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Racing Queen: The 296 GT3

After a reign beginning in 2016 that made the 488 GT3 a record-smashing endurance champ, here comes the 296 GT3. With a 120° turbocharged V6 under the bonnet, Maranello’s new GT racer promises more pulse-racing, record-breaking action
Words: Luca Giraldi

There are sporting exploits that go down in history and raise the performance bar for the athletes that follow them, such as the men’s 100 metres sprint: from the very first stopwatch-recorded timing on 6 July 1912, as men strove to break the ‘10-second barrier’. Jim Hines was the first in the world to achieve the feat, at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, shattering a limit that, apart from being athletic, was perhaps psychological, first and foremost. Who says that what applies to men may not also apply to racing cars?

When the 488 GT3 was presented in 2015, the 458 Italia GT3 had already set a very impressive record. And yet, from the 488 GT3’s debut in January 2016, it proved capable of demolishing the records of its predecessor, win after win, and setting new ones that had been unimaginable just a few years before. It even finished off its championship career of more than six years and 500 wins later with a victory in its final race.

The 296 GT3 has a turbocharged V6 engine that produces 608cv and some 712 Nm of torque

History teaches us that continuous improvement, a combination of research and innovation, technological progress, and hard work are what enable you to break existing records. And these are the founding values of the new 296 GT3, which has now finally been able to make itself known to the general public after months of in-depth testing on European circuits. 

That testing isn’t over, however, since the race debut is set for the Daytona 24 Hours in 2023. But there were no qualms about interrupting it so it could be admired by the owners, fans and teams who took part in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours, the most important and popular race in the GT3 championship.

The new Ferrari, as already featured in previous issues, takes up the baton of the 488 GT3 and of the great Ferrari tradition in endurance racing, with some very overt references to the 250 LM, proposing bold tech solutions such as the 120° turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, and making full use of the possibilities offered by the new GT3 regulations. The daring technical design of the 296 GT3 takes the strengths of the 488 GT3 as its starting point, launching into a determined quest to eliminate the, albeit few, defects of what effectively had been the ‘queen of endurance’. 

This intense project saw the direct involvement of the official Competizioni GT drivers and client drivers, as well as the teams and technicians. The result is a car with more effective aerodynamics, greater torsional rigidity, quick access to all parts, and greater safety for drivers.

The 296 GT3 looks compact, essential, sophisticated and fast - even from above

Seems like a lot? Not to the engineers. That’s why they worked together with the technical partners on lowering the centre of gravity, increasing the stability – partly by managing the ballast – miniaturising the radiator units, and a new suspension design, putting less stress on the tyres without effecting performance. Everything was considered from the perspective of the driver, be they ‘pro’ or ‘gentleman’.

The cockpit, for example, has been completely redesigned and you can find the best driving position in a flash, with the same being true also for tailor-made settings for the electronic components. The new steering wheel and new central panel include all the functions, which can always be controlled on the display with its new design, flanked by an additional pair of high-resolution screens that, teamed with the optional radar, allow competitors to be kept at bay.

Electronics play an increasingly important role, and on the 296 GT3 there are new applications in clutch actuation, gear changes and wastegate valve control, for a calibration tailored to the driver’s needs.

So, what about the engine? Already, in the 296 GTB, “the little 12-cylinder” showed off some particular characteristics: turbochargers housed in the ‘vee’ to increase compactness, the low centre of gravity, the weight reduction, all of which helped to reach extremely high power levels.

Brazilian Ferrari Competizioni GT driver Daniel Serra gets to grips with the powerful 296 GT3 during testing

The Competizioni GT engineers have exploited this advantage further, reducing the cooling system and positioning the engine lower down and further to the front, compared to its road-going twin. The adoption of specific racing components, and compatibility with the various biofuels envisaged by the series in which the 296 GT3 will compete, have allowed Ferrari to create a high-performance engine that is at the same time reliable, all of which will favour the financial management of the car. 

Following the shakedown at Fiorano back in April, the testing programme was designed to transform the 296 GT3 into a car that will not limit itself to taking up the baton of the 488 GT3, but will also break its records.