Ferrari F40 LM - anniversary supercar converted to race car
In the late eighties, after a pretty long period without any significant Formula One success, Ferrari was in need of a ‘halo’ car which would promote their motorsport heritage and deliver a top-notch performance as well. In the mid-1980s, Ferrari’s Maranello-based factory introduced a fantastic 288 GTO, a mid-engined twin-turbo monster which was intended to compete with Porsche 959 and in the Group B rally championship. However, the Group B was cancelled in early 1986, leaving the Ferrari 288 GTO without any chance of competing in the FIA-sanctioned series. So the 272 produced examples were only road-going cars and none of them were raced.
Ferrari wanted a new model on 288 GTO’s platform
Ferrari knew that 288 GTO’s platform, engine and technical layout were too good to be abandoned and soon started developing a new, even more powerful model which would celebrate the 40th birthday of the famous factory. So, at the end of 1987, the Ferrari F40 was introduced to the surprised audiences which welcomed the latest supersport model with universal praise.
Aggressive and elegant design
The new model of Ferrari was not only beautiful to look at with its aggressive and elegant design, but also, it was unbelievably fast thanks to twin turbo V8 engine mounted centrally behind the driver, which developed 478 bhp in standard, street trim. However, shortly afterwards, the factory offered an official upgrade to ambitious owners, boosting its power to over 700 bhp.
With its impressive power and performance, Ferrari soon sent a few chassis to its racing car partner Michelotto to develop a full racing version of the new F40. The initial testing took place in late 1988 and the following year, the new version debuted – the F40 LM.
Subtle modifications and added power
This Ferrari was a fully prepared race car, but interestingly, with very few bodywork modifications in comparison to the road-going model. Michelotto added a carbon fiber splitter, rear diffusers, adjustable rear wing, new headlights and hood.
The engine produced more than 900 bhp
However, the new engine management system and increased compression saw the power increased to at least 720 bhp, but for qualifying, the boost could be increased to produce more than 900 bhp. The interior was stripped even further and the dashboard was replaced by a digital setup.
Racing debut with Jean Alesi at the wheel
Immediately after the presentation, Ferrari France bought two cars and campaigned them with Jean Alesi in the Laguna Seca round of the IMSA GT championship. He finished third in a promising start and during that season, Ferrari France had a moderate success and four podium finishes. However, Ferrari France did not want to continue to compete with F40 LM and retired it in 1990.
Michelotto built 19 cars
The most interesting thing is that the famous designer built 19 cars (from 1989-1994), but only three of those raced achieving some success. Others were mostly used for private track days and some were never driven and spent their lifetime as museum pieces.
Jean Blaton converted Ferrari F40 LM to a roofless race car
The first ever F40 LM, the one with the serial number 78790 which was driven by Jean Alesi, was later sold to the Belgian-born billionaire Jean Blaton. He wanted something completely different and ordered the conversion of Ferrari F40 LM to the roofless racing car. The conversion was made by Tony Gillet, under the supervision of the original builder.
BPR Global GT Series was a competition arena for F40
But, this is not the end of Ferrari F40’s competitive story; in fact, it’s far from it. Thanks to the BPR Global GT Series, first held in 1994, Michelotto was called in to create an even more potent version of the F40. Named the F40 GTE, it featured a 3.5 liter and later a 3.6-liter version of the standard F40 engine, with over 660 bhp. Then he built around 12 cars which were very successful in the series, often outrunning the most powerful competition.
Video : Ferrari F40 LM in action
Three victories for F40 against strong GT rivals
In the inaugural season of the BPR championship, Strandell team scored one victory with Ferrari F40 at 4 hours of Vallelunga. The drivers were Anders Olofsson and Luciano della Noce. McLaren F1 GTR was a dominating car in the BPR series in 1995, but Ferrari F40 succeeded to take one victory at the 1995 4 hours of Anderstorp in Sweden. Drivers of the #40 Pilot Aldix Racing Ferrari were Michel Ferte and Olivier Thevenin.
The last win at Anderstorp in 1996
At 4 hours of Silverstone, two cars reached the podium: the F40 LM of Pilot Aldix Racing and F40 GTE of Ferrari Club Italia. During the 1995 BPR season, F40 Evoluzione and F40 GTE of Ferrari Club Italia took two more podiums at Monza and Suzuka. The last win of the F40 followed during the 1996 BPR season at Anderstorp, in the F40 GTE driven by Olofsson and della Noce.
F40 LM debuted at Le Mans in 1995
The swan song of F40 racing career was the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, where F40 LM had its Le Mans debut. Three cars (one F40 LM and two F40 GTEs) entered the competition under the French team Pilot Aldix Racing and Ferrari Club Italia. The French team achieved the best result of the three teams: they finished 12th overall with the F40 LM. The drivers were Michel Ferte, Olivier Thevenin and Carlos Palau.
The following year, the Italian team Enea/Igol represented Ferrari at Le Mans, but their F40 GTE didn’t reach the finish line. It was the last appearance of F40 at Le Mans. The car which had LM (Le Mans) in its name never made a notable result at the most famous endurance race.