1997 Ferrari 550
1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello GTLM Competition Coupé
Chassis no. 106404
The project to build this racing version of Ferrari's 550 Maranello road car was instigated by French Ferrari enthusiast and proprietor of Red Racing, Jacques Fournier-Laroque, who believed that it had the potential to make a competitive GT-category contender. It took him a long time to obtain permission from the Ferrari factory to build a competition car based on a production 550 Maranello, but with that achieved he bought a production 550 sold new in France in 1997 (the sixth imported) and work on the project commenced in 1998.
'106404' is the very first 550 Maranello racer ever built; it was constructed in 1998/1999 for Red Racing by Enjolras (the Peugeot works rally team), with Matter responsible for the chassis while Italtecnica was entrusted with the suspension, engine, transmission and brakes. The first test was carried out at the Issoire track in the presence of Sergio Pininfarina. This Ferrari raced in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 in the French and Spanish GT Championships and some other races in Italy, being continuously upgraded, lightened and made quicker over the years. In 2000 '106404' secured its first podium at Magny-Cours with Lucien Guitteny; it was the first podium finish for a 550 Maranello.
In 2001 '106404' was purchased by the prominent French team, XL Racing. For the 2003 season the car was converted to ACO LMGT specifications as the team had been invited to the Le Mans 24 Hours race; the body was widened to 2.00 metres and all the necessary modifications to the electronics, safety systems, engine, chassis, etc carried out. '106404' was one of the very few cars to pass the technical inspection without any flaws.
Driven by Ferté/Lesoudier/Barde, the Maranello went remarkably well during the race, and during the night was the leading Ferrari in its class. At the 21st hour the car ran over a metal fragment, left on the track following a crash, which punctured the side fuel tank. The resulting small fire caused its retirement. Without this mishap '106404' would almost certainly have been the first LMGT Ferrari to finish and at a high position in its class. It was the Maranello's first and only race in 2003.
For the 2004 season, '106404' was completely stripped and totally rebuilt with new components for another entry at Le Mans, as the team had been invited again. Suspension components (Moton shock absorbers and anti-roll bars) and the gearbox were re-engineered, while a lot of work was done to improve reliability. The objective was to finish on the podium and be the first Ferrari in the LMGT class. The Maranello was entered and scheduled to take part in the preliminary tests, but one week before the testing session main sponsor Bridgestone announced their withdrawal from the project. Faced with a massive budget cut, XL Racing had no choice but to withdraw their entry. The car was kept in the same condition - effectively ready for a 24-hour race! - until it was sold to a French enthusiast in 2006.
Its new owner entered the Maranello in that year's Goodwood Festival of Speed where its speed and wonderful noise thrilled the spectators. Demonstrating the LMGT's essential user-friendliness, the owner did not take any mechanics with him, as all he had to do was change the wheels! Being an LMGT rather than a prototype, the Maranello is relatively easy to maintain and use: essential characteristics for a car designed to race for 24 hours non-stop. Depending on the diameter of the air restrictors used (30-36mm) maximum power output is anywhere between 515 and more than 600 horsepower. The engine has been engineered for 40 hours of life, while the gearbox is good for 20 hours; in five years of racing there was not a single engine failure. No computer is needed to make the car run, and it was this essential simplicity, plus its historical interest, that appealed to the then owner, who also used the Ferrari at Le Castellet; the Montreux Grand Prix Historique; and at Magny-Cours.
The current owner purchased '106404' in December 2007 (bill of sale on file), since when it has been garage stored. Apart from regular maintenance and starting the engine, nothing has been done since 2007. We are advised that the fuel system is in working condition, although the tank and safety belts will need to be renewed before the car can be used competitively.
The Maranello comes with a substantial and very valuable spares package (full list available). There are too many items to list here but highlights include the following:
All body moulds
Shock absorber set (Penske)
Brake rotors and pads
Suspension arm, front and rear (several sets)
Exhaust and manifolds
Eight spare wheels fitted with wets and dry tyres, all in good condition (from 2006)
Two unused wet tyres
Hub carriers and hubs, front and rear
Engine electrical wiring and many other parts
The car also comes with many collectible items of automobilia including photo albums recording the various upgrades and races; videos; letters; bills of sale; event programmes; and from the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours the three drivers' race suits; photographs; postcards; passes; badges, etc. '106404' has featured in many publications, the most interesting being an 11-page article in the April/May 2000 edition of Cavallino. There is also a scan of an article in the French magazine Auto Hebdo, with many pictures from Le Mans and of the car's construction. An historically significant piece of Ferrari's recent competition history, this unique 550 Maranello GTLM wants for only an enthusiastic new owner to bring it back to life.