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We have a fairly strong feeling that for most people at last weekend’s Goodwood 80th Members’ Meeting, the earth-shattering high-speed demonstration of GT1-era sports-racing cars – crowned by three Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives – is etched deepest in the memory. These wonderful photos captured by Tom Shaxson encapsulate the magic…

Making the pilgrimage to Goodwood is always a special occasion. But for us here at Girardo & Co., last weekend’s 80th Members’ Meeting took on a near-celestial aura on Saturday evening as 20 early-2000s GT1 sports-racing cars thundered into the night, headlights ablaze. The most glorious cars of the bunch? Naturally, we’re bias, but we’d defy anybody to tell us the trio of scarlet Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives were not the most magnificent.

We profiled the three chassis present – CRD01, CRD02 and CRD03 – in our Goodwood preview story, which you can read by clicking here.

It was a moment only the Duke of Richmond and his freakish ability to make stars align could have orchestrated. The perfect spring sunset. Over 20 of the most successful and evocative GT1-era sports-racing cars, from Chevrolet Corvettes and Aston Martin DBR9s to Dodge Vipers and Lister Storms. Our own Max Girardo had the enviable task of driving the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive we have had the privilege of owning together with our friends at DK Engineering for the last eight years.

Chassis CRD03 lined up second in the formation, behind Darren Turner and the DBR9 in which he won Le Mans in 2007. When the flag dropped and the Porsche Cayman safety car hared away at the front, Max gave chase. The entire spectacle was among the most jaw-dropping (and ear-bleeding) things we’ve ever seen at Goodwood – heck, we’ve ever seen!

With a record-obliterating career spanning nine 24 Hours of Le Mans victories, Tom Kristensen has sampled his fair share of sports-racing cars, from screaming Bentleys to diesel-powered Audis. What the Dane never ticked off, however, was racing a Ferrari. In what was a typically ‘Goodwood’ moment at the Members’ Meeting, Mr. Le Mans got a taste of what he’d been missing, sampling the 12-cylinder delights of the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive, chassis CRD02. We’d say by the time he’d left the assembly area his tyres were up to optimum operating temperature. And by maybe the second corner, Kristensen had his eye firmly in. Suffice to say, the pace was what can only be described as spirited

It’s always rewarding for us when the cars we rehome are enjoyed as they were intended to be. When it came to sourcing chassis number CRD01, the very first Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive built, for its current owner, that was sort of part of the deal. In our position as industry advocates for these Ferraris and having been involved in a number of transactions over the years, we were able to successfully negotiate with the car’s brainchild Frédéric 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. You can read its fascinating story by clicking here

We’d like to make a huge shout out to the estimable gentlemen at Venture Engineering. Not only did the team exquisitely prepare and run all three of the Ferrari 550 Maranellos present at Goodwood, but their support and patience when it came to our content production were invaluable. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, their supply of biscuits was unwavering – a core necessity on motorsport weekends such as these.

The Members’ Meeting was the first time that chassis number CRD02 has been demonstrated in public since it concluded its period racing career in 2004. There was hardly a peak in the endurance motorsport world the Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 Maranello didn’t summit. Chassis number CRD02 racked up 14 victories between 2001 and 2005, racing in the American Le Mans Series, the FIA GT Championship (which it duly won in 2004) and the Italian GT Championship. The undisputed crowning moment in this Ferrari’s competition career, however, was its stunning outright victory in the 2004 Spa 24 Hours, piloted by Fabrizio Gollin, Luca Cappellari, Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner.

Beautifully presented by Venture Engineering, which had gone through the whole car in advance of the Members’ Meeting to ensure every last detail was spot on, CRD02 was in rude health. The 550 Maranello Prodrive certainly made an indelible impression on its decorated driver Tom Kristensen. “Thank you, I really enjoyed that,” he exclaimed as he climbed out of the car after Saturday evening’s session.

If you’re wondering how driving a Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive on the historic Goodwood circuit at twilight and in the company of 20 other epic GT1 sports-racing cars makes you feel, this photo of Max just about captures the laugh-out-loud elation.

When the all-out arms race between Porsche and Mercedes morphed GT racing into something it fundamentally wasn’t at the end of the 1990s, a revised GT1 category closer to the formula’s historic roots was conceived to safeguard endurance racing into the New Millennium. As the kaleidoscopic and utterly soul-stirring demonstration of these ‘new’ GT1 sports-racing cars demonstrated at Goodwood, the recipe was a delicious one. Which tickles your fancy? The sledgehammer-like V8 Chevrolet Corvette or the scalpel-sharp V12 Aston Martin DBR9? Decisions!

If after Goodwood you’ve reignited your interest in these Italo-Anglo Prancing Horses or discovered them for the first time, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve spent the last five years creating the definitive book about them in collaboration with our friends at DK Engineering.

Across two beautifully-bound volumes and over 590 pages, Ferrari 550 Maranello – The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans chronicles the complete story of the Anglo-Italo car from its conception, development and competition career to its retirement and subsequent eligibility in the world of historic motorsport. Strictly limited to 550 copies, the book is lavishly illustrated with hundreds of previously unseen images, including period racing shots and stunning contemporary photography.

The renowned Ferrari historian Keith Bluemel has authored the book, drawing on first-hand accounts from all the key characters involved throughout the 550 Maranello Prodrive programme and who were instrumental in making it such a success. Also included are comprehensive race reports and ownership chains for each of the 12 individual chassis built. Once again, if you’d like to order your copy, you can CLICK HERE.

It was a surreal experience showing the fruits of our five-year labour to Darren Turner, the three-time Le Mans winner and Prodrive endurance racing veteran. And in front of the very Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive (chassis number CRD03) he shared with the late World Rally Champion Colin McRae and Rickard Rydell in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004. Darren was so enthusiastic about both seeing (and hearing) the car again and the book. He especially liked the period Prodrive team photo we used for his driver profile – the epitome of youth!

The overwhelmingly positive response to the GT1 demonstration at Goodwood and, in particular, the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives is telling of how much these cars resonate with today’s enthusiasts. Pertinently, the 24 Hours of Le Mans celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023. And at the French endurance classic in June, a spotlight will be turned on the most famous cars to have competed and succeeded in the world-famous race. A winner in 2003 and a fixture of the GT class for almost a decade, the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives are integral to the storied history of Le Mans. Let’s just say plans are afoot to join in the celebrations. See you at La Sarthe.

Photos: Tom Shaxson for Girardo & Co.

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