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Designing The 296 GTB With Flavio Manzoni

From a paradigm-shift in aerodynamic philosophy, to which great Ferraris on the past inspired his team, the Ferrari Chief Design Officer answers our questions on the new mid-engined berlinetta
Words – Ben Pulman

"What individual character did you want to endow the Ferrari 296 GTB with?"

Flavio Manzoni: The design of the 296 GTB redefines the identity of the mid rear-engined 2-seater berlinetta. Its proportions are completely different: the wheelbase was shortened to underscore the car’s agility, allowing us to give the car an extremely light, sleek, compact architecture. This gives the car a modern, original stance that instantly underscores its sporty character.


"The cockpit adopts the same, pure sporty aesthetic language as the exterior" 

TOFM: Did any of the Ferrari of the past provide inspiration for you and the team in the Ferrari Centro Stile?


FM: (Laughs) All of them always do! But for 296 GTB, its clean forms and interlocking volumes references 1960s Ferraris, which made simplicity and functionality their signatures. 

For us, the 250 LM from 1963 in particular provided the designers with inspiration, with elements such as the sculpted look of the body, the design of the B-pillar, the unusual composition of the wings into which the air intakes are set, and the delicately proportioned Kamm tail.


Another highlight is the visor-style windscreen that wraps around onto the side windows, which we have showcased already on several limited-edition Ferraris, including the J50, and one-offs such as the P80/C. This wraparound theme at the front connects organically to the flying buttress theme at the rear, and works together with a transparent engine cover that showcases the new engine. 

Inspiration for the 296 GTB came from as far afield as the J50, the 250 LM and the one-off P80/C

TOFM: There are no obvious spoilers or wings – what aerodynamics innovations can’t we see?


With the 296 GTB, there is a sharp break from the past with regards to our aerodynamics choices; the active aero paradigm introduced from the 458 Speciale onwards has been turned on its head. 


On this car, for the first time an active device is being used not to manage drag but to generate extra downforce. We use the LaFerrari-inspired active spoiler integrated into the rear bumper to generate additional high levels of downforce when required.


In the high-downforce configuration, there is an additional 100 kg in downforce thanks to the active spoiler. The car’s dynamic control systems constantly monitor acceleration figures, and then the spoiler deploys and extends from the fixed section of the bodywork. It enhances the driver’s control in high-performance driving situations and also minimises stopping distances under braking.


"The front of the car is extremely clean and spare. The new headlights are paired with the air intakes for the brakes."

TOFM: There is a discreet intake set within the headlights – what is this for? 


FM: The front of the car is extremely clean and spare. The new headlights stand out in particular, because they are a modern interpretation of the “teardrop” headlights of the past. In this case, they are paired with the air intake for the brakes.


The brake cooling system was developed around the ‘Aero’ callipers introduced on the SF90 Stradale, and these have ventilation ducts integrated into their castings. This brake cooling concept requires a dedicated duct to correctly channel cool air, and in the case of the 296 GTB, the intake has been integrated into the headlight design.


This solution negates the need for an intake in the underfloor, and in turn made it possible to push the design of the car’s underbody to new extremes. The extra space freed up was used to widen the flat underbody in that area, which increased the downforce generating surface, and also to add an extra vortex generator with an innovative ‘L’ section. 



TOFM: How did you approach the interior of the 296 GTB?


FM: The cockpit adopts the same pure, sporty aesthetic language as the exterior and is – of course – designed around the driver. It features the entirely digital interface which we first debuted on the SF90 Stradale, but rather than highlight that technology our aim in the 296 GTB was to clothe it in a sophisticated way. 


The dashboard architecture creates a clearly defined instrument binnacle angled towards the driver. It is carved out of a deep cleft into the dash trim, from which it emerges along with the steering wheel and all digital instruments – and the result is a result is a pure and minimalistic. It is powerfully elegant and, on an aesthetic level, perfectly mirrors the design of the exterior.