The last front-engined, V-12 Ferrari racing car

The Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione is a gorgeous, loud, and fast beast. It also heralded the end of an era for Ferrari as the last race car to come out of Maranello powered by a V-12 engine. What is more, Ferrari never built another GT1 car nor has there been a front-engined Ferrari on the race tracks of the world since the 575 and its sibling, the 550 Maranello, retired from top-level competition at the tail end of the noughties. Can you hear the fat lady’s song over the roar of the V-12?

It was all back in the early ’70s that Ferrari finally decided to pour the bulk of its resources into the F1 program and thus curtail its works-backed participation in top-level sports car endurance racing, bringing to an end an era that saw the Prancing Horse gallop to the top step of the podium at Le Mans a record nine times in just 16 years. But Ferraris kept racing in long-distance events and this, the 575 GTC, was Ferrari’s official answer to the re-born GT1 class a decade and a half ago.

The Ferrari 550M, an unlikely starting point for a racing car

1996 - 2001 Ferrari 550 Maranello High Resolution Exterior
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The Nurburgring Grand Prix track in Germany was the venue of choice for the launch event of the Ferrari 550 Maranello, a long-legged grand-tourer that replaced the aging F512M.

It all happened in 1996, an important year for Ferrari as the Italians signed Michael Schumacher to their F1 team and the signs of a resurgence were soon on the wall.

But the 550M was not conceived with racing in mind, in spite of the company’s decision to unveil it at Germany’s most famous road course.

At the time, Ferrari was busy making a race car out of the ill-fated F50, a car deemed inadequate almost from the moment it saw the light of day. Despite not being able to match the car it replaced, Nicola Materazzi’s fabled F40, the F50 proved handy in racing trim, reportedly lapping the Fiorano test track in the hands of Alessandro Nannini faster than the Ferrari 333 SP, a full-blown prototype.

1996 Ferrari F50 GT High Resolution Exterior
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It all went down the drain when the FIA, that took over the BPR Global GT Championship and re-branded it as the FIA GT Championship for 1997, allowed for purpose-built race cars to compete in the GT1 category. Previously, all cars competing in the BPR series were race-prepped versions of road-going models. For ’97, as a response to Porsche’s 911 GT1, a mid-engined super-GT car that was built with racing in mind and that only spawned a road-going version to make it eligible to compete, everyone was allowed to build such big-money racers and compete in the GT1 category.

The F50 GT wasn't that. It was a race car based on a road car and Ferrari felt the car would prove uncompetitive from the word go, despite its 4.7-liter Tipo F130B V-12 developing some 740 horsepower at an ear-splitting 10,500 rpm

.

As such, the project, jointly developed by Dallara and Michelotto, was canned overnight. Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to justify it: the F50 GT was as fast and as heavy as Porsche’s 911 GT1 but, at the end of the day, Ferrari decided to focus, once more, on F1.

The arrival of these mind-bogglingly quick GT cars that only mildly resembled whatever each manufacturer was offering for sale - or not at all in the case of Toyota’s TS010 GT-One - was met with a rave reaction from fans but the excitement fizzled away fast as the costs reached unbearable heights. By ’99, the GT1 class was beyond saving and, to soldier on, the FIA GT Championship decided to turn it down a notch and allow only GT2-class cars to compete.

Since there was no longer a ’GT1’ class, the GT2 machinery was simply referred to as ’GT’. The main combatants in the ’GT’ ranks were Chrysler, with its dominant Viper that was a force to be reckoned with in GT2, Lister, that re-engineered its 1996 Storm GT1 car, and Porsche that reverted to the old faithful 911 GT2. Ferrari didn’t play a part in the championship but, over in France, Red Racing saw some potential in the F550’s 48-valve, 5.5-liter V-12 which developed 485 horsepower at 7,000 rpm in stock form.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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Michel Enjolras developed the car and he was aided in his quest by Italtechnica, an Italian tuner that had previously teamed up with Jean Todt’s Peugeot Sport outfit on both its WRC and Dakar Rally programs.

Italtecnica built the first race-going 550 that was raced by Red Racing in the French GT Championship (FFSA GT) in 1999 in the GT3 category. The car, driven by Lucien Guitteny and Patrick Camus was no match for the established Porsche 911 Cup cars and a host of Venturis but Italtecnica was soon contacted by another party interested in the development of a track-focused Ferrari 550.

This time, the originator of the idea was none other than one of the BPR Global GT Championship’s co-founders, Stephane Ratel, who had since taken over the reins of the FIA GT Championship after the departure of Porsche’s Jurgen Barth (the ’B’ in BPR) and Patrick Peter (the ’P’ in BPR). Ratel, remembering vividly the days when Ferrari was at the top of its game in endurance racing, unleashing the 365 GTB/4 ’Daytona’ in the GT ranks for privateers to race while also entering the 312PB prototype under its own name in Group 6.

1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 and GTS/4 “Daytona” Exterior
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Coincidentally, the 365 GTB/4, a Le Mans class winner in ’72-’74, was also Ferrari’s last front-engined V-12 model. Upon its release, it immediately became the world’s fastest car and was given the nickname ’Daytona’ following Ferrari’s dominant 1-2-3 victory in the 1967 edition of the 24-hour race around the Floridian oval. Ferrari replaced the 365 GTB/4 with the 512 Berlinetta Boxer thus kicking-off a two-decade-long love affair with mid-engined V-12 wedges (admittedly, the first BB wasn’t really a wedge but we digress).

It all ended when the 550M came in to replace the 512M and Ratel realized he could capitalize on Luca Di Montezemolo’s decision to return Ferrari to its Gran Turismo roots. After all, both the Lister Storm and the Chrysler Viper were front-engined and were doing just fine. In fact, apart from the odd Venturi, there were basically no mid-engined cars entered in the FIA GT Championship in ’99. Even the bulbous Marcos Mantara LM600 was front-engined.

The only hurdle in Ratel’s way was Ferrari itself. After ditching the F50 GT, selling off the three completed chassis (under the condition that none would ever be entered in a sanctioned racing event), and announcing it would only support, albeit minimally, the development of the 333SP prototype, it was clear that there would be no support coming from Maranello for a Maranello race car.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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It was also clear that Michelotto, Ferrari’s builder of customer cars, was off-limits and only took care of Ferrari’s Challenge cars which competed in the company’s own single-make series. So, Ratel gathered together a multi-national group of investors and, under the Grande Tourisme Racing Development Ltd. (GTRD) banner, commissioned Italtecnica to build a GT-spec 550 with a wider track, a comprehensive body kit, and everything in between.

Unveiled in Paris in February of 2000, the 550 GT ’Millennio’, as it was known at first, looked menacing.

With a huge inlet in the front gaping above the protruding lip of the splitter and a huge wing out back, Italtecnica’s second stab at building a track-bound 550 Maranello surely looked the part and, with 585 horsepower on tap from the re-tuned V-12 engine, it was more powerful than Red Racing’s GT3 car (by a lofty 40 horsepower). At 2,425 pounds, it was 440 pounds lighter too, and a whopping 1,212 pounds lighter than the well-appointed 550 road car.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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Right off the bat, Italtecnica sold all five cars it managed to build ahead of the 2000 season (or so the rumor went at the time) but, disappointingly, only one actually showed up in the end, the Jean-Denis Deletraz/Fabien Giroix car entered by First Racing. The experienced duo could do nothing about the 550’s lack of pace, nor its lack of reliability with either the water pump or the Hewland six-speed sequential gearbox failing every time. It was rumored that EMI’s Steve O’Rourke, who’d been racing under the EMKA banner for a number of years already, would bring a 550 to Le Mans but O’Rourke stuck with the known quantity that was Porsche’s 911 GT3.

Frederic Dor (of Care Racing, another Swiss outfit) was another one of those queuing to get their hands on an Italtecnica 550 GT but, dismayed by the misfortunes of Deletraz and Giroix, he promptly canceled his order and made a phone call across the English Channel. At the other end was Prodrive’s David Richards who welcomed the challenge to build something that wasn’t a Subaru rally car for a change.

As in the case of the Italtecnica project, Prodrive’s interpretation of a GT-class 550 Maranello never received the blessing of Ferrari but it did catch the eye of the factory once finalized. For starters, it looked nothing like the plagued Italtecnica 550 GT, sporting an entirely different aerodynamic kit in July 2001 at the Hungaroring where it retired. However, next time out, at the A1-Ring in Austria in late August, Peter Kox and Rickard Rydell scored a clear win from pole position ahead of a fleet of Vipers and the works Listers.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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Earlier in the year, a third GT-spec 550 Maranello emerged, this one developed by Baumgartner Sportwagen Technik on behalf of team owner Franz Wieth. The Wieth 550 was, arguably, the worst one out there and nobody besides Wieth himself raced the car. In hindsight, the 550 Maranello was unique in that three different entities got to work creating their interpretation of a racing version. Soon, however, a fourth one would arrive.

2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione exterior dimensions
Length: 4590 mm (180.7 in)
Width: 2035 mm (80.1 in)
Height: 1170 mm (46.1 in)
Wheelbase: 2500 mm (98.4 in)

Ferrari joins the show, finally

Together, Prodrive and BMS Scuderia Italia, the former F1 team, scored five victories in 2002 with the 550 GTS, Prodrive racing across the pond in the American Le Mans Series while BMS took the fight to Larbre’s Vipers and newcomer Saleen in the FIA GT Championship. Bolstered by the successes registered by Prodrive, Ferrari decided to jump on the bandwagon with a car developed under the supervision of the Corse Clienti department, the one that up until that point was only overseeing the Challenge series.

N. Technology, the company responsible for Alfa Romeo’s successful ETCC program with the 156 GTA, built the cars as Ferrari wanted to keep it all in Italy - it is said that Prodrive tried to ink a deal with Ferrari to co-develop the racing version of the 575M that was bound to replace the 550M but Ferrari declined. Baby steps were made at first with Monegasque team JMB Racing being given the keys to a pair of 550s built by N. Technology largely to Italtecnica specs (as far as the widebody went) but with revised internals.

Chassis #F133 GT 2102 and #F133 GT 2014 were compared against an Italtecnica chassis used as a benchmark early on in the season.

While the N. Technology cars proved faster, they were yet to match the pace of the Prodrive cars and, to add insult to injury, they were as brittle as the Italtecnica chassis.

At year’s end, JMB Racing recorded one win while BMS Scuderia Italia racked up an impressive eight victories en route to the title. Prodrive, meanwhile, finished second-best in the ALMS.

But there’s something about that sole victory at Estoril that gave JMB Racing and Ferrari some hope: it was bagged with the 575 GTC. Busy preparing Gabriele Tarquini’s championship-winning Alfa tin tops, N. Technology only finished a pair of 575s in time for October’s penultimate round in Portugal. The Fabio Babini/Philipp Peter car qualified fifth and won, 15 seconds ahead of a Prodrive-built car.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Interior
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For 2004, two teams fielded the 575 GTC in the FIA GT Championship, JMB Racing and G.P.C. Giesse Squadra Corse. With a star-studded driver roster including current Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff, the cars... were still beaten by the old Prodrive machinery. BMS Scuderia Italia again took the FIA GT crown while Prodrive beat Corvette Racing at Le Mans. Ferrari meanwhile watched as the two 575s retired out of the big race and shied away from victory in the FIA GT Championship until Karl Wendlinger and Jaime Melo won at Donington Park for JMB Racing. That was round number six of the championship and the 575 GTC was mightly close to scoring back-to-back victories as G.P.C. came home second overall in the legendary 24 Hours of Spa.

Thereafter, it was business as usual for Ferrari’s devotees as no 575 GTC came within reach of victory lane.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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Prompted by what can only be described as a terribly underwhelming season, N. Technology got cracking and rolled out a comprehensive update package for the 575 GTC ahead of the 2005 season which was make-or-break for the future of the program.

The suits up in Maranello were irked by the fact that a three-year-old car built by Britons was better than their brand-new machine based on the improved 575M, not the ancient 550.

Evoluzione on paper, involuzione on the track

2003 Ferrari 575 GTC
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On paper, the 2004 season wasn’t that bad. After all was said and done, G.P.C. Giesse Squadra Corse finished second in the team’s standings with chassis #F133 MG 2218, the one that crossed the line runner-up at Spa, reaching the end in all of the 10 rounds of the season. So, in the very least, N. Technology made the platform reliable, something that Prodrive had already achieved since ’01.

Glancing over the qualifying results of the 575 GTCs that were driven by professional drivers, you could see they were pretty much catching up to the tail of the Prodrive-built 550s and even beating them now and again. Some argue that the two cars were a lot closer in terms of performance than the results may show, with the 575s lack of overall victories blamed on the fact that both JMB and G.P.C. Giesse Squadra Corse employed some semi-pro drivers who could never hope to extract everything that the 575 had to offer - while the BMS Scuderia Italia 550s were always driven by seasoned professionals.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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To improve cooling and drivability, Ferrari deployed the ’Evoluzione’ kit for 2005 that came with a slightly restyled splitter, new hood, and other subtle aero changes as well as some changes made with ease of maintenance in mind. As before, the 575 GTC was powered by a stroked out version of the 550’s mill with a capacity of 6.0-liters (up from 5.75-liters) that featured beefed-up cams and revised fuel injection system.

With the FIA's air restrictor in place, the engine cranked out 605 horsepower but, unchained, it delivered 665 horsepower at the crank.

All the oomph reached the back wheels via a sequential six-speed transmission sourced from Xtrac. With tall Le Mans gearing, the 575 GTC would top out at 208 mph. It weighed about 2,500 pounds dry thanks to its carbon fiber widebody and stripped, no-nonsense cabin. Other updates for ’05 included a new cooling tank.

Viewed from the front, the Evo version looks menacing thanks to a huge inlet that feeds air to the radiator. Two ducts on either side dispatch air to the brakes. The front bumper also incorporates a protruding lip while the sides of the nose are carved-in to accommodate a dive plane on either side for extra downforce. The hood sports one big, Daytona-esque, air vent in the middle and some upward-facing slats.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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The purposeful aesthetics of the last V-12-engined Ferrari are evident from every angle.

The profile is full of vents and, unlike the road car, the GTC version features side-exiting exhaust. There are vents aft of the front wheel arches that help hot air from the brakes exit swiftly. You’ll also see some slats behind the rear wheel arches that extend all the way to the back, near the edge of the taillights. There are also air vents carved into the rear bumper, while the rocker panel is shaped so as to direct air around the exhaust tip.

The refueling nozzle is located within the rear quarter window as the fuel cell is placed in the car’s trunk. The rear end of the 575 GTC looks really cool with the tall, adjustable wing with a nolder and the massive diffuser down below. The road car’s lip spoiler molded into the trunk lid and the edge of the rear fenders has been kept which also applies to the taillights. You’ll notice an extra pair of vents just above the splitter. Both the hood and the trunk lid are held in place via safety pins.

2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione specfications
Engine Ferrari Dino Tipo F133E 65-degree, DOHC, 48-valve, naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V-12
Bore x stroke 90 x 78.56 mm
Compression ratio 12.9:1
Output 605 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (with restrictor in place)
Torque 538 pound-feet of torque at 5200 rpm
Lubrication Dry sump
Gearbox Xtrac six-speed sequential
Suspension Independent all-around with unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and an anti-roll bar at both ends
Steering Rack-and-pinion
Brakes Ventilated discs all-around behind 18-inch OZ alloys
Performance Top speed in excess of 200 mph
Weight 2,530 pounds

The example you see here, chassis #2224, was the very last 575 GTC built by N. Technology and, by virtue of it being delivered to Czech businessman Antonin Herbeck ahead of the ’05 season, it came with the ’Evo’ package right from the factory. Herbeck entered it in the Italian GT Championship under the ’Rock Media Motors’ banner for himself to drive alongside Italian ex-F1 and Champ Car driver Andrea Montermini.

The format of the Italian national series was a familiar one: each race weekend featured two sprint races with a mandatory pit stop in the middle so that both drivers would get a stint behind the wheel in each race. As the championship’s rulebook mandated that all two-driver pairings feature a fully professional driver and a semi-professional or amateur driver, there was at least a semblance of a level playing field as far as driving talents were concerned although some semi-pro drivers were way quicker than some genuine gentleman drivers such as Herbeck.

Car For Sale: 2005 Ferrari 575 GTC Evoluzione Exterior
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The season started on a somber note as the first two races that made up round number 1 were canceled following the death of Pope John Paul II. As a result, the championship didn’t start in earnest until round 2 at Misano on May 1st (the previous round was scheduled for early March at Imola). Sadly, the team recorded a mechanical DNF after qualifying ninth in the hands of Montermini for the first race. In fact, the No. 12 Ferrari of Rock Media Motors managed to qualify inside the top ten six times across the season (there was only a single session of qualifying that decided the starting order for race 1 with the grid for race 2 being decided by the results in the first hour-long race).

The season’s highlights were a pole and a second place at Hungaroring where the Czech-Italian duo finished 10th overall. That was one of just three top-ten finishes for the Rock Media Motors car that was never quite at the sharp end of the field in arguably the most hotly contested season in Italian GT Championship’s GT1 era that was soon to end. After also retiring at Magione and Mugello, Herbeck decided to skip the season-ending races at Vallelunga. Alongside the participation in the Italian GT Championship, Herbeck squeezed in a lone start in the FIA GT, on Herbeck’s home track of Brno, in the Czech Republic. Montermini put the car 10th on the grid and that’s exactly where he and Herbeck would finish after 500 kilometers of hard racing.

For 2006, Herbeck was busy preparing the ex-Hezemans/Carsport Pagani Zonda GR and, as such, he only raced the 575 GTC once more before parking it in his private collection. That final outing took place at the opening round of the Italian GT Championship at Imola where the car retired out of both races. With a steady cash flow from his Rock Media publishing company that handled the printing process of well-known magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, or Top Gear on the Czech market, Herbeck was able to develop the Zonda well beyond its original potential although it never raced in the FIA GT.

British luxury car dealer Jarrah Venables wouldn't disclose the price of Herbeck's all-black 575 GTC Evoluzione but it shouldn't be below $500,000 considering one of the ex-G.P.C.

Giesse Squadra Corse 575 GTCs was tipped to sell for about as much all the way back in 2013. Jarrah Venables also lists for sale at the time of writing a gorgeous Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione that’s quite the bargain at $274,508 considering that a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 GTA is priced at $326,796.

Source: Classic Driver

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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