INSIGHT: What's under the skin of the Ferrari 296 GT3?

INSIGHT: What's under the skin of the Ferrari 296 GT3?

Insights & Analysis

INSIGHT: What's under the skin of the Ferrari 296 GT3?

By

Ferrari’s 296 GT3 has some big shoes to fill. The 488 GT3 was a quite successful car in the category, scoring more than 500 victories worldwide. The 296 GT3, based on the 296 GTB road car, seeks to improve on what the 488 achieved – no easy task, but one that Ferrari believes it has achieved for the car that will make its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

With GT3 being a homologated, Balance of Performance category, faster is not always the goal when creating a new GT3 car or an evo version of an existing one. While building more capability into the car may aid reliability and drivability as that capability is scaled back for BoP, the ultimate goal is ‘better.’ Better, of course, has various meanings, but in the case of GT3 the goals are often make the car easier and more cost-effective to run, more reliable, easier for the gentleman driver to handle – and thus easier to extract pace from – and, yes, faster.

The 296 GT3 has close ties to the roadgoing version, as dictated by the regulations, although minus the hybrid component due to GT3 rules. Beyond more aero and lighter carbon fiber bodywork, the race car receives several tweaks in order to achieve the stated goals.

The twin-turbo, 120-degree V6 engine, a version of which will also power the 499 Hypercar, is lighter, with more robust internals to last 24 hours of on-the-limit use. The engine in the GT3 car loses several kilograms compared to the road version, and is placed farther forward and lower to aid balance, torsional rigidity, center of gravity and aerodynamics. The positioning of the turbos inside the V of the engine allows for a more compact engine package, thus aiding aerodynamics and cooling.

The transverse gearbox built by Xtrac is a new design for the 296 GT3, a six-speed sequential with electronic clutch actuation controlled from the steering wheel rather than a traditional clutch pedal.

The wheelbase is lengthened to the extent the regulations allow, improving tire degradation, and the 296 GT3 also has a revised suspension layout over the road car, since ride quality is less of a concern. The suspension, including the anti-roll bars, have the widest possible adjustment to give a larger window to find the best setup.

Many of these changes are typical improvements in moving from a road car to a GT3 car. But there are several new elements in the 296 GT3 that are geared toward improving the car over its predecessor.

The 296 GT3 has the turbo tucked inside the engine’s V to aid packaging.

Better for teams

Being based on road cars rather than from-the-ground-up racecars, GT3 cars are not always easy for teams to work on, whether that be repairing crash damage or changing an engine or gearbox. To make everything more accessible, the 296 GT3 has fewer parts, and those parts are easier to remove to access areas that need repair.

“We basically split the car into three areas, the front, the central part and the rear,” says Ferdinando Cannizzo, head of Ferrari GT Track Car Development. “Now it’s definitely easy – we just unlock two screws to remove the front completely, and the same at the rear. This will speed up any operation in the garage or in the pit. In case of an accident you can easily replace parts, but also it gives easy access to the suspension, to the engine bay, to the gearbox – everything is easy to access. There are no cables flying around. Everything is clean, everything is compact.”

Thought even went into making pit stops a bit easier. While the Rotiform-forged wheels were designed to produce less drag, special care was also taken to make them easier for tire changers to handle.

Better for the Gentleman, and Pro, driver

A racecar that is fast, but whose ultimate pace can only be extracted by the very best drivers, is fine for a single-driver professional series. But for a GT3 car destined primarily for multi-driver racing series, most of which must include an ‘amateur’ FIA bronze- or silver-rated driver, it must be fast at the hands of all drivers. So expanding the window of drivability was a major goal in building the 296 GT3.

The 296 GT3 is capable of producing 20 percent more downforce than the 488. That’s one component of reducing ride-height sensitivity and improving balance, as well as keeping the car stable in the wake of other cars.

“Many of the improvements come from the vehicle dynamics,” says Cannizzo. “The car is very easy to drive, very stable, very predictable. This was the target from the very beginning. As long as we have an aerodynamic efficiency, which is constrained by the technical regulation, the target was having something easy to drive.”

Changes to cockpit ergonomics aim to maximize user-friendliness.

That mission extended to the controls as well. There are a lot of adjustments in the electronics of a GT3 car, most controlled by buttons and dials on the steering wheel – ‘mannetino’, in Ferrari parlance. The aim was to make those controls easily understood, whether the driver is making a change on his or her own, or in response to instruction from engineers.

“One interesting thing is the ergonomics of the seat, the steering wheel and central panel to minimize the sequence of intervention,” Cannizzo says. “Just to get the drivers, including the amateur drivers, something easy to operate and read.”

The cockpit is also a bit roomier than its predecessor thanks to integrating the top member of the rollcage into the structure of the car, which also contributes to increased stiffness of the chassis. Illumination of the cockpit was also a key consideration to improve visibility at night.

The 296 GT3 was designed entirely in-house at Ferrari, which has partnered with Michelotto for previous GT3 cars. Ferrari has tapped ORECA to build the cars and provide parts management.

Ferrari has also changed the ordering process for the cars. Next year, customers can order the car through a Ferrari dealer. And, whether you can afford the car’s more than $600,000 price tag or not, you can go configure your own at Ferrari.com, just as you could the 296 GTB or GTS road cars. Options are a bit more limited on the GT3, however.

The 296 GT3 will make its competition debut at the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in January, 2022 Twelve Hours of Sebring Sebring winner Cetilar Racing has promised to have one in GTD, and with orders for 2023 already having matched the number Ferrari was expecting for the next five years, it’s certain there will be more on the grid – five or six at Daytona – including entries in GTD PRO for at least the endurance races. Several 296 GT3s are also expected in Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS, from Conquest Racing and likely Triarsi Competizione as well.

MX-5 Cup | Round 2 – Daytona | Livestream

More RACER