The lightest Maserati Coupe ever designed

In 2001, Maserati introduced the Coupe, its first vehicle under Ferrari ownership. Credited for bringing the brand back into business, the grand tourer spawned the Trofeo race car the following, which also marked the birth of Trofeo Maserati, the company’s popular motorsport championship. In 2004, Maserati debuted a more hardcore version of the Trofeo. It was called the Trofeo Light and unlike its sibling, it was developed for use in various international racing series.

Just like the regular Trofeo, the Light was produced by Maserati’s racing department and in collaboration with Italtecnica. It was considerably lighter due to use of composite materials and features significant aerodynamic modifications. As a result, it was quicker and more agile, two essential qualities for international racing.

The car’s first testing session took place at Daytona in January 2004. The coupe debuted on the same track nearly a month later, during the 24 Hours of Daytona. The Trofeo Light had a long life, remaining competitive until 2008. Although it was officially replaced by an endurance-spec version of the GranTurismo in 2009, the Trofeo Light continued to show up at various events in 2009 and booked two full Brasil GT seasons in 2010 and 2011.

Continue reading to learn more about the Maserati Trofeo Light.

  • 2004 Maserati Trofeo Light
  • Year:
    2004-
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    6 speed sequential
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    430@7000
  • Torque @ RPM:
    4500
  • Displacement:
    4244 L
  • Top Speed:
    177 mph
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

Arguably the most aggressive iteration of the Coupe ever ever built, the Trofeo Light received a significant exterior update compared to the its one-make racing sibling. While some changes were made in order to improve the car for international racing, some came as a result of the FIA’s regulations for various series.

Up front, Maserati replaced the Trofeo’s production-based bumper with a more aerodynamic element featuring a new splitter. An additional pair of foglamps was mounted near the turn signals, while the engine hood received vents for improved cooling. Larger side skirt with integrated exhaust pipes were added, while the Trofeo’s wheels were replaced with even lighter rims and FIA-approved, race-spec tires.

Around back, the Trofeo Light displayed a massive wing that was attached to the rear fenders, which made it incredibly wide as well. The rear bumper was mildly revised and the familiar quad-exhaust layout disappeared, replaced by the new side-exiting configuration. The rear windscreen received two vertical bars for safety reasons. Both the front and rear fenders were wider than the Trofeo’s.

Although not visible because of the paint, most of the body panels were made from composite materials, which made the race car significantly lighter than the Trofeo at 2,535 pounds. For reference, the road-going Coupe tipped the scales at 3,682 pounds, while the Trofeo weighed in at 3,132 pounds.

Interior

The interior of the Trofeo Light was based on the Trofeo, but certain modifications had to be made in order to make the car eligible for FIA competition. As a result, it received an FIA-approved roll-cage and fire extinguishing system. The center console and the driver’s seat were also revised, but other than that, the Light shared everything else with the Trofeo, including the Alcantara-covered dashboard, the steering wheel, and the lightweight door panels.

Drivetrain

Under the hood, the Trofeo Light received a revised version of the naturally-aspirated, 4.2-liter V-8 found in the Coupe. Co-develop with Ferrari and rated at 385 horsepower and 332 pound-feet in the road-going model, the mill was updated to 414 horses in the Trofeo and 430 horsepower and 339 pound-feet in the Trofeo Light.

The transmission was a six-speed sequential based on the Coupe’s Cambiocorsa with paddle shifters, tuned for quicker and more precise shifting.

The sprint from 0 to 60 mph was achieved in less than four seconds, about a second quicker than the standard model, while top speed was estimated at nearly 180 mph.

The suspension system was completely revised with a new structure and tubular steel arms, while the brakes were updated compared to the Trofeo.

Prices

Unlike the Trofeo, which was never sold to customers but rather rented on a "pay and drive" agreement, the Trofeo Light was supplied to privateers around the world. Pricing information was never revealed, but the Trofeo Light was likely significantly more expensive than the subscription for the Trofeo, listed at €120,000 plus taxes back in 2003. Only 10 were built.

Some examples of the Trofeo Light have been auctioned since the car retired, selling for more than €100,000. In 2010, Coy’s auction a plain body model in "excellent condition" for €170,930 (about $192,580). In 2011, RM Auctions sold chassis number 04 used in the 2005 FIA GT3 European Championship and 2005 Italian GT Championship for €127,600 (around $143,760).

Racing History

The Trofeo Light made its track debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2004 to a modest display. Most cars were used in the Italian GT Championship that season, but some cars also showed up at Watkins Glen, Virginia, and Fontana. 2005 saw Trofeo Lights raced mostly in the Italian series, but with no important achievements and only one top 10 finish.

Retired from the Italian GT Championship, the Italian race car made brief appearances on race tracks around Europe and North America between 2006 and 2009. Notable results included a third place finish in a GT4 event at Spa Francorchamps and a fourth position at the 500km Interlagos. In its final two years on the track, the Trofeo Light was raced in the Brasilian GT Championship, also without major achievements.

Notable teams that fielded Trofeo Lights include Risi Competizione, Scuderia Ferrari of Washington, Jlly Club, and AF Corse.

Overall, the Trofeo Light was entered in 185 races, finished 125, and retired from 45. It scored 14 class wins. but didn’t manage to take an overall victory.

Competition

Chevrolet Corvette C5.R

The Corvette C5.R was among the many GT racers the Trofeo Light fought against in international series. Built in cooperation with Pratt & Miller, GM’s longtime partner for racing, the C5.R was based on the fifth-generation Corvette and debuted in 1999, five years before the Maserati. Initially powered by a 6.0-liter V-8 engine based on the road car’s LS1, the C5.R received a larger 7.0-liter unit during the 1999 season. Eleven cars were built between 1999 and 2004. Ten were used by Corvette Racing, while one was built for privateer use. Although production ended in 2004, the C5.R was raced until 2009, recording 300 entries, 18 outright wins, and 41 class victories throughout its career. Highlights included wins at 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the American Le Mans Series championship.

Porsche 996 GT3-RS

Based on the road-legal 996-generation GT3, the GT3-RS was an evolution of the GT3 Cup introduced in 1998. Launched in 2000 and raced until 2011, the GT3-RS became one of the most successful GT racers of its era, scoring no fewer than 15 outright wins and 127 class victories in 1,840 entries. Powered by a race-bred flat-six, the GT3-RS scored overall wins at Daytona and Spa and dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans by taking seven consecutive GT/N-GT class wins at Le Mans from 1999 to 2005.

Conclusion

Even though it failed to win any important races internationally, the Trofeo Light marked Maserati’s returned to the FIA calendar after a long hiatus. The same car also brought the V-8 co-developed with Ferrari to international racing events in a Maserati-badged vehicle. Although Maseratis returned poor performance at the track in the era, the Trofeo Light was proof that Modena was at least willing to put up a fight and challenge the world’s most successful race car constructors.

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    • * No overall wins
    • * Lackluster racing career overall
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