Ferrari 550s create a sea of red at the 80th Members’ Meeting

14th April 2023
Ethan Jupp

England in mid-April early in the morning can be a bit gloomy. Grey clouds hanging in the skies over black tar under wooden structures with metallic roofs made for a positively monotone background, once a trio of luminous rosso Ferrari 550 GTSs emerged from the shadows of their shelters at the 80th Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport. It’s enough to have us all transfixed as we wake ourselves up on our morning walk around Members’ Meeting, before the hungry motorsport fans take over the place.


The story of the Ferrari 550 GTS is a curious one, given it’s a slight reach to call it a Ferrari at all. At the time of its conception in the late 1990s, Ferrari had zero interest in turning its new front-engined GT into a racer. Quite odd, given the 250 GTO that inspired its styling was first and foremost, a racer.

That didn’t stop Care Racing Development and Prodrive from cooking up a plan, buying a few 550s for themselves, stripping them to the bone and turning them into top-level GT racers. Word has it the original plan was to call it the 550 GTO, though that never came to be given the likelihood that Ferrari would get all litigious.


Ferrari 550 GTS: a GTO by any other name

Legend has it that it was on the merit of the GTS roject that Prodrive won the contract with Aston Martin to develop and run the DBR9.

This followed Ferrari quietly entertaining the prospect of teaming up with Prodrive, before veering off to create a ‘factory’ effort elsewhere. Per the Scuderia’s famously poor luck in the higher echelons of the enduros, the resulting 575 GTC wasn’t a patch on Prodrive’s privateer effort, at least in the standings.

As for the 550s? In their 343 races across the globe over their seven-year contemporary racing career, they scored 60 pole positions, 69 victories and 151 podium finishes. A GTO by any other name, then.


Triumphant trio

These three are the first of the ten-car batch Prodrive produced, CRD01 (15), CRD02 (02) and CRD03 (65). The cars are here at the 80th Members’ Meeting under the care of Girardo and Co, who have gone to the trouble of extensively profiling the model and these car’s histories. We’ll whistle-stop some highlights.

Firstly, that CRD01 went from a prototype testing schedule to scoring pole and a victory (by 48 seconds, no less) in its maiden race, probably says all you need to know about these cars. The definition of hitting the ground running. Indeed, this is also the car sampled by Ferrari when the idea of a collaboration was on the table.

CRD02 was the car that in the hands of Fabruzio Gollin, Luca Cappellari, Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner, scored victory at the 2004 Spa 24 hours – a Ferrari’s first at the Ardennes since 1953. The win was also a massive milestone for Lilian Bryner, in becoming the first woman to win the Spa 24 hours and in fact, the first female winner of any 24-hour race. In its years racing between 2001 and 2005 it finished on the top step in no less than 14 races both in ALMS and European GT championships.

CRD03 meanwhile is best-known for being Colin McRae’s busman’s holiday, with the world-famous championship-winning rally driver jockeying at Le Mans in 2003. He and teammates Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell got to the podium, scoring a fastest lap on the way.

Perhaps the most incredible title that the 550 GTS in general can claim? It’s the last V12-engined Ferrari ever to win (albeit its class) at Le Mans. These three, among their triumphant kin, are surely icons of this GT1 era and sure-fire blue-chip fodder for the future.

The 80th Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport is live now! You can watch every second of the action right here on GRR.

Photography by Pete Summers.

  • Ferrari

  • 550 GTS

  • GT1

  • 80MM

  • Members Meeting

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