The latest masterpiece of Maranello's Special Projects programme evokes the glorious sport prototypes of the ‘60s
Possession of a new Ferrari is a dream realised for its fortunate owner. But even within this most rarefied strata of the automotive world there are extra levels for the lucky few who - through the Prancing Horse’s Special Projects (SP) programme - are given the opportunity to create and curate their own personal vision of a Ferrari. Junichiro Hiramatsu’s SP1 opened the new era in 2008; several models have followed. But the latest creation, the P80/C, has launched the SP programme into new territory by using a Ferrari competition car - the 488 GT3 - as its basis.
Crucially, this means that it is liberated from any road car homologation requirements, allowing for something even more extreme. No need to worry about headlights, for example. Being based on a 488 GT3 chassis, the P80/C’s wheelbase is 50mm longer than the standard 488 and the car is ruthlessly weight-optimised and battle ready beneath the skin.
This allowed the Ferrari Centro Stile to play with the car’s proportions, imbuing the rear of the car with mesmerising visual firepower: viewed directly from behind, a huge carbon-fibre wing is the dominant element, but the clear line of vision afforded into the car’s 580hp 3.9-litre twin turbo V8 engine is also truly spectacular. But it’s not just eye candy.
The new car has proved to be very efficient on the track, and although elements of the rear diffuser are shared with the GT3, the front splitter and all the external surfaces are unique. Such aerodynamic refinement is an amazing achievement on a One-Off that could have easily been a superficial project. It all marks out the P80/C as a genuinely singular achievement – and a testament to the commitment of the owner.
“A Ferrari project always derives from a dream,” Design Director Flavio Manzoni says. “And then one also has to deal with the reality. This project was a way to evoke the very spirit and power of Sixties Sport Prototypes.” Hong Kong entrepreneur, TK Mak, who commissioned the car, remarks: “Like many Ferraristi, I’ve been enamoured by the ‘Sport Prototipi’ of the Sixties and Seventies since my younger years.
A time of trial and error, a world without computer-assisted design, where engineers would travel the lengths of their imagination and experience to try and claim those milliseconds, driven by a sink or swim mentality. “For P80/C, the goal from the get go was to recreate the feeling of that era – of aesthetics meeting engineering, of equal parts beauty and performance.” The entrepeneur wanted to use it as a way of projecting his vision of a future GT Prototipi. "My interpretation of a future design language for Ferrari, a brand that lies very close to my heart.”
Although the inner workings of the client/Centro Stile relationship always remain confidential, TK does offer a glimpse behind the veil. “We had to make sure that this would be a truly co-operative project between both parties before we proceeded and the first sketches were drafted… We needed to make sure that both parties saw eye to eye with our vision for the car so that I knew they were as enthusiastic as we were to commit to bringing this to life. It was a project that was built on a strong foundation of mutual respect. In all, it took us over four years to see this car from sketch to metal.”
The P80/C has several design inspirations, including the P4 that broke cover in 1967 at Monza, the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours-winning 250 LM and the Dino 2016 S. “Half a century on, I think most will agree that [the P4] is still one of the most beautiful race cars ever made. Just the overall ‘presence’ of the car is impressive – hearing the car and seeing it run today invokes as much emotion in people now as it did in 1967. There aren’t many things, let alone cars, that stand that test of time,” TK observes. With his P80/C that exclusive list has surely just been lengthened.