The Ferrari F40 is undoubtedly one of the most legendary cars ever built and it was the ultimate goodbye from Enzo Ferrari before passing away in 1988. Surprisingly, Ferrari didn’t build the car to compete in racing. Only when the French importer proposed it, Ferrari started considering it. In this article we will give you an insight of all race versions of the Ferrari F40.
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How The Ferrari F40 Was Born
In 1982, the FIA launched the Group B series; a rally championship without a single sign of humanized rules. Aerodynamic rally cars with ridiculously powerful engines were let loose on the tight dirt tracks. The FIA announced a Group B Circuit Series in 1984 and Ferrari wanted to join.
Photo: Andreas Birner
They had to build 200 examples of the Ferrari 288 GTO to homologate the version that was intended for racing. By the time they finished building the required road and racing cars, the Group B was discontinued because it was too dangerous. Ferrari eventually built and sold 272 units of the 288 GTO, but were left with six Evoluzione racing cars.
Enzo Ferrari was getting older and decided he wanted to shock the world one more time with the building of an extreme road car. Pininfarina designer Leonardo Fioravanti, who also designed the 288 GTO, used the 288 Evoluzione as a base model for this upcoming road car.
After a development of just 13 months the F40 reveal was planned at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show, but instead was revealed in Maranello as FIAT wanted to have as much attention going towards the Alfa Romeo 164. The reveal was just in time for the marque’s 40th anniversary, hence the name F40. Ferrari was able to make the whole room speechless.
The main purpose of the Ferrari F40 was to be the fastest and most exiting car on the public road. Initially, Ferrari wanted to sell 400 examples, but demand was so big (over 3000 people showed their interests) they expanded the production to 1311 units.
Ferrari F40 Racing Cars
All of the owners must’ve felt the same about driving the F40: a very expensive go-kart with an amazing amount of grip. Two vital qualities a race car has to have. When Daniel Marin (manager of the French dealership Charles Pozzi) and others proposed the idea of a racing F40 to the factory, they started making plans.
1989 Ferrari F40 LM ‘IMSA GTO’
Photo: Jerry Winkler
It all started in 1989 with the Ferrari F40 LM ‘IMSA GTO’. The IMSA is a primarily American race series. The Ferrari F40 road car was still in production, so Ferrari searched for an external company, which became Michelotto. Ferrari collaborated with them on many areas before, so it was an easy pick.
They started out with a standard F40 and modified it to a fire-spitting racing car. Modifications were an engine upgrade to 780 bhp, a weight reduction of 200 kg (440 lb), racing suspension, a fully adjustable wing with gurney flap, bigger intercoolers and waste gates in the turbochargers. More air vents and an extensive rear diffuser were also added. The interior was even more stripped-out and featured a futuristic digital dashboard.
The ‘IMSA’ versions had a black or red window net, mandatory US specific rear bumper, air extractors on the front fenders and was equipped with 5-spoke O.Z Racing rims w/ the old O.Z logo, occasionally with Turbo-fan covers on the front wheels or on all four similar to the Mazda 787B.
In 1989 the car had the stock pop-up headlights just like the F40 road car. Only in 1990 did we see the big single headlights made famous by the F40 LM and F40 GTE. Sometimes these single headlights were replaced by black covers (pictured below) for aero and weight purposes on races that didn’t require headlights.
Michelotto converted 19 F40s into LM spec race cars, but several private racing teams wanted an LM as well which resulted in an additional 27 LM spec race cars. These were not assembled by Michelotto.
1989 Ferrari F40 Competizione
Photo: Charlie Capnerhurst Barker
Ferrari received 10 more requests from clients who were interested in getting an F40 LM. Those people didn’t necessarily wanted to race with them, so after two had been built, Ferrari changed the name from LM to Competizione because they felt the LM tag was too restrictive and not really applicable on the purpose of the Competizione.
Most of the Competizione cars ended up in private collections and were more of a collector’s item than a competition race car. The yellow example pictured is a 1993 car.
1993 Ferrari F40 GT
Photo: DK Engineering
Michelotto turned seven road going F40’s into racing versions known as the F40 GT. The F40 GT is not as mad as the F40 LM, but that was done so it could compete in the Italian GT Championship. The body was lighter and 17” magnesium wheels, bigger brakes, a race exhaust and a better cooling system were added.
The upgraded engine produced 560 bhp instead of the standard 478 bhp. The car debuted in the 1993 Italian Supercar Championship and it finished sixth overall. Driver Vittorio Colombo managed to win the 1994 season.
1994 Ferrari F40 LM
In 1994, the Ferrari F40 LM was campaigned in international competitions, racing against first generation GT1 1990’s cars. One car competed in the BPR Global GT Series by Strandell and managed to win the 4 Hours of Vallelunga.
This is how you could distinguish the F40 LM to other F40 racing cars:
- Front canards for high-downforce races or not for high-speed ones.
- Window or door mounted rear-view mirror.
- Three different steering wheels; 2 different models of MOMO steering wheel, one in red and one in black. Both have the Ferrari logo in the centre. The black OMP wheel has no Ferrari logo.
- Digital dashboard.
- Only one F40 LM was still racing in 1996. All others were changed for the even faster F40 GTE. The only F40 LM to receive 1996 aero updates, only changed its rear wing and diffuser, but kept the rest of the LM bodywork. As it was still an LM it maintained the LM spec 3-L Twin Turbo V8.
1995 Ferrari F40 GTE
The Ferrari F40 GTE was used from 1995 till 1997. It still raced in the GT1 class in BPR and Le Mans like its older brother, the F40 LM.
- A more powerful engine up from 3.0-L to 3.5-L in 1995 and 3.6-L in 1996 & 1997.
- Magneti Marelli dashboard.
- BBS E88 wheels for practice and testing like all Michelotto built Ferraris.
1996 brought an aero update including a new rear wing, front splitter, rear diffuser, new door mounted rear-view mirror, new air intakes on the rear fender instead of the side-skirt and air extractors on the front fenders.
Similarities with the F40 LM are:
- Front canards for high-downforce races or not for high-speed ones.
- The F40 GTE could be fitted with or without a European rear bumper.
- Three different steering wheels; two models of the MOMO steering wheel, one in red and another one in black. Both had the Ferrari logo in the centre. The third one was a black OMP without Ferrari logo.
The Ferrari F40 GT proved to be a good racing car, so Michelotto converted seven more F40s for the BPR Global GT Series. These cars were called the F40 GTE. One of them started life as an LM, one of them as an F40 GT and the remaining five as road going examples. The F40 GTE was an evolution of the F40 LM and packed a whopping 620 bhp. Sadly, there were a lot of reliability issues which prevented the GTE from reaching the same status as the GT.
What is your favourite F40 racing car? Join the conversation!
Written by Max Lammers and João Graça.