The GT racing class was first created in the mid 1950s and was subsequently dominated by Ferrari for the first decade of its existence. With the carefully constructed and prepared 250 GTs Ferrrari supplied their customers with instant winners. Ferrari built the last GT-car in 1965, after which customers had to modify Ferrari road cars to race. The most successful of these were the Daytona Competizione and F40 GT, which both had some backdoor support from the works.
At the end of 1993 sportscar racing was turned upside down, with new regulations much favoring GT cars. A new GT1 class was created to replace the Group C cars. At least 25 examples of a car had to be produced for it to be homologated. Ferrari privateers relied on the F40 GTE, which was based on the road going F40, introduced in 1987. New cars like the McLaren F1 GTR and the Porsche 911 GT1 left the ’old F40’ obsolete.
With the GT1 cars very much in contention for the overall victory at Le Mans, Ferrari started work on the first factory built and prepared GT-racer in thirty years. Ferrari called in the help of Michelotto, who were also involved in the construction of the F40 GT cars and the 333 SP prototype racer. The new car was based on the F50 supercar launched in 1995, which was built in enough numbers to secure homologation of the F50 GT.
Described as an F1 racer for the streets, the F50 already incorporated many racing car design features. Outwardly the F50 GT was easily recognizable through its altered nose and rear wing. Like the road going V12, the GT’s engine displaced exactly 4.7 litres, but it was extensively modified to produce 750 bhp, an increase of well over 200 bhp. The engineers put the F50 on a strict diet, resulting in a 400 kg weight loss for the racer.
Ferrari test driver Nicola Larini extensively tested the first car built on Ferrari’s private Fiorano test track in September of 1996. The Ferrari F50 GT’s out of the box pace was quite impressive, with Larini clocking faster lap times than the 333 SP prototype racer. This has however remained as the F50 GTs sole career highlight, as Ferrari pulled the plug on the project soon after the first tests were completed.
It is not entirely clear why Ferrari backed out of the project, but it was most likely a combination of factors. Most of Ferrari’s resources were spent on winning the Formula 1 World Championship, leaving little for the further development of the F50 GT. A slight change in the rules signaled the arrival of the purpose built racers from Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Toyota meant that a lot more resources would have been required to get the F50 GT competitive.
The sole completed car was sold to an American collector and two more were constructed for two prominent Ferrari clients. All three cars were sold under the condition that they were never to be raced in anger. Three further tubs were constructed, but according to Ferrari these were later destroyed.