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Book Review: Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

There will be few who can argue against Ferrari’s status as one of the most successful and admired race and sports car manufacturers in the world. The first of Ferrari’s cars was the Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 which was driven by the legendary Alberto Ascari in the 1940 Mille Miglia. But it wasn’t until 1947 that Ferrari was permitted to use his own name on those cars he manufactured, the  first being the 125 S, followed by a healthy number of Formula 1 and 2 racers and sports cars.

The emergence of the 166 MM Touring gave him his big break in endurance racing in 1949, when Luigi Chinetti and Peter Mitchell-Thomson won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first race to be held by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) after World War II.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive
The unpack… © Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale

Ferrari’s next Le Mans victory came in 1954 with the 375 Plus and again in 1958 with the 250 TR/58, but it was the first half of the 1960s that really belonged to Ferrari. From 1960, wins by the 250 TR59/60, 250 TRI/61, 330 TRI/LM, 250 P, 275 P and 250 LM gave Ferrari six consecutive victories in the French endurance race. But all the while Ferrari was also cleaning up the Grand Touring 3000 class around the world with wins by the V12 front-engined 250 GT LWB, 250 GT SWB, 250 GTO, GTO 64 and 275 GTB.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Ferrari decided to withdraw from sports car racing at the end of the 1965 season, but the ’66 Le Mans 24 Hours saw one of the highest number of Ferrari entrants, all privateer teams. This means that Ferrari’s last win at Le Mans with an official factory team, was back in 1965 (until 2023). Then, the rise of the great 365 GTB/4 (Daytona), saw Ferrari’s fortunes restored in front-engined V12 GT racing through the first part of the 1970s.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

As it happens in motorsport, race car models and manufacturers come and go as the rules change, suiting them in some years but not in other years. Turbocharging and mid-engined race cars dominated and sports prototypes came to the fore once again in the ‘70s, while through the 1980s, Porsche ruled the roost with their Group C 956 and 962 cars. As the 1990s dawned and the Group C class was struggling, GT cars once again became the go-to class. The emergence and growth of GT racing through the ‘90s is largely down to the tireless work by Stéphane Ratel and the SRO Group, where the GT1 class attracted the likes of Porsche, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Panoz, Chrysler Viper, Corvette and others. The racing was intoxicating!

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

The Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Enter the likes of Frédéric Dor who wanted to drive a Ferrari in GT1, and he purchased a 550  Maranello race car for this purpose. However, he wasn’t happy with the car’s performance on track and approached Dave Richards’ Prodrive Group, to see if there was some way in which they could sort out the car’s problems. A second-hand 550 Maranello was then acquired and stripped back to a bare shell, and the Prodrive team set about rebuilding it in the way it should have been done.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

In a period of just fifteen weeks, the first 550 Maranello Prodrive went from being a second-hand car to a fully fledged racer. In its first season, 2001, the 550 Maranello made its intentions very clear, winning its second race (A-1 Ring, Austria) and fourth race (Jarama, Spain) in the FIA GT Championship. In its second year, the car competed in the FIA GT Championship, the ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Preparing the 550 Maranello for the European and American series required adhering to a different set of rules for each series, but this Prodrive did in its usually excellent way.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

In 2003, the 550 Maranello Prodrive scooped a GTS Class win at Le Mans, also winning the FIA GT Championship that year and finishing second in the ALMS. The following season, the car dominated the FIA GT Championship, winning in comprehensive style, also taking the LMS Endurance Series title. In 2005, the 550 Maranello Prodrive finished fourth and fifth in the GT1 Class at Le Mans, it was third in the FIA GT Championship and scored a 1-2-3-4 finish in the Le Mans Endurance Series.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Book Set Contents

The two-volume set, Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive – The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans, offers the reader an unparalleled record of how this magnificent race car came to be. Written by long-time Ferrari enthusiast and aficionado, Keith Bluemel, this well-researched and well-written account of this superb race car is top-drawer stuff. Bluemel needs no introduction in the world of Ferrari, and he has done an excellent job in producing this outstanding book.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Part 1 of the two-volume set covers the history of Ferrari’s 12-cylinder GT cars and its racing history, the 550 concept and those behind the project. Also included in this part is the return of Ferrari to the GT fold, as well as a detailed account with chassis-by-chassis statistics of each of the 550 Maranello Prodrive cars.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Part 2 of the two-volume set covers the development and testing of the car which included tests at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track. The final chapter of the book gives a detailed account of the car’s in action, with results for each race, from 2001 to 2009. At the end of the book is a comprehensive Index, plus Acknowledgements which if you take the time to peruse this section, the reader will see the high profile names involved with every aspect of the compilation.

 Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

With added knowledge and experience from the publishers, Girardo & Co and DK Engineering, this is a really worthwhile publication. Having this two-volume set on your bookshelf will most definitely be a talking point with like-minded friends and colleagues. Get your copy while you still can, it is bound to be a worthwhile addition to your library!

Book Information

  • Title: Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive
  • Sub-title: The Last V12 Ferrari to Win at Le Mans
  • Author: Keith Bluemel
  • Foreword: David Richards & Frédéric Dor
  • Publisher: Girardo & Co., DK Engineering
  • ISBN: 978-1-3999-5783-0
  • First published: 2023
  • Page count: 592 pages (in 2 volumes)
  • Images: 830 images
  • Format: Hardback, 2-volumes in Slip Case
  • Dimensions: 290 x 290 mm (square)
  • Language: English
  • Print: Limited and numbered edition – 550 copies
  • Price: 630.00 Euros
  • Available: McKlein Store – Phone: +49 (0)2203-9242570
  • Website: Rally & Racing – Ferrari 550 Maranello Prodrive

Written by: Glen Smale

All images: © Girardo & Co. Archive