Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello - Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello
The Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello is a Gran Turismo racing car belonging to the GT1 group . From 2001 to 2005, Prodrive manufactured ten vehicles based on the Ferrari 550 .  One of the greatest successes include the class victory at the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 2003, winning the FIA GT Championship in 2003 and 2004 and winning the Le Mans Endurance Series in 2004 and of 2005.
Prehistory and Development
Stéphane Ratel , organizer of the new FIA GT championship , already planned in 1998 to win Ferrari as a designer for his new racing series in order to increase its popularity. Therefore, at the end of the year, he met Jean Todt , the then team boss of Scuderia Ferrari , to convince him of the development of a racing car. There were three copies of the Ferrari F50 GTproduced for test drives, but Ferrari stopped the project again shortly afterwards. For this reason, too, Ratel changed the regulations of the FIA GT Championship to make it easier for private teams to enter his racing series. The cost-intensive GT1 class was abolished, and the previous GT2 class, referred to as GT , was promoted to the highest Gran Turismo class. Furthermore, private teams could now homologate racing cars without their manufacturer's consent . This paved the way for a Ferrari racing car that could be developed completely independently of Ferrari.
Stéphane Ratel soon gathered a number of interested privateers and commissioned Italtecnica to develop a racing car based on the Ferrari 550. The first of these vehicles, known as the Ferrari 550 GT , made its motorsport debut at the end of the 1999 season. Despite its size, the vehicle was quite fast, but the engine from the standard Ferrari 550, which was not intended for racing purposes, proved to be very unreliable and did not last long in racing. Frédéric Dor , the third customer who was originally supposed to receive such a vehicle, therefore withdrew his order. Dor, who was still interested in racing a Ferrari 550, then contacted the British company Prodrivewhich had already made a name for itself in touring car and later also in rallying by winning the world championship.
Prodrive determined that the Ferrari 550 had a lot of potential for a racing version. Care Racing Development , which Frederic Dor had since taken over, ultimately commissioned Prodrive with the production of two vehicles. These had, as one wanted to avoid the problems of Italtecnica-Ferrari, a reinforced engine. In addition, this was slightly enlarged and placed lower and further back in order to positively influence the weight distribution. The massive use of carbon fibers on the entire body made it possible to reduce the vehicle weight to 1,100 kilograms. The most visually striking feature was the large rear wing.
In the sixth of eleven rounds of the 2001 FIA GT Championship at the Hungaroring , Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu made their motorsport debut with the Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. The vehicle had to be parked early due to technical problems, but its performance was competitive from the start. After the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race, which had been held in the meantime, was skipped, Prodrive brought the car back to the start in the following race on the A1-Ring . Rydell and Peter Koxcelebrated their first race victory with the new vehicle right at the first finish of the Ferrari 550 GTS. One race later, they were again on the podium with third place. In the hands of Rydell and Menu, the Ferrari 550 GTS finished the following race in Jarama victorious for the second time.
Due to the good results, Frederic Dor commissioned Prodrive with the production of further vehicles. In 2002 the first two Prodrive Ferraris were handed over to BMS Scuderia Italia , which successfully entered the vehicles in the FIA GT championship. Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Delétraz achieved four race victories in Jarama, Anderstorp , Oschersleben and Estoril . Prodrive, on the other hand, withdrew from the FIA GT championship. The team did not return to the racetrack until the 24-hour race at Le Mans in the Ferrari 550 GTS. Surprisingly, Rydell, Menu and Tomáš Enge secured each othertook pole position in the GTS class and left the favored factory cars, the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R and the Chrysler Viper GTS-R , behind for a long time until Prodrive was finally forced to give up due to an oil leak in the 13th hour. Towards the end of the season, the team entered the American Le Mans Series , in which Enge and Peter Kox achieved class victory in Laguna Seca .
Years of great success
In 2003 the Ferrari 550 GTS became the dominant vehicle in the FIA GT Championship. The Scuderia Italia drivers Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi won a total of six out of ten races and finished the season in first place in the drivers' championship. Their teammates Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari , who celebrated two victories, including the class win at the 24-hour race of Spa-Francorchamps, which they supported by Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner as the best GT1 team behind the unexpected, were also not without success victorious Freisinger-Porsche finished. BMS Scuderia Italia easily won the title. Prodrive continued to contest the American Le Mans Series. At the beginning of the season, the Ferrari 550 GTS could not yet keep up with the factory Corvette. Towards the middle of the season, the tide turned when Prodrive won the last four races and kept catching up in the team standings. Corvette Racing's lead melted to four points, but it was just able to hold its own against Prodrive. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans , the greatest success ever achieved with the Ferrari 550 GTS was achieved as a prodrive with Tomáš Enge, Peter Kox and Jamie Daviesdistanced both factory Corvette by ten laps and secured the class win. This was all the more remarkable as Prodrive received no factory support from Ferrari. Impressed by the successes and almost as a compliment for Prodrive, Ferrari then announced the Ferrari 575 GTC, a works racing car. Although it won its debut race at the FIA GT Championship in Estoril, it later lagged behind the Ferrari 550 GTS in terms of performance.
In the 2004 season, the Ferrari 550 GTS continued their winning streak in the FIA GT championship. BMS Scuderia Italia won five out of eleven races and this time also achieved overall victory in the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race. Thus, the title in the team championship could be successfully defended and the driver’s championship, which Gollin and Capellari secured, went to BMS Scuderia Italia again. Care Racing also fielded a Ferrari 550 GTS in this racing series, in which it achieved fifth place in the team classification. Larbre Compétition took over a Ferrari 550 GTS, which it used in the new Le Mans Endurance Series . Christophe Bouchut , Pedro Lamy and Steve Zacchiawon all four races of the series and secured both the driver and team standings in their class. Prodrive lined up for the last time in the Le Mans 24-hour race . This time, however, the Ferrari lagged behind the works Corvette and took third and fourth place in the GTS category. Prodrive then ended its Ferrari project as it received a contract from Aston Martin to develop the DBR9 .
At the end of 2004, the debut of the new Maserati MC12 GT1 , which promptly won two races in four races, announced that the Ferrari 550 GTS would face strong opponents in the future. In 2005, Larbre Compétition remained the only team that could fight for victories with the Ferrari in the FIA GT Championship. Gabriele Gardel and Pedro Lamy were at the top of the winners' podium twice, but Larbre Compétition had to face the Maserati teams Vitaphone Racing and JMB Racing in the team classificationgive up. Gardel was still able to secure the driver's title with one point ahead. BMS Scuderia Italia withdrew from the FIA GT Championship and instead switched to the Le Mans Endurance Series. The Ferrari 550 GTS remained the dominant vehicle there, winning four out of five races. At the end of the season, BMS Scuderia Italia was in the lead in the team standings, while Scuderia Italia drivers Christian Pescatori , Michele Bartyan , and Toni Seiler shared the drivers' title with two class wins. The other victories went to the second Ferrari of Scuderia Italia and to the Czech team MenX. The 24-hour race at Le Mans, however, was less successful for the Ferrari 550 GTS. Since the Ferrari and the Corvette could keep up with the smaller prototypes in the previous year, they were slowed down in 2005 by additional weights. Because Corvette Racing brought the new Corvette C6.R to the start, this caused them less problems than the Ferrari and they achieved a double victory in their class. The best-placed Ferrari 550 GTS at the end of the race, however, was the Larbre Compétition in fourth place in its class, followed by the Russian Age Racing one place behind. Both Ferrari of BMS Scuderia Italia dropped out early.
Withdrawal from international motorsport
From 2006 onwards, the teams that used to race with the Ferrari 550 GTS now mostly rely on newer vehicles. In international motorsport, the vehicles were now largely displaced. While not a single Ferrari 550 GTS competed in the FIA GT Championship , the Convers MenX team , which was merged from MenX and Convers Racing , was the only one to field a Ferrari in the Le Mans Series. Peter Kox, Alexei Wassiljew and Robert PerglAlthough they could not achieve a race win, they consistently achieved podium positions or top points. This allowed them to keep the championship of the GTS class open until the last race, but in which Larbre Compétition, which now used an Aston Martin DBR9, got the upper hand. But the runner-up championship was also a success, as it enabled the team to qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans the following year. It entered the French endurance classic for the first time in 2006, but, like the other two Ferrari 550 GTS from Larbre Compétition and Russian Age Racing, which started in this race, it was canceled.
In 2007, a Ferrari 550 GTS never competed in any international championship. In the FIA GT Championship, vehicles from Solution F and Larbre Compétition only took part in a few races , but they were unsuccessful. In the Le Mans 24-hour race, only the Convers MenX team, which had qualified for participation last year by being runner-up in the Le Mans Series, started with a Ferrari 550 GTS. His drivers Vasiliev, Pergl and Tomáš Kostka were able to leave several vehicles in the GT1 category behind and finished the race successfully in 14th place in the overall standings. This was the last race a Ferrari 550 GTS had ever made on the Sarthe.
For the first time in two years, a Ferrari 550 GTS returned to the FIA GT Championship for a full season in 2008. This was used by the Escuderia ACA Argentina and driven alternately by Esteban Tuero , Gastón Mazzacane , José María López and Martín Basso . The best result was a fourth place in San Luis . In the team standings, tenth place was achieved with seven points. In 2009 Solution F had a guest start with its Ferrari 550 GTS at the FIA GT Championship in Le Castellet . Ange Barde and Olivier Panis reached seventh place and scored two championship points.