Conceived by the Frenchman Frédéric Dor’s Care Racing Development outfit and designed, developed and constructed by Prodrive, the Ferrari 550 GTSs, as they were more commonly known, each born from a Ferrari 550 road car including Dor's personal car, collectively entered 343 races across the globe between 2001 and 2008, scoring 60 pole positions, 69 victories and 151 podium finishes.
The Ferrari 550 GTO
Did you know that Prodrive homologated its GT racing version of the Ferrari 550 Maranello as a 550 GTO? We appreciate that comparing the car to the fabled 1960s Ferrari with which is shares its ‘Gran Turismo Omologato’ nomenclature sounds bizarre, but there are, in fact, parallels to be drawn.
Both are front-engined 12-cylinder Ferraris. Both were utterly dominant in their respective (golden) eras of GT racing. Both won their class at the most famous and challenging endurance race of them all: Le Mans. Both emit soul-stirring symphonies from their exhaust pipes. And, perhaps this goes without saying, both are also exceptionally beautiful.
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.
The first born. Chassis 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 prepared by Prodrive at the dawn of 2001 specifically for the FIA GT Championship and first turned a wheel on 27 April at the IDIADA proving ground in Spain – a momentous test the new car’s brainchild Frédéric Dor remembers only too well. “We were entering into unchartered territory,” he recalls, with a degree of trepidation, “so having witnessed the embryonic stage, it was a very special moment when the car turned its wheels under its own power for the first time.”
The initial feedback on that inaugural shakedown from the man in the driver’s seat, the Swedish touring-car champion Rickard Rydell, was reassuring. Though as Prodrive had learned first-hand from its title-winning rallying operation with the Subarus, the importance of testing could not be underestimated.
Prior to its maiden competitive FIA GT Championship outing in July of 2001, CRD01 embarked on a rigorous, disciplined and intense schedule of testing, first in the United Kingdom, at venues such as Snetterton, Milbrook, and the MIRA wind tunnel, and secondly on the continent – take the 12-hour endurance race dress rehearsal at Spa-Francorchamps in June, for example. The enduring performance and reliability of this car was by no means a coincidence.
The Eurosport Super Racing Weekend at the Hungaroring in July, round six of the season, marked the race debut of CRD01 – and thus the Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive. Racing under the Works Prodrive banner, Rickard Rydell was joined by fellow touring-car veteran Alain Menu on driving duty, the pair qualifying fifth after a very impressive performance for what was a virtually ‘box-fresh’ GT racing car.
The minimalistic and unintrusive livery worn by CRD01 in its debut year would go on to become a hallmark of the Works-entered 550 Maranello Prodrives. And it’s worth noting that this unintrusive design was not by accident. We’ll let the decorated automotive designer Peter Stevens (yes, he of McLaren F1 fame) who shaped this GT1 variant of the 550 Maranello explain…
“Everybody agreed that we wanted to create a car that was aesthetically pleasing – we didn’t want fussy aero bits and pieces that were lazily stuck on and ungainly,” he remembers. “If Ferrari takes a car racing, the purpose is to sell Ferraris. But here the aim was to sell Prodrive’s ability to develop a track-focused GT competition car. In that respect, it was important that it looked convincing, professional and, most importantly, beautiful. Hence the minimalistic liveries in which the 550s ran – they were mostly all red, which sent a great message and worked in Prodrive’s favour from an image point of view.”
For further information, please see our news feature on the car