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Racing Sculpture

Introducing the Ferrari Daytona SP3, the stunning new Icona. A 12-cylinder dream, it features a cutting-edge design inspired by 1960s and ‘70s Prancing Horse racers, aero-performance enhancers and racing cockpit
Words: Chris Rees
Photographs: Alex Howe

Ultra-low, sinuously curved yet muscular, Targa roof open, ready for action.

A new star is born: the Ferrari Daytona SP3. It's a vision that distils the aura of classic sports car racers in a cutting-edge package that defines the very meaning of the word ‘iconic’.

And as aficionados of Ferrari know very well, when it comes to the iconic,

Maranello has an embarrassment of riches upon which to draw – so much so that Ferrari launched its new Icona programme in 2018, directly inspired by its own glorious icons. 

Whilst the first fruit of this programme – the stunning Monza SP1 and SP2 pairing – drew on 1950s barchetta tropes, the new Ferrari Daytona SP3 channels the spirit of another golden age in Ferrari history: Sports Prototypes racers of the 1960s and ’70s.

An extraordinary rear view of the Ferrari Daytona SP3. This new model of the Icona programme will be produced in a limited series of 599 cars

Ferrari Chief Design Officer, Flavio Manzoni, explains: “The Daytona SP3 is a modern interpretation of the Sports Prototypes concept, of which there are many beautiful examples in the history of Ferrari, like the 350 Can Am, 512 S, 330 P3 and P4. No one specific car is the inspiration; instead we wanted to capture the spirit of these racing cars and create a powerful, expressive, sculptural shape.”


As ever with Ferrari, design is never about sculpture alone; it is every bit as much about performance, as Flavio Manzoni affirms: “The Daytona SP3 is the perfect synthesis of performance and beauty. Every single element is necessary and functional; our challenge has been to transform each element into a design opportunity.”


To achieve such a focussed fusion of form and function, another Maranello icon underpins the Daytona SP3: the carbon-fibre chassis owes its origins to the LaFerrari, with all the benefits that that brings in terms of weight, packaging and dynamics. There is a particular emphasis on racing technology and materials, including aerospace-derived T800 fibre for the tub and an autoclave forming process identical to that which is used in Formula One.

Shaped by the Ferrari Centro Stile, the style combines fluidity with radical incisive elements; the seats are in fact race-style cushions fitted directly to the carbon-fibre chassis; Aerodynamic sophistication can be seen in the twin bonnet air intakes and blades either side of the front grille

The carbon chassis also offers tremendous design possibilities, says Manzoni: “Using the LaFerrari chassis gives us ideal proportions, especially around the cabin. One example is the ‘squeeze’ in the waistline behind the doors, achieved thanks to the unique positioning of the radiators.”


The scissor-opening doors are another key element from both design and functional points of view. Their sculptured forms echo those of the Ferrari 512 S racer, acting like air boxes, channelling cooling air to the radiators, with additional channels seeming to float in the carbon-fibre sills.


The lighting deserves special mention. The headlights are partially hidden by moveable ‘eyelids’ that reference classic pop-up lamps. The rear lights, meanwhile, form a dramatic bar across the full width of the car, beautifully interacting with the overhanging rear spoiler. Below is an absolutely iconic array of strakes, whose function is to disperse heat from the engine whilst giving the impression of a single, solid ‘volume’. And as with the recent SF90 Stradale and 296 GTB, the exhaust pipes exit in the centre, guaranteeing the shortest possible length from engine to tail, and optimising weight reduction.

Close up of the headlamp area showing the 'eyelids' that open when the lights are on full beam, plus carbon-fibre 'flicks' inspired by the 330 P3/P4 racers

As for how the Daytona SP3 drives, words can scarcely do it justice, but some sense can be gleaned from its specifications. The naturally aspirated V12 engine of the 812 Competizione was used as a basis, but with a unique intake and exhaust layout, as well as enhanced fluid dynamics. The resulting F140HC engine is the most powerful unit produced by Ferrari to date, delivering fully 840cv. And the unique sound as it approaches its searing 9,500rpm rev limit is nothing short of sensational.


Combined with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that has specific gear- change strategies for this car, the result is record performance figures, not just in terms of weight-to-power ratio but also in acceleration: let us mention nought to 200km/h in 7.4 seconds and from nought to 100km/h in just 2.85. Iconic? The new Daytona SP3 lives and breathes the very concept.