With Ferrari yet to be convinced by its flagship 550 Maranello’s credentials as a competition car, it fell to smaller privateer outfits to prepare the elegant twelve-cylinder Gran Turismo for racing and prove its worth. Prove its worth they most certainly did – widely respected names such as Prodrive and Italtecnica unlocked the front-engined model’s potential, ultimately instilling Ferrari with the confidence to greenlight development of what would become the 575 GTC.
Among the earliest competition variants of the Ferrari 550 Maranello were the two identical cars built by the French privateer team XL Racing to contest the GT2 and N-GT categories of international endurance racing. The development of said cars was overseen by the longstanding Peugeot Sport engineer Michel Enjolras with the direct assistance of Italtecnica in Italy. A bespoke and ultra-strong roll-cage was fabricated by Matter in Germany, the V12 engine was massaged and extensive work was invested into weight-saving and honing an aerodynamically advanced carbon-fibre body package.
The result was a car which weighed a staggering 400kg less than the road-going Ferrari 550 Maranello and, with 600HP on tap, was a healthy 130HP more powerful. More pertinently, the thorough development of XL Racing’s 550 Maranello GT2 granted it homologation from the respective governing bodies of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the American Le Mans Series and the French FFSA GT Championship.
Chassis number 108536
The second of XL Racing’s two 550 Maranello GT2s, chassis number 108536 first contested the 2002 French FFSA GT Championship, though was soon transported across the pond to the United States to compete in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Preparation and running of the car was entrusted to the German outfit Seikel Motorsport, which boasted a wealth of experience in the ALMS.
America’s top-flight endurance motorsport series, the ALMS generated a great deal of media and commercial interest, not only stateside, but also back in Europe. The XL Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello GT was entered into two events during the 2002 ALMS season. First up was the Road America 500 at the history-steeped Elkhart Lake circuit in Wisconsin. Drivers Craig Stanton and Stefano Buttiero duly announced the arrival of the 550 Maranello, crossing the line an impressive seventh in the GT category.
Next up was arguably the jewel in the ALMS crown: Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Craig Stanton was joined for the 1,000-kilometre affair by Hugh Plumb and the French endurance racing veteran Gilles Vannelet. Alas, the trio was forced to retire after 171 laps.
The following year, chassis number returned to France and the fiercely competitive FFSA GT Championship. The car contested all 12 rounds of the series, raced predominantly by Gael Lesoudier, and picked up three podiums in the GT category. Arguably the most significant moment of 2003 for this Ferrari 550 Maranello came in July at the tiny Merignac circuit in Bordeaux, France.
A certain M. Schumacher – you know, the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion and all-time Ferrari great – was present to personally deliver an Enzo to one of Ferrari’s most important clients. Rumour has it that Schumacher spotted this 550 Maranello GT2 in the paddock and asked XL Racing if he might be able to have a go. Several spirited laps later, a visibly ecstatic Schumacher signed the roof of the car in a gesture of goodwill. In the 1,000KM-race at Le Mans in November of 2003, the German’s signature can still be clearly seen on the roof of this Ferrari.
Chassis number 108536 was sold by XL Racing in 2004, though by no means did that render the car’s competitive career over. This Ferrari remained a regular feature in the French FFSA GT Championship right up until 2007. As the photos illustrate, this Ferrari has benefitted from a thorough mechanical inspection, a comprehensive service and a cosmetic refresh.
“If you’ve always dreamed of racing a 12-cylinder Ferrari at Le Mans, here’s your chance.”
With regards to the latter, we commissioned PubbliMais to refinish the car in its exact livery in which it contested the 1,000km race at Le Mans in 2003, at a cost of over 6,000 euros. The Torinese company famously applied the liveries for Lancia’s Works competition cars throughout the decades and it’s fair to say the artisans there know a thing or two about livery application. The finish is nothing short of exquisite.
A naturally-aspirated 12-cylinder flagship Ferrari with competition history at international endurance motorsport’s highest level, this 550 Maranello GT2 by XL Racing in an important piece of racing history. Not least because, together with the other examples built for competition by privateer teams, it ultimately proved the racing pedigree of the model and gave Ferrari the confidence to build its own version.
Furthermore, with the burgeoning popularity of modern-era endurance racing cars in the world of historic motorsport, chassis number 108536 is a highly eligible car with which to join this exciting movement. You only had to look at the voluminous and wildly diverse Endurance Racing Legends grid at this year’s Le Mans Classic to appreciate the appetite for these cars. If you’ve always dreamed of racing a 12-cylinder Ferrari at Le Mans, here’s your chance.