Ferrari’s sports-prototype racing cars are among the most legendary in motorsport history as they epitomize the desire, passion, and mechanical brilliance that the Maranello team could bring to bear on the track. Most significantly, each and every design had Enzo’s personal handprint upon them.
However, some cars are more special than others, and it is the Works cars which are considered the “Holy Grail” of Ferrari motoring. These iconic cars were on the frontline, the weapons of choice—the sharpest in the armory. They would carry the hopes and prayers of not only the Factory but also of Italy itself and would only be driven by the finest in the world. The Works Ferrari Prototypes were campaigned in the World Sportscar Championship with enormous success, on the greatest, most challenging, and most important circuits that today still provide the foundation and heritage of motorsport as we know it.
Scuderia Ferrari: Chassis Number 0626
The 290 MM was built to contest the World Sportscar Championship, which was as important and carried as much weight to Ferrari as his efforts to win the Formula One World Championship. The WSC was inaugurated in 1953, and Ferrari was immediately successful with championship wins in 1953 and 1954. However, in 1955, the goalposts moved in staggering style as the Germanic efficiency of Mercedes-Benz dominated three of the six events, claiming the World Championship in the process. Then, just as Mercedes-Benz retired at the end of 1955, the old enemy Maserati entered a new machine in the form of the fabulous 300S. Ferrari recognized that it needed a new weapon if it was to reclaim its glory.
For 1956, at the suggestion of a returning engineer, the legendary Vittorio Jano, Enzo took the decision to revert to his thunderous trademark V-12 engine after developing various four- and six-cylinder Mondials, Monzas, and 118/121 LMs.
Jano and engineer Andrea Fraschetti created an all-new engine, although it followed the principles inaugurated by Aurelio Lampredi, with an integral block and cylinder heads with screwed-in wet liners. The new engine was shorter and wider than the previous Lampredi designs, with considerable effort being put into the combustion chamber design to improve inlet and exhaust valve function. Additionally, two spark plugs per cylinder were fitted, with the net result being a 40 brake horsepower increase over the similarly sized 860 Monza.
Of course, in 1956, one of the most important races for Ferrari would be the Mille Miglia. Enzo convinced the best driver of the era, and, for most, arguably the greatest driver who ever lived, the soon to be five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, to lead the Works team in his latest and greatest creation. With that, so it was that Fangio and the 290 MM came together with the sole purpose of securing the 1956 World Sportscar Championship for the Maranello Scuderia.
XXIII Mille Miglia
The 1956 Mille Miglia was held on April 29th and was the third round of the World Sportscar Championship. For this event, Fangio was allocated chassis number 0626, a car that was specifically built with him and the car offered here today. There were 426 cars entered for the event, of which 365 would start, but only 182 would be classified as finishers.
Juan Manuel Fangio was race #600 and would start last, at exactly 06:00 am, driving solo, with no navigator to call the turns and hazards that led in front. The race was intense from the onset, with the weather immediately deteriorating to torrential rain throughout Italy. The closed cars had a distinct advantage, but the Ferraris were still supremely competitive and would take the top five places with Fangio bringing home 0626 in 4th place overall. A remarkable feat considering the conditions and that he was driving unaccompanied.