric Dor’s Care Racing Development outfit.
This car was prepared by Prodrive at the dawn of 2001 specifically for the FIA GT Championship and first turned a wheel on 27 April at the IDIADA proving ground in Spain – a momentous test the new car’s brainchild Frédéric Dor remembers only too well. “We were entering into unchartered territory,” he recalls, with a degree of trepidation, “so having witnessed the embryonic stage, it was a very special moment when the car turned its wheels under its own power for the first time.”
The initial feedback on that inaugural shakedown from the man in the driver’s seat, the Swedish touring-car champion Rickard Rydell, was reassuring. Though as Prodrive had learned first-hand from its title-winning rallying operation with the Subarus, the importance of testing could not be underestimated.
Prior to its maiden competitive FIA GT Championship outing in July of 2001, CRD01 embarked on a rigorous, disciplined and intense schedule of testing, first in the United Kingdom, at venues such as Snetterton, Milbrook, and the MIRA wind tunnel, and secondly on the continent – take the 12-hour endurance race dress rehearsal at Spa-Francorchamps in June, for example. The enduring performance and reliability of this car was by no means a coincidence.
The Eurosport Super Racing Weekend at the Hungaroring in July, round six of the season, marked the race debut of CRD01 – and thus the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive. Racing under the Works Prodrive banner, Rickard Rydell was joined by fellow touring-car veteran Alain Menu on driving duty, the pair qualifying fifth after a very impressive performance for what was a virtually ‘box-fresh’ GT racing car.
The minimalistic and unintrusive livery worn by CRD01 in its debut year would go on to become a hallmark of the Works-entered 550 Maranello Prodrives. And it’s worth noting that this unintrusive design was not by accident. We’ll let the decorated automotive designer Peter Stevens (yes, he of McLaren F1 fame) who shaped this GT1 variant of the 550 Maranello explain…
“Everybody agreed that we wanted to create a car that was aesthetically pleasing – we didn’t want fussy aero bits and pieces that were lazily stuck on and ungainly,” he remembers. “If Ferrari takes a car racing, the purpose is to sell Ferraris. But here the aim was to sell Prodrive’s ability to develop a track-focused GT competition car. In that respect, it was important that it looked convincing, professional and, most importantly, beautiful. Hence the minimalistic liveries in which the 550s ran – they were mostly all red, which sent a great message and worked in Prodrive’s favour from an image point of view.”
The Austrian round of the 2001 FIA GT Championship, held at the former A1-Ring on 24–26 August, was significant to Prodrive, Care Racing Development and, more specifically, CRD01 for a number of reasons. In what was only the new Italo-Anglo GT1 Ferrari’s second race, Rydell and the Dutchman Peter Kox dominated the opposition throughout, sticking the car on pole position and winning the race by some 48 seconds. It was a mighty performance in what was a fiercely competitive GT field.
Nobody was more elated than Frédéric Dor, the man who’d conceived and invested such time, effort and expense into the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive project. His ambitious bet on this twelve-cylinder GT titan was paying dividends – though little could anybody anticipate at that early stage that seven years, 59 further pole positions and another 68 race victories awaited.
"Rickard Rydell and Peter Kox dominated the opposition throughout, sticking the car on pole position and winning the race by some 48 seconds."
CRD01 contested three further rounds of the 2001 FIA GT Championship: the Nürburgring, where Kox and Rydell clinched pole position and finished on the podium; Jarama, where, despite carrying a hefty 60kg of ‘ success ballast’ as per the regulations, Rydell and Menu tore to a sensational victory from sixth on the grid; and Estoril.
Besides its competitive record, arguably the most significant moment of CRD01’s life came on 13–14 November 2001, when Prodrive was summoned by Ferrari to its history-steeped Fiorano test-track in Maranello. Some context is necessary here. Having witnessed the race-winning potential of the Prodrive-built 550 Maranello earlier in the year, Ferrari reached out to the Oxfordshire outfit alluding to a potential factory-backed return to GT racing.
Further to the documented correspondence between the two companies, which outlined a potential (and highly lucrative) commitment to supply and build 25 race-ready 550 Maranellos, Prodrive was invited to bring ‘its’ Ferrari – in this case CRD01 – to Italy. For all the pomp and Italian ceremony, the purpose of the test was essentially so that Ferrari could have a snoop and understand what the car was all about.
Peter Kox was on hand to show the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team’s test-driver Luca Badoer the ropes. And by all accounts, from a practical point of view the test was a resounding success – so much so that Ferrari’s motorsport head honcho Jean Todt felt happy to give the British-built Prancing Horse his seal of approval. For all the enthusiasm and excitement from the Prodrive/Care Racing camps in the days after the summit in Maranello, what happened next can probably be explained with one words: politics.
In short, Ferrari ultimately opted to shop elsewhere. And as the history books subsequently demonstrate, it was very much its loss…
For a year intended from the outset as a ‘toe-in-the-water’ exercise with a brand new GT racing car, Prodrive’s exploits with this chassis in 2001, both competitively and from a testing perspective, were nothing short of a success. Crucially, this car’s performances – comprising two outright victories and one further podium – gave the project viability and inspired confidence from the group of personnel involved to head into 2002 at maximum attack.
Its Works Prodrive duties over, the preparation and running of this Ferrari was subsequently entrusted to Care Racing Development. Between 2002 and 2004, CRD01 entered 29 races in the FIA GT Championship, predominantly in the hands of Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari under the Scuderia Italia BMS banner. Standout moments included when Frédéric Dor himself joined the driver line-ups on three occasions in 2002 (including the 24 Hours of Spa), the four podiums in 2003 and finishing third overall in the championship standings in both 2003 and 2004.
For its final year of active service in 2005, CRD01’s focus turned to the Le Mans Endurance Series, which comprised five 1,000km races that spanned Europe and was governed by the French Automobile Club l’Ouest. The Russian Convers MenX outfit ran the car in a simple black livery, with Robert Pergl and Jaroslav Janis supporting lead driver Thomas Enge. Enge knew the 550 Maranello Prodrive well, having been a part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans GTS class-winning squadron in 2003. Two podiums were bolstered by a win in the 1,000km of Silverstone, CRD01’s third and final victory. Cumulatively, the results were good enough for fourth in the championship.
After four years, 15 exhaustive test sessions, 42 races, four pole-position starts, 15 podium finishes and three stunning victories, the very first Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive built – chassis number CRD01 – was honourably retired from active service at the end of 2005. As with all but two of the 550s prepared for GT competition by Prodrive (chassis CRD07 and CRD09, in case you were wondering), this Ferrari was retained by the mastermind behind the project Frédéric Dor. And with Dor it remained, hidden away from public view for almost 17 years, until the summer of 2022. That’s where Girardo & Co. enters the fray.
Joining forces with DK Engineering (with whom we are working to produce the definitive book on the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – click here to find out more and register your interest in purchasing a copy) we were able to identify chassis CRD01 as a potential candidate for a very important client looking to add one of these twelve-cylinder titans to his collection.
In our position as industry advocates for the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive and having been involved in a number of transactions over the years, we were able to successfully negotiate with Dor to acquire the car, on the basis that it was going to a great new home, would be used as intended and shared with the world once again, just as it was back in the early-2000s.
Though CRD01 spent its post-racing life carefully stored, some remedial work was inevitably required to return the Ferrari to race-ready condition ahead of the 2023 historic motorsport season – a season in which the new owner is, amazingly, planning to compete.
For said work, we opted to send the car to Venture Engineering, the motorsport company based in Witney, England. Venture was founded by Stuart Gale, one of the engineers responsible for building the V12 engines in the 550 racing cars, and employs a number of ex-Prodrive personnel with first-hand experience of working with this technologically-advanced Ferrari in the period. Suffice to say, CRD01 was in especially safe hands as it underwent a thorough and comprehensive inspection and rebuild.
Meanwhile, the six-litre V12 engine was returned to Prodrive to be rebuilt as part of its Legends heritage programme. Having retained all the original technological archive data from the period and boasting the facilities to ensure the motor is honed to perfection including a full test-bench, there was nobody better placed to work on the heart of this scarlet supercar.
“Peter Kox was invited to shake down the car – 21 years after he scored the Ferrari 550 Maranello’s maiden race victory with this very chassis at the A1-Ring back in 2001.”
Primed and ready to bark into life and turn a wheel in anger once again, this Ferrari was taken to nearby Donington Park for a shakedown. For the occasion, not only did Venture’s engineers raid their wardrobes and dig out their period Prodrive/Care Racing Ferrari teamwear, but they also invited Peter Kox along to drive the car – 21 years after he scored the Ferrari 550 Maranello’s maiden race victory with this very chassis at the A1-Ring back in 2001.
As the short film above documenting the Donington shakedown shows, it didn’t take long for Kox to get back into the rhythm and find his groove with the car. “All the old feelings came back and I felt confident quite quickly,” Kox explains. “I think the appeal with this car is a combination of things – the fact it is a Ferrari, that it has a potent V12 engine and the glorious sound it makes. Given the way racecars are developing today, with hybrid powertrains and sound-muffling turbochargers, I’d bet there isn’t a single person today who hasn’t appreciated the sound of this 550 Maranello.”
Eight years, 343 races, 69 victories, 60 pole positions and 151 podium finishes – the briefest glance at the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive’s stunning competition record goes some way to explain why it will forever be considered among the greatest GT1 racing cars. This remains the final twelve-cylinder Ferrari to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans! But the magic of this car only begins with the hard statistics.
From an audacious idea kindled in Frédéric Dor’s mind to reality, the story of the Prodrive-built 550 Maranello is a fairytale, studded with awe, intrigue, romance and, of course, success. And chassis CRD01 – the very first example built, the very first example to score a pole position and the very first example to win a race – played such an integral role. Its historic significance and value simply cannot be underestimated.
Consulting closely with Care Racing Development, Girardo & Co. and DK Engineering are producing the definitive book about the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive. You can learn more about the book or register your interest in purchasing a copy by clicking here.