The latest in Ferrari’s illustrious line of rear-engine V8 GT cars, the 488 GTE made its competition debut in the 2016 Daytona 24 Hours. With one car each from SMP Racing, Risi Competizione and Scuderia Corsa, it was Scuderia Corsa — with the sister car to that offered here — which defied expectations to take an excellent 10th place overall and 4th in class, behind established GT class grandees Corvette Racing and Porsche.
Scuderia Corsa purchased a second 488 — this car — for the Sebring 12 Hours in March. Against strong class opposition from Aston Martin Racing and the Alex Job Racing Porsches, the car ran faultlessly to win the GT Daytona class and finish 22nd overall.
The IMSA Championship culminated in a class victory in the end-of-season championship standings, which marked the first time a female driver, Christina Nielsen, won a major North American sports car championship. In 2017 the car was entered at Le Mans. The car crossed the line in 44th place and 14th in the GTE-Am class.
With 5,000 km (3,106 miles) of driving time left on the engine and 6,000 km (3,728 miles) left on the gearbox, this 488 GTE is supplied with a 12-month powertrain warranty — should the purchaser wish Scuderia Corsa to continue to prepare the car on their behalf. Presented in its Le Mans livery, with impeccable history — and offered for sale directly from the original owner — chassis 4208 is still eligible for numerous GT series worldwide.
|Vehicle:||2016 Ferrari 488 GTE racer|
|Number Produced:||About 30 (GTE and GT3)|
|Original List Price:||$900,000|
|SCM Valuation:||$708,295 (this car)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Left side door pillar|
|Engine Number Location:||Front of block|
|Club Info:||Motorsports Association (IMSA)|
This car, Lot 130, sold for $713,711, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Ferrari — Leggenda e Passione auction on September 9, 2017.
There’s always something new. I’ve been writing these profiles for 14 years now, and I’ve watched the auction markets for a lot longer than that. I’ve written profiles about racing cars that are 100 years old and as recent as about 10 years old, but this is the first time I’ve seen a real, active, fresh-off-the-track-and-ready-for-the-next-race car show up at a major auction.
This car is two seasons old; you can buy a brand-new example of the identical car from Ferrari today. It’s clearly a different situation than an Austin Healey with a roll bar.
To start with, the 488 is Ferrari’s current mid-engined V8 sports car. It is an evolution of the earlier 458 and carries a twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission.
Real race cars
Ferrari’s current gentleman’s racing series, Ferrari Challenge, uses the 488 GTB as the spec car for racing. Ferrari also uses the 488 as the basis for its presence in the FIA World Endurance Championship, IMSA GTLM racing, and the Blancpain GT series with the various racing models designated GTE (World Endurance and IMSA) and GT3 (Blancpain).
These cars remain 488s, and retain the body shell, engine and transaxle packages of the production vehicles — but are otherwise completely bespoke cars.
While the Ferrari Challenge cars are basically production cars with roll bars and racing modifications, the GTE and GT3 are pretty much built from scratch as racers.
The factory ships the basic shells to Michelotto, who acts as Ferrari’s de facto sports car racing department, to turn those shells into pure racing cars for customers (the factory doesn’t have a team in sports cars).
The differences between GTE and GT3 are subtle but real. GTE cars are the higher-budget, FIA and IMSA GTLM pure racers. GT3 cars (IMSA GTD) tend to be lighter but with more restricted changes to keep costs down. It is entirely possible to convert cars from one specification to another. Indeed, our subject car appears to have raced in both configurations in its career.
From Pro to Am
The racing series are further split into Pro and Am categories. The Pro is basically for the real championship: factory teams, professional drivers, the glory of winning and the agony of defeat.
Am is for the amateurs, and this is more the province of rent-a-rides with talented up-and-comers, competent yeomen participants and wealthy experience chasers.
The drivers are ranked Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze. In Am, there are limits on how much driving time the various grade drivers get in order to keep competition close. I’m told that Am requires cars to be at least one year old, so frequently a car will run Pro for its first season then move down to the less-demanding Am for later use.
It appears that this was how today’s subject got used.
Big bucks and professional help
In either category, this is the realm of what I call “real racing.”
Whether you are contesting for the championship or just enjoying being a racer, this is very different than amateur racing, be it SCCA or vintage. For example, you would not consider showing up with your racer on a trailer behind your car, your good friend as mechanic, and your wife as sandwich maker.
If you want to play in this league, you sign on with one of the professional support teams and let them take care of everything. Our subject car was maintained and supported by Scuderia Corsa, the racing component of a group of California Ferrari dealers. It can be dizzyingly expensive, but presumably if you are racing a Ferrari, you are going to be okay with that.
Turn-key racer, trinket or investment?
A very interesting point of conjecture here is the intent and motivation of whoever the buyer was (and I don’t know who bought it, so it is, in fact, conjecture). Was the intent of the purchase to buy an active and competitive opportunity to go racing, was it simply a “Veblen good” (an expensive trinket to impress your friends) or was it purchased as a savvy long-term investment?
A reasonable case can be made for each. Modern technology has made cars like this amazingly comfortable and easy to race — and immeasurably safer than vintage cars when something goes wrong. Auto racing used to be a blood sport, but in modern cars, racing incidents mostly impact checkbook balances. Your wife and kids can sleep well while you go play.
This 488 GTE has at least two years of eligibility in major international series plus many more at lower levels, and is ready and welcome should the owner want to enter.
Ferraris of this caliber are set with use limits, generally 10,000 km between rebuilds. This car has 5,000 km left on the engine and 6,000 km on the transaxle, so it is roughly half used up (the first half was clearly Le Mans 2017). Scuderia Corsa is willing to give a one-year drivetrain warranty if you stay with them (which for a racing car is amazing).
It’s worth noting that this car sold in Europe, where there are several active and competitive series for older GT3 and Le Mans cars, so there are plenty of venues where it could be used and enjoyed, particularly in Germany.
You could also just put it in your garage with fancy lighting and tell stories to anyone who will listen. In a world of private jets and $500,000 wristwatches, this is not an unreasonable approach.
Stashed away as a future collectible?
The third possibility is the most intriguing. We all know what happened to the racing Ferraris of the late 1950s and 1960s, but what will be the future value of today’s top racers?
What will high-stakes collectors be clamoring for in 20 years?
According to endurance-racing guru and author Janos Wimpffen, there are something like 50 Ferrari and about 300 total (all makes) GT3 and GTLM cars from the past eight to 10 years in the world, which is definitely a collectible number.
If tomorrow’s collectors will want to own the cars that were great when they were young (as most of today’s collectors do), then a 488 GTE with good racing history, as this one has, might in time be the headliner at an auction — and an excellent investment.
This car didn’t sell cheap. A brand-new one costs about $900,000, so this represents a $200,000 discount from new.
This is nothing like the “it’s used up; throw it away for what you can get” approach that my generation became used to seeing, but it is not an out-of date, old racer. It is still a viable and fun racing car — and maybe an excellent investment. I’d say fairly bought and sold. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)