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Rumors have been circulating for a few months now that Ferrari could be gearing up to challenge for outright victory at Le Mans once again with an LMP1 racer of its own. First the head of the sports racing division hinted at the prospect, then the head of the Formula One team lent it more credence, and most recently, the chairman of the company itself confirmed the possibility. We've even heard some rumors over who could drive the thing. But what we haven't seen yet is any solid proof that the Prancing Horse marque has actually been working on such a racecar.
That could be what we're looking at it here, but then again, it might not be. Spied undergoing testing in Southern Europe, this camouflaged test mule appears to be based on the new LaFerrari supercar, but with some key modifications that indicate this isn't the road-going version. The revised aero is a dead giveaway, with that giant front splitter jutting out like a swollen lip and a massive rear wing protruding from the back. The headlights are different, it's got center-lock wheels fitted at each corner and there's a big snorkel air scoop protruding from the engine bay.
What's clear is that this is test mule has definitely been set up for the race track. The only question is, to what end? Even with all the add-ons, it's still nowhere near as extreme as the purpose-built prototypes that Audi, Toyota and Porsche will be fielding in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, and it's missing key features like the mandatory center tailfin. It could be a platform for testing components to use on an upcoming LMP1, but if not for the aforementioned Le Mans rumors, our money would have been on something else - be it a GT racing version of LaFerrari like Maserati did with the Enzo-based MC12, or a customer track toy to follow in the footsteps of the (also Enzo-based) FXX and the 599XX that followed.
Forced induction has definitely hit trend status when it comes to performance cars. Whether it's the supercharged Hellcat V8 in the Dodge Challenger SRT, the latest twin-turbocharged M3/M4 or even the entry-level speed of the Ford Fiesta ST, if you want the fastest car in any given segment, in all likelihood it has a turbo or supercharger. Even Ferrari hasn't avoided the bandwagon with the latest iteration of the California that replaces the original 4.3-liter V8 with a 3.9-liter turbo V8 offering 552 horsepower for more power and better fuel economy. If recent rumors prove true, it might not be the only Prancing Horse to use this engine for long.
According to Car in the UK, Ferrari is planning to boost the 3.9-liter V8 up to around 670 hp and place it in a refreshed 458 Italia in 2015. If true, that is an astounding increase over the version from the latest California and a roughly 70-hp improvement over the current 458 Speciale.
The extra power would come with a serious challenge of how to maintain the 458's delicious exhaust note. Turbocharged engines are often quieter than their naturally aspirated counterparts, modern Formula One cars serving as a prime example. The California may get a pass because it's more of a GT, but the 458 is the brand's bread-and-butter sports car. It needs to sound like a proper Ferrari V8. However, Car claims Maranello is a step ahead and has a complicated exhaust layout - as is the case with the California T, we might add - ready to keep much of the characteristic yelp in tact.
There isn't much in the world that can aurally match the screeching wail of a Formula 1 car at redline. We obviously can't say whether or not the showmanship of starting this 1998 Ferrari F300 in front of the assembled masses at Barrett-Jackson and slowly taking it up to its 18,000-rpm redline had any effect on bidders, but it did, at the very least, result in a round of applause.
This '98 Ferrari F300 was driven 38 times by Michael Schumacher, and there was another round of applause for the driver, who's currently in a medically induced coma and listed in stable condition after a skiing accident. This particular example is number three of nine total built for the '98 season. Power comes from a 3.0-liter V10 engine producing 805 horsepower at 17,500 rpm.
After it was all said and done, bidding ended at $1.7 million (plus another 10 percent in fees). Check out our live images from the auction floor above, and scroll down below for a spine-tinglingly loud auction video and to read its official description.