At the Goodwood 80th Members’ Meeting, the serenity of the blooming West Sussex countryside will be shattered by the symphony of 20 early-noughties GT1 sports-racing cars in what promises to be the spectacle of the weekend. Among them will be a trio of Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives, whose 12-cylinder engines will rock Goodwood-goers to their cores. We arranged a rainy pre-Members’ Meeting rendezvous…
Our longstanding followers will know that we’ve championed the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives for a long time now – so much so that we devoted the last five years to producing the definitive book about them, in collaboration with our friends at DK Engineering. If you’re asking yourself why on earth we’ve gone to so much trouble, the answer is simple. Well… answers.
The racing version of the 550 Maranello Ferrari will go down in history as the final 12-cylinder Ferrari to win at Le Mans and the most successful GT sports-racing car of its era.
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 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives entered 343 races across the globe between 2001 and 2008, scoring 60 pole positions, 69 victories and 151 podium finishes.”
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. Ahead of this weekend’s 80th Members’ Meeting at Goodwood, at which a high-speed demonstration of 20-plus early-2000s GT1 sports-racing cars is poised to take place, we organised a rainy rendezvous with the trio of Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives taking part.
If ever there was a way to brighten a decidedly miserable English April day, surely three bright-red Ferrari racing cars is the perfect solution. Using information from our book Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – The Last V12 Ferrari to win at Le Mans, we’ve profiled each of the chassis present at Goodwood, CRD01, CRD02 and CRD03, below.
You’ll also find some information about the book itself and how you can get your hands on a copy. We have a feeling that after seeing the cars in the metal and listening to that glorious, nerve-electrifying 12-cylinder soundtrack at Goodwood this weekend, there will be many more people keen to learn more about these ultra-special Italo-Anglo Prancing Horses.
Genesis. The first born. Chassis number 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 born at the dawn of 2001, undertaking a rigorous testing schedule prior to its maiden competitive outing in the Hungary round of the FIA GT Championship – endurance racing’s then international top-flight series.
In only its second race, at the former A1 Ring in Austria, this essentially box-fresh Italo-Anglo GT sports-racer trounced the entire (and ultra-competitive) grid, clinching pole position and crossing the finish line 48 seconds ahead of anybody else.
Of course, the result affirmed Prodrive’s engineering prowess. But nobody was more elated than Frédéric Dor, who’d conceived and invested so much 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.
Chassis CRD01 scooped a further victory and a podium before the 2001 FIA GT Championship concluded, though arguably its most significant moment arose in November, when Prodrive was summoned by Ferrari to its history-steeped Fiorano test-track.
A potential deal was on the table for Prodrive to supply the Prancing Horse with competition 550s and the top brass in Maranello wanted to see first-hand what all the fuss was about. Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 test-driver Luca Badoer got to grips with CRD01 and Jean Todt was reportedly satisfied enough to at least intend to proceed.
In typically Ferrari fashion, the proverbial carrot-dangle remained just that: a dangle. In short, Ferrari opted to shop elsewhere. And as the history books subsequently demonstrate, it was very much its loss.
We had the pleasure of sourcing this Ferrari for a client late last year. 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. You can read CRD01’s fascinating story in full by clicking here.
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.
Racing under the BMS Scuderia Italia banner, CRD02 regulars Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari were joined for the prestigious Belgian endurance race by Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner. A blistering pole lap from Gollin gave the number-two 550 an advantage from the off. But the competition, predominantly in the shape of the Ferrari 575 GTCs and Saleen S7-Rs, was stiff. Unusually for Spa-Francorchamps, the race remained hot and dry throughout. And in an exquisite showing of consistency, pace and mechanical sympathy, the quartet of drivers piloting CRD02 didn’t set a foot wrong, crossing the finish line over a lap ahead of the rest of the field. The Prancing Horse had not triumphed in the Spa 24 Hours since 1953.
“Lilian Bryner became not only the first woman to win the Spa 24 Hours, but the first woman to win a major 24-hour race anywhere.”
If the victory itself was rewarding, then smashing the race distance record by a staggering 30 laps (558 laps) must have been the proverbial cherry on the cake. Furthermore, Lilian Bryner became not only the first woman to win the Spa 24 Hours, but the first to win a major 24-hour race anywhere. For those who were there and witnessed it, Bryner’s incredible final stint was seared in the memory.
Today, chassis CRD02 resides in a renowned collection which spans multiple endurance race winners, including several Le Mans winners. The Members’ Meeting will be the first time the car has been demonstrated in public since it concluded its period racing career in 2004. Fittingly, driving duties have been allocated to Emanuele Pirro – among the most decorated sports-car driver of all time, with five outright Le Mans victories under his belt. Suffice to say, it’s going to be a helluva moment when it rolls onto the history-steeped Goodwood asphalt and tears off into the sunset.
Yes, this is the 550 Maranello Prodrive which most people commonly associate with Colin McRae. The late Scottish World Rally Champion and all-time motorsport legend raced this Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 – the only ever time he switched special stage for circuit. Teamed up with endurance staples Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell, McRae fared excellently at the Circuit de la Sarthe, the team clinching an impressive GTS class podium and the fastest race lap in the category.
While the McRae connection is, of course, a very special characteristic of this 550, there is so much more to the history of chassis CRD03. Originally the personal road-going 550 Maranello of Frédéric Dor himself, this Ferrari campaigned the 2003 American Le Mans Series under the Prodrive banner, finishing second in what was a fiercely competitive championship. Remarkably, there are five editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on CRD03’s competition résumé. As far as we’re aware, there is no other Ferrari twelve-cylinder chassis which has contested the French endurance classic more times.
Of the 33 races this car entered between 2002 and 2006, it won five, finished on the podium 14 times and scored 10 pole positions. Oh, it also finished third in the 2005 Le Mans Endurance Series. Its competition longevity was a testament to the raw pace and inherent reliability of the car, which was unlocked by Prodrive’s band of skilled designers and engineers.
On a more personal note, chassis CRD03 is the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive which, together with DK Engineering, we’ve had the privilege of owning for the last seven years. We’ll let our very own Max Girardo take up the tale. “I first met Frédéric Dor when I was working Bonhams in Geneva. He asked if I could sell a ‘Gullwing’ and I knew he had a collection of Prodrive-built rally cars he’d never sold, as well as the legendary Ferrari GT1 racers.
“Remarkably, there are five editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on CRD03’s competition résumé. As far as we’re aware, there is no other twelve-cylinder Ferrari chassis which has contested the French endurance classic more times.”
“That was 20 years ago, but we remained good friends and kept in touch. One day, he called me to ask what we could do with all the 550s he’d kept. For him, selling them was like parting with one of his babies. I kept on badgering him and asking whether he’d sell me one. Finally, after many years, he agreed. Because of my interest in rallying, I always knew I wanted chassis CRD03, the car Colin had raced at Le Mans in 2004.
“It was great because Frédéric appreciated how passionate James [Cottingham] and I were about the cars and he knew we’d show and run ours as much as possible. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. His greatest fear was that the cars would just sit, hidden away from public view. We’ve demonstrated and raced this 550 Maranello Prodrive at events all over Europe, from the Challenge & GT Days at the Red Bull Ring to the Spa Classic. Most special, however, was returning CRD03 to the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2018 and 2021 for the Le Mans Classic.”
At the Members’ Meeting, Max will be driving the car in Saturday evening’s twilight demonstration. Let’s all cross our fingers and pray that this drizzle makes way for a killer spring sunset.
For the last five years, we’ve been working together with DK Engineering to produce the definitive book about the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrives – cars which, as you’ll hopefully appreciate after reading the histories of these three chassis, are incredibly important threads in endurance racing’s long tapestry. Well, we’re delighted to say that you can now order the book by clicking here.
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 by Tom Shaxson, Alex Penfold, Remi Dargegen and Andrea Luzardi.
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.
“Strictly limited to 550 copies, the book is lavishly illustrated with hundreds of previously unseen images, including period racing shots and stunning contemporary photography.”
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, Thomas Enge and Steve Zacchia. 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.
Photos: Tom Shaxson for Girardo & Co. / Girardo & Co. Archive
With special thanks to Venture Engineering – you can discover more about Venture’s precision engineering prowess and race preparation/support services by clicking here.