Developed out of Ferrari’s GTO Evoluzione project, the LM was a full-house competition version of the sublime F40 and should theoretically have been suitable for a wide-range of racing series. However, with the demise of Group B and sportscar racing in crisis during the late 1980’s, Ferrari customers were left with very few options for their cars. After a brief spell contesting North America’s IMSA GT series, it seemed the LM would never be able to fulfil its potential. As it turned out though, the F40 eventually had several good seasons racing after production of the road-going version had long since been discontinued.
Since the late 1970’s, all Ferrari’s customer racing cars had been built and prepared by Michelotto, the little Padovan firm developing models like the 512 BB LM and 308 GTB rally cars on behalf of the Maranello factory. F40 LM’s were no exception and the stock chassis was extensively reinforced with carbon fibre to help it better withstand the rigours of competition. Michelotto also fitted completely revised suspension with stiffer Koni springs and dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, huge 355mm Brembo ventilated disc brakes and unique 17-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels. LM’s came with a racing version of the Tipo F120 A engine, this hot unit, designated Tipo F120 B, retaining an identical three-litre displacement of 2936cc. The two IHI turbochargers were cranked up to 2.6bar (compared to 1.1 for the road car) whilst compression was increased to 8.0:1 (from 7.7:1). Bigger Behr intercoolers, new camshafts and an all-new engine management system with Weber Marelli IAW 072 controlling dual injectors per cylinder were other special features. Output grew to an F1-rivalling 720bhp at 7500rpm but without the 38mm air restrictors in place, a monumental 760bhp was reputedly on tap.
Design and Performance
The synchromesh was removed from the five-speed gearbox and a triple plate hydraulic clutch installed. 0-60 took just 3.1 seconds and the top speed? 229mph. Although keeping a practically identical side profile to the stock F40, Michelotto fitted several distinctive aero features that were unique to this small series of competition cars. At the front, a jutting carbon fibre chin spoiler wrapped around the valance while a new front lid featured a pair of fixed headlights under clear Lexan covers. A NACA duct was positioned above the Ferrari badge and huge radiator cooling vents carved out from the front bodywork.
More NACA ducts were located on the side skirts and in front of the rear wheels, the huge rear wing getting a cockpit-adjustable centre section. There were also new wing mirrors and lightweight plastic windows. Interiors were fitted with OMP bucket seats and digital instrumentation, weight being cut down to just 1050kg. The first LM, chassis 79890, was completed in October 1988, Ferrari’s test driver Dario Benuzzi shaking the prototype down that month around Fiorano. Benuzzi begun an intensive development programme that saw several top drivers contribute to its fine tuning, over 30,000km being racked up by 79890 including a 229mph (367km/h) run at the Nardo speed bowl in February 1989. Subsequently making its competitive debut in the North American IMSA GT series during October 1989, this was with no less than Jean Alesi at the wheel. The first and second LM’s were run by Ferrari France before the next customer car was delivered in May 1990. Michelotto only manufactured 19 of these cars, the majority of which went straight into private collections, never to turn a wheel in anger.