Ferrari has pulled the sheet off the 296 GT3 — its next-generation challenger for sports car racing that will debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January. The 296 replaces the 488 GT3, a car that had been in competition since 2016 and racked up an impressive number of wins, even despite its relative age compared to the rest of the GT grid.
Side-by-side with the outgoing machine, the 296 GT3 has a longer wheelbase, a 20 percent improvement in downforce, and a simplified construction that should make the car much easier to repair or service. “The front and rear portions can be switched in seconds due to a series of devices and solutions that ensure a quick return to the track after any damage affecting aerodynamics or performance,” Maranello’s press release reads. There’s also just one electrical connector for each end of the car, Ferrari’s head of GT racing, Ferdinando Cannizzo, told Motorsport.com, not “lots of cables everywhere.”
The powerplant is all new too. The V6-powered 296 GT3 harkens back to the Prancing Horse’s Formula 1 cars of the late ’50s and early ’60s, as well as the Dino SP series of prototypes that saw competition around the same time — all of which ran V6s. Of course, the roadgoing 296 GTB also incorporates a 165-horsepower electric motor that is not included in the racing version, per GT3 class rules.
Once again, it’s a “hot vee” where the turbochargers are mounted inside the 120-degree-angle V6, for better packaging. Per Ferrari:
A 120° vee configuration with equally-spaced firings was introduced for the 296 GT3’s V6 combustion engine. This is based on its road-going twin, as is the positioning of the turbos inside the vee. All this brings significant benefits in terms of compactness, lower centre of gravity and reduced mass, and also helps to achieve very high power levels. The engine, which has always been at the heart of Ferrari’s designs, is farther forward and lower down than in the road version, to the benefit of a lower centre of gravity and torsional rigidity, which is around 10% higher than in the 488 GT3.
The architecture is a winner in terms of firing order, integration of the intake manifolds and engine mounts on the intake sides of the cylinder heads: the engine is lighter and more compact having eliminated the external plenums and supports. Its internal fluid dynamics benefit from the reduction in volume, boosting intake efficiency.
Ferrari’s engineers worked with those of its partners to design and fine-tune all the engine’s internal fluid dynamics and the specific components adopted for the track version of the power unit. They aimed to provide uncompromising performance, reliability and driveability for both ‘Sprint’ and ‘Endurance’ races. For this type of competition, they did everything to limit consumption significantly.
Turning to design, the 296's short, pointed nose and dramatic rear haunches call to mind the 250 LM, one of the prettiest Ferrari racing machines of all time. This was a resemblance that admittedly was more pronounced in those lovely concept sketches the manufacturer released in the spring. The actual machine doesn’t share the oversized rear wheels and long tail of the rendering because it’s not a drawing and has actual rules to comply with, but the 296 GTB was a very good-looking car already, and the same is true of the racing flavor.
Look for the 296 GT3 to make its competition debut in six months, and to tackle Le Mans in 2024, when GT3 cars will replace the similar-but-not-exactly-identical GTE spec.