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Five times Le Mans 24 Hour participant
Five times race winner, fourteen times podium finisher, ten times pole sitter
One of only 12 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive cars built, single ownership provenance
Extensively documented in the upcoming 'Ferrari 550 & 575 - The Road and Race Legends' by Nathan Beehl, to be published in late 2017
Raced by ex-World Rally Champion, Colin McRae at the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours
Chassis no. ZFFZR49B000113136 - CRD 03/2001
The 550 Maranello Prodrive Project:
The sports car
racing division of the Swiss “Care Group” was started 2000 in partnership with
Prodrive, for the development of a racing version of the Ferrari 550 Maranello,
to compete in the FIA GT and then ALMS GT1 Championships. The cars were fitted
with the naturally aspirated V12 engine enlarged from 5.5 to 6.0 litres, which
was mated to a sequential Xtrac gearbox. Despite the series-mandated air
restrictors, the V12 developed 600 or more horsepower! Period rules allowed
extensive modifications to the donor 550s. All-new suspension and Peter
Sevens-designed carbon-fibre bodywork widened the cars roughly 2.6 inches to
the maximum allowable 2 meters. A new front splitter and rear wing were proven
in the wind tunnel.
In a racing history, which almost paralleled the Audi R8, the Prodrive-built and developed cars humbled the Ferrari factory’s own version of much the same car (the 575 GT1) and went head to head with everything from the factory-run Chevrolet Corvettes through to the Maserati MC12s, and proved ultimately competitive, having clinched the 2005 LMES GT1 title – making three consecutive seasons of title winning form for the cars. The record includes five championship wins in total: LMES GT1 in both 2004 and ‘05, FIA GTs overall in 2003 and ‘04, and the Italian GT Championship in 2005 too.
Of the major world endurance races, the cars have triumphed in the Spa 24 Hours in 2004 and the ‘GT1’ win at both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Petit Le Mans in 2003.
Another astonishing statistic is that the cars have triumphed in the ‘GT1’ class in nine out of 10 of the LMES races, including the 2003 ‘preview’ race at the Bugatti circuit, just the 2005 Nurburgring win by the Convers Bank Aston Martin spoiling the sequence – ironically the ‘next generation’ GT1 project from Prodrive.
With the project majoring on providing a well-engineered, reliable and blindingly fast package for customer teams, the above results are perhaps no surprise. All in all, the cars achieved a colossal 47 pole positions, and a further 66 podium finishes to add to the 49 race wins! Those race wins came in not just the LMES and FIA GT Championships, but also the ALMS and French, Italian and Spanish GT Championships.
This 550 Maranello Prodrive:
This 550 Maranello Prodrive:
Car number 03
offered here was built in 2002 and made its track debut with Tomas Enge at the
Le Mans 24 Hour test day in May. Enge set a fastest time of 3:52.070, the
fastest of the day in the GTS class ahead of the Chrysler Vipers and a couple
03 returned to Le Mans one month later to compete in the famed 24-hour race. Enge was pilot again and joined by Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu with the trio achieving pole position in class. Sadly after 174 laps the car retired, but its raw pace was immediately evident. For the remainder of the 2002 season, 03 was entered in three rounds of the American Le Mans Series, Laguna Seca, Miami and Road Atlanta, achieving a class win and two podiums.
For 2003, Prodrive worked with Solution F to run the car at the first FFSA event at Nogaro in Spain where the car was piloted by Luc Alphand and Jérôme Policand. For the Le Mans test day and 24 Hour race, Alphand and Policand were joined by Frédéric Dor, the visionary of the 550 Prodrive program, who was making his Le Mans debut. Alphand was a former ski champion turned race/rally driver, and Policand had competed at Le Mans seven times previously, including driving a Ferrari 333SP in 1998 and 1999. For the Le Mans event the car was finished in a light blue, white and grey wrap. In the 24 hour race the car completed 298 laps and finished 5th in the LM GTS class. After the race, the wrap was removed and the car competed in eight remaining rounds of the ALMS championship, only interrupted once when it returned to Le Mans again to take a class win in the 1000 KM race held in November. During its time competing in the 2003 ALMS Championship, 03 claimed three more class wins along with three further podium finishes, resulting in 2nd overall in the American Le Mans Series Championship.
The 2004 season was short, but sweet for car 03. It competed at only one race, the Le Mans 24 Hours. However, the main highlight was that ex-World Rally Champion, Colin McRae, was to join Darren Turner and Ricard Rydell. McRae said “Ever since I saw the Steve McQueen Le Mans film as a kid, I’ve wanted to race at Le Mans. It’s simply the biggest race in the world.” Prior to competing at Le Mans, McRae would test with car 03 over five days at Paul Ricard, and on the famed 24 Hours circuit in April. Come June, 03 completed 329 laps of Le Mans, resulting in a 3rd place in class, 9th overall. After the event, McRae said “That was harder than any driving I’ve ever done in my life. A long Dakar stage is easy in comparison.”
2005 was to be 03’s busiest season, it would complete in 16 races across two championships resulting in another six podium finishes. Throughout the 2005 season the car was run by Rob Schirle’s Cirtek Motorsport with three different entrants depending upon the championship, Russian Age Racing (FIA GT), Convers Team (LMES) and Cirtek Motorsport (Le Mans – non-championship). Rob Schirle commented, "Cirtek is very pleased to have been chosen to lead this new age of Russian motorsport, especially as it is a long-term project. We want to be seen as a major player in GT Racing, and in the FIA GT Championship in particular. Our partnership with Care Racing, and use of one of its stable of Ferrari 550s is a vital part of that package. I'm really looking forward to adding to the tally of race victories already achieved by the car in the past. Nicolai (Fomenko) tested the car in December and loved it, and Alexei (Vasiliev) is a quick driver. It is a major boost, however, to have Christophe (Bouchut) on board, with all the experience he gained with the car last year. There is still a lot of work to do, but we are quietly confident."
As with previous seasons, 03 again returned to Le Mans where it would be driven by Christophe Bouchut, Alexei Vasiliev and Nicolai Fomenko. The car again performed well and the team brought 03 home in 5th place in class. The car finished 3rd overall in the 2005 Le Mans Endurance Series.
For the 2006 season Cirtek Motorsport switched to the Aston Martin DBR9, a car which Prodrive developed with many of the features first seen on the Prodrive 550 Maranello. Car 03s only appearances in 2006 were at Le Mans for the test day and 24-hour race in June. Sadly, the final appearance for 03 would result in a failure to finish after 124 laps.
In conclusion, this car has competed in 33 events, claimed 14 podium finishes, 10 pole positions and won 5 races!
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