Presented by RM Sotheby’s – With a front-line racing career spanning some 11 years—and encompassing two FIA GT Championships, a Le Mans class win and overall victory in the Spa 24 Hours—the Ferrari 550 GT1 justifiably occupies a place in the pantheon of all-time great Competition GT cars.
Remarkably, Ferrari’s last serious GT offering had been the mighty Group 4 Daytona, some three decades previously. However, whilst that project had been factory-led, no such blessing, initially at least, was forthcoming for the 550. Ferrari made it clear that any racing version would have to be developed privately, with Italian Race Preparation firm Italtecnica and their British counterparts Prodrive taking the lead. Indeed, it was not until 2003 that the factory-approved N. Technology squad, somewhat belatedly, chose to develop their own version.
One of four Italtecnica cars built, chassis 115811 was purchased by wealthy Italian Andrea Garbagnati, making its race debut in the first round of the 2001 FIA GT Championship at Monza. Entered by Team Rafanelli, the car was driven by former Formula One drivers Emanuele Naspetti and Mimmo Schiattarella. Although running fifth early on, their race ended in retirement following steering failure just after two-thirds distance. At the second round at Brno, the pair enjoyed a largely uneventful race to finish fifth, whilst at Magny-Cours two weeks later, they recorded a valiant fourth behind the winning Lister Storm and two Chrysler Vipers. After another fifth at Silverstone, a busy early season of five races in seven weekends concluded with a visit to Zolder in Belgium, in mid-May. Naspetti took a richly deserved pole position, although once again bad luck intervened with the car retiring once again due to accident damage.
The season resumed at Spa in early August for the series’ blue riband event, the 24 Hours. Naspetti was retained as lead driver of 115811 with Schiattarella replaced by two-time Spa winner Eric van de Poele; Belgian amateurs Philippe Steveny and Martial Chouvel also joining the squad. After qualifying second, Naspetti made a blistering start, even taking the race lead briefly in the third hour. However, the early pace had taken its toll, the car retiring after just six hours with a broken crankshaft.
A truncated season saw the car compete at the A1-Ring in late August, but the squad opted to miss the final three rounds of the Championship at Nurburgring, Jarama and Estoril. In Austria, Naspetti was partnered by Marc Duez, and after a somewhat lacklustre qualifying session—which left the pair only 13th—the car retired once again with engine maladies, this time shortly before half distance.
After lying dormant for the majority of the 2002 season, 115811 was loaned to erstwhile Touring Car team Dart Racing for the last three rounds of that year’s FIA GT Championship. Although driven by vastly experienced Red Bull-backed Austrian Dieter Quester and former Le Mans class winner Luca Riccitelli, and suitably updated to 2002 specification by Milan-based J.A.S Motorsport, the alliance was not a fruitful one, with all three rounds—Enna, Donington and Estoril—ending in retirement.
For 2003, car owner Garbagnati entrusted preparation responsibilities to JMB Racing, entering selected events in both the FIA and Italian GT Championships. Once again, the former was a disappointment, with drivers Terrien, Derichebourg and Pescatori enduring lamentable reliability and retiring from all four race starts. However, an otherwise disappointing season was salvaged when Garbagnati himself shared the car with Ferrari test driver Andrea Bertolini in two Italian GT races at the A1-Ring, taking overall victory in both.
The 2004 season represented 115811’s competitive swansong, with JMB’s lead driver Lorenzo Casè securing three overall victories in the car at Imola, Magione and Vallelunga en route to third place in the end of year standings. Appropriately, the Vallelunga win would be the car’s final contemporary race, with Casè sharing the car on this occasion with future Mercedes-Benz Formula One supremo Toto Wolff.
Following the conclusion of its contemporary race career, the car was sold to Frenchman Bruno Tortara and then to an anonymous German collector, the latter commissioning former JMB engineer Jean-Christophe Noel to undertake a comprehensive restoration. It was acquired by the vendor in 2018, who reinstated the spectacular 2002 Red Bull livery and undertook a complete engine and gearbox rebuild.
Subsequently tested by three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner, chassis 115811 is now fully race prepared and ready to do battle once again. It would undoubtedly be a competitive and show-stopping entry into the burgeoning Endurance Racing Legends and Masters Endurance Legends series, whilst its eligibility for Ferrari’s factory-organised Club Competizioni GT events further enhances its already considerable status. Indeed, with its seductive lines, classic front-engined 6-litre V-12 layout and unparalleled accompanying soundtrack, the 550 Maranello has long been considered a worthy successor to the likes of the 250 GTO, 275 GTB/C and Daytona; an accolade which will surely only be cemented further in future years.
This vehicle will be offered in RM Sotheby’s new Milan Sale, taking place 15 June at Palazzo Serbelloni in Italy. The sale will be livestreamed and remote bidding options are available.