The 1

In 1996, Ferrari built the F50 GT1 prototype. In 2011, we shake it down.

October 21, 2011
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After 15 tears in professional racing—I currently drive one of Extreme Speed Motorsport’s Ferrari 458 GTs in the American Le Mans Series—it’s easy to get jaded about fast cars. That’s not the case today, however, because the Ferrari F50 GT1 has completely blown me away.

When the grey Magneti Marelli digital dash, outdated by modern standards of color and clarity, reads 10,500 rpm, I tug the shift lever to select third gear. The dash readout quickly climbs back up to 10,500 as the car violently throws itself forward.

The same thing happens when I upshift to fourth, then fifth. I’m certain the result would be the same in sixth, but I’ve run out of straight to know for sure.

At these serious triple-digit speeds, the corners of the bodywork, which I can barely see, begin to flutter in the hurricane-force breeze. I’ve never driven a car with so much power, so much venom. This Ferrari’s speed and sensations match everything I’ve ever heard about driving a Formula 1 car, especially the sound. The 4.7-liter 60-valve 65° V12 engine’s insane shriek is a wonderful combination of raspy, throaty and smooth wrapped into one glorious sound track. It sounds like a mechanical Janis Joplin, only better, and it makes me shiver every time I hear it.

I’ve driven the GT1 before, so it takes only a few laps to re-confirm what I had already believed: This is the coolest Ferrari sports-racer ever made.

IN 1995, FERRARI INTRODUCED THE F50 to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. As you’d expect, that road car was loaded with Formula 1-derived technology. The 520-hp V12 engine, composite tub and bodywork, titanium wheel hubs and push-rod suspension were all spun off from Ferrari’s early ’90s Grand Prix program.

In 1996, in a neat return to the competition side of the equation, Ferrari built the F50 GT1 in order to contest the then-popular international GT1 sports-car class. The race car featured a 750-hp version of the road car’s 4.7-liter V12 (the original 3.5-liter Formula 1 engine developed 735 hp at 14,800 rpm), a carbon-fiber monocoque and bodywork, fabricated-steel A-arms, carbon disc brakes and period state-of-the-art aerodynamics.

Also from Issue 114

  • First look at the new 458 Spider
  • A fire-ravaged 250 GT PF Cab is reborn
  • We talk with Chris Amon, 1960s Ferrari racer
  • The 458 GT scores its maiden ALMS win
  • Ferrari's F1 season comes down to the wire
  • A convertible, twin-turbo 400? Why not?
  • Market Update: Modern 12-cylinders
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