It’s Chriiiistmaaaassss! To whet your appetite for our forthcoming book about the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive, here are three exclusive extracts from the drivers who raced the car to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003, the final time a 12-cylinder Prancing Horse achieved the feat…
Earlier in the year we introduced you to Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans, the definitive book we’re producing about the racing version of the 550 Maranello built by Prodrive.Conceived by the French industrialist and racing driver Frédéric Dor and designed, developed and constructed by Prodrive, the 550 GT1s (as they were commonly known) entered 343 races around the world between 2001 and 2008, scoring 60 pole positions, 69 victories and 151 podium finishes.Prodrive built just 12 of these cars and today, they warrant the recognition they unequivocally deserve. That’s why we’ve embarked on this book project together with DK Engineering and the car’s brainchild Frédéric Dor.
“Since announcing the book, we’ve received hundreds of messages asking when it’s going to be released. Well, early 2022 is the answer to that question.”
Since announcing the book, we’ve received hundreds of messages asking when it’s going to be released. Well, early 2022 is the answer to that question. We’re on the final steps of the path to publication and are delighted to be able to share some more details with you.Running at just under 550 pages, the large square-format book (complete with high-quality slipcase) will be produced in an edition of 550, including a small run of Collector’s Editions. As you can imagine, it chronicles the entire story of the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive, from its conception, development and competition career to its position and eligibility in today’s collector car market.
We’ll explore what the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive is and put it in historical context, discover the events at which you can hear its six-litre V12 scream today, and the differences between the racecar and its road-going counterpart. In addition to hundreds of previously unseen period images of the Prodrive-built 550s in action, there are comprehensive race reports, individual chassis ownership chains and interviews with all the key people who were instrumental in making this Ferrari so successful.These include Dor himself, Prodrive founder David Richards and technical director George Howard-Chappell, the acclaimed designer who styled the racing bodywork Peter Stevens, and a raft of the great drivers who piloted the cars such as David Brabham, Darren Turner, Tomáš Enge and Steve Zacchia.The renowned Ferrari historian Keith Bluemel has authored the book and we’ve had modern photography commissioned especially for the book from the likes of Alex Penfold, Tom Shaxson, Andrea Luzardi and Rémi Dargegen.
As it’s Christmas and we’re feeling generous, we’re giving you not one but three exclusive extracts from Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans to whet your appetite in advance of the full release in early 2022. These are first-hand accounts from Tomáš Enge, Peter Kox and Jamie Davies. Together, the three drivers clinched a spectacular victory at Le Mans back in 2003 driving chassis number CRD06 under the Veloqx Prodrive Racing banner.The first Ferrari GT class win at Le Mans since 1981 and the last 12-cylinder Ferrari to win at the Circuit de la Sarthe, the number 88 Veloqx 550 Maranello Prodrive finished a staggering 10 laps ahead of the second-placed Corvette.
David Richards and George Howard-Chappell invited me to a test session at Dijon-Prenois in February of 2002 with Alain Menu and Rickard Rydell, who had driven for Prodrive during 2001. I’d never been to Dijon so it was a new track as well as a new car to me, but after 20 laps I was on the same pace as Alain and Rickard. After an Formula 3000 car, I found the 550 easier to drive. It didn’t need such precise inputs and while it was obviously much heavier and not as quick, it was easy to adapt in order to get the best out of it.
A month later the three of us shared the car in the 12 Hours of Sebring, where we all got progressively quicker throughout the race, despite it feeling like a mobile sauna. Heat in the cockpit was initially a good problem, but despite our protests, George just told us we were racing drivers and that he didn’t want to add any unnecessary weight. We had various small electrical and mechanical problems which slowed our progress, but I posted the fastest race lap which, from memory, was over four seconds quicker than our qualifying lap and actually quicker than the class pole position.
During the four years I raced the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive my clear highlight was winning the GTS class at Le Mans in 2003. It was something I’d always dreamed about and it became a reality on that Sunday afternoon. After setting the fastest qualifying time, winning the race was the icing on the cake. Incidentally, this was one of six class pole positions I had at Le Mans, five of which were consecutive. In endurance racing the driver is part of a much larger team and I must say that Prodrive was like one big family. They were an amazing bunch of guys to work with – all very professional but equally ready to enjoy a joke, often at my expense. We all gave as good as we got!
Driving the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive was one of the highlights of my time as a racing driver. At the time, the 550 was way ahead of the game and brought GT racing to a different level. I remember we went to the first test in Austria and after my first run, Toine Hezemans barged into the garage and yelled, “It’s like Peter Sauber himself is driving here!” He was referring to the fantastic sound the Ferrari made and the level of professionalism in the garage. What he didn’t see was Frédéric Dor’s private plane jetting back to the UK that evening to collect 12 new pistons! The sound of the 550 was just incredible – in fact, my ears were whistling for two days after Le Mans.
Ferrari saw the potential of our car and invited us to Maranello for a shootout against an Italian-built 550. They said there was potential for a joint venture, but this was a ruse – they knew ours was a better car. In the end, Ferrari built its own car, which was no match for ours! Luca Badoer, who at the time was Ferrari Formula 1 test-driver, arrived at Fiorano to ‘check’ the 550 Maranello Prodrive. It was as though God had entered the building! Later, we heard that the Ferrari people mentioned in their report that he went faster than me, which we all found quite funny.
Frédéric Dor is one of the nicest people I met during my racing career. He was a remarkably quiet and distinguished man who normally wouldn’t fit in the motorsport environment. But he had a dream, and together with George and the fantastic people at Prodrive, made it happen.
We ran the 550s prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans at Paul Ricard for an endurance test. I can’t quite remember how long the test lasted, but the cars ran very well and showed promise for a glitch-free race. Qualifying at Le Mans wasn’t our biggest concern, but on a soft set of tyres we set the fastest time and therefore started from pole position in the GTS class, which was a great morale booster for everyone.
The race itself ran very smoothly for our car. There were concerns for the sister car when Anthony Davidson crashed heavily on the Mulsanne Straight. From that point on we were instructed to ‘tap’ the brake pedal on the straights before each big braking area to be sure there was still pressure in the pedal. Our car had no such trouble in the end and we were able to build our class lead throughout the night. We eventually pulled out a very large gap over our rivals, the Works Corvettes.
It was discussed that the team would pull our car into the pits with a couple of hours remaining for a check over. We had a big enough lead to be able to do this, but some of the team members were concerned that heat soak would set in and cause more trouble than it was worth. Anyway, we were pulled in and the oil and brake fluid levels were good. We refired the car and set about finishing the race. I took the car over the finish line – we took class victory and 10th overall. It was an amazing team feeling and a very proud moment for me as a driver. The 550 had run faultlessly and the team and drivers had performed at the top of their games throughout the week.Photos: The Girardo & Co. Archive / Andrea Luzardi for Girardo & Co. If you’d like to register your interest in reserving a copy of Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans, please click here and fill out the form at the bottom of the page.