Featured: The Maserati MC12’s Dual Identity: Ferrari Enzo In Disguise Or Road-Going Motorsport Champion?

The Maserati MC12’s Dual Identity: Ferrari Enzo In Disguise Or Road-Going Motorsport Champion?

By Federico Fabbri
February 17, 2022
2 comments

Photography by Rosario Liberti

The Maserati MC12 is basically a reskinned and mildly fiddled-with Ferrari Enzo, but that’s a cynical summary. The center slice of the cars’ Venn diagram includes more than just the 6.0L Ferrari V12, but the Maserati MC12 Stradale has its own identity. Its Frank Stephenson-designed bodywork stands apart from the Enzo’s, and it is a much, much rarer car, with just 50 examples compared to the Ferrari’s 400. And the MC12 has more than just street cred.

Seeing as Ferrari and Maserati were under the same ownership in the early 2000s, it’s no surprise that the Enzo was allowed to rev higher and produce more power, but the MC12 has a certain credibility its sibling lacks: it homologated a racing car.

Rather than compete on the circuit with its latest supercar—the risk of losing with a car named after Enzo Ferrari himself notwithstanding—Maserati took over the FIA GT-aimed racing program, marking the Trident’s return to racing in nearly four decades. The result was two manufacturer titles, and six for teams, and five for drivers in the FIA GT and FIA GT1 championship between 2005 and 2010. Racing success is easy to measure. Judging street presence and determining general standings among the pantheon of supercar history is more nebulous than reading a lap timer alone.

And while the Enzo’s front-end styling may have been influenced by Formula 1 cars, but the MC12 is firmly in the camp of form following function. There is a roof scoop feeding the mid-rear-mounted 641hp V12 (there is no rearview mirror, as there is no rear view to speak of beyond the firewall. There are dozens of slatted vents and square meters of mesh. The slab sides have been aggressively carved into for air flow. The rear wing is even wider than the body which is even wider than the Enzo’s. There are two functional, carbon fiber diffusers underneath a mostly open rear end that lets the engine and transaxle breathe. The snout has been scooped out on both sides, and is punctuated by a captivating central grill with the Trident standing proudly at the center. 

Built to support the MC12 GT1 racing version in the FIA GT, the MC12 represents one of the last true homologation specials, as the end of that series all but killed the concept.

It looks unlike anything ever made by Maserati until the MC20 paid some homage to it just recently. The MC12 owes its looks to a combination of Frank Stephenson, prioritizing motorsport functionality, and none other than the almost ubiquitous Giorgetto Giugiaro, who put forth some of the earliest concepts for the car that became the MC12 (Maserati Corse 12). To get there, it needed some help from friends at Ferrari.

Maserati, after years of financial instability and weak sales, was finally bolstered by the successful reception of its Ferrari-powered Spyder, Coupe, and Quattroporte models, and the timing of the brand’s revival was ripe for a new flagship. The operation was overseen by parent company Fiat SpA, and the still very new Ferrari Enzo was used as the developing platform for the new Maserati, after it was decided that there would not be a racing version of the new Prancing Horse supercar. Maserati engineers got to work on the platform to build both a racing and road version to uphold and carry forth Maserati’s historic but long-ago success in motorsport. 

Since its Fiorano-developed relative already met many of the homologation and safety standards as it was, the Maserati Corse team were given time to focus on certain aspects rather than starting from the ground up. The suspension and aerodynamics were the key areas of interest, with racer and tester Andrea Bertolini performing the brunt of the MC12’s initial testing, and Michael Schumacher providing some additional input later on. 

The car shares the same 6.0L V12 engine design as the Enzo’s Tipo F140, though it is tuned differently and renamed the Ferrari/Maserati M144A in the MC12. Both cars share the six-speed semi-automatic, but it is called the Maserati Cambiocorsa in this application.

Sadly, due to “specific engineering reasons” (specific marketing reasons, perhaps)  the V12 in the Maserati has had the rev limit reduced from 8200rpm in the Enzo to 7700 in the MC12. Not-so-apparently, Ferrari must always have better figures when it comes to forging Italian supercars born for the supremacy, so the Enzo had to get the higher rev limit. The Enzo is also capable of a higher top speed, but the MC12 can still get past the 200mph mark, with a claimed peak of 205. As anyone who’s been on a track knows, power is not everything, and Maserati’s advantages come from its suspension tuning and aerodynamics. 

The body of the MC12 is wider and much longer than the Enzo’s, and at the surface level the only resemblance is seen in the cockpit, where both cars use the same windshield. Beyond that, the Maserati is its own beast, and a big one. Its imposing dimensions—5143 millimeters long, 2096 millimeters wide, and just 1205 millimeters tall—make it a bit harder to park, but well suited for the basis of a more aggressive aero package for racing.

Like the Enzo, the central structure of the MC12 is formed from a bonded carbon fiber and Nomex honeycomb, which is more than strong enough to allow the Maserati to ditch its roof, should the driver have a place to store it. There is really nothing in the way of storage besides the two seats inside the blue, silver, and carbon themed cockpit.  There is no trunk, no spare tire, and no radio.

Marketing elements of its genesis aside, the MC12 project was imbued with true motorsport DNA. In competition form as the MC12 GT1 earned more than its share of trophies. At the end of the 2004 season, the FIA rethought its GT1 and GT2 classes in the FIA GT series and liberalized the GT1 regulations in the process. While this move was thought to mainly facilitate the American Saleen S7, the biggest beneficiary was the purpose-built Maserati MC12 GT1 which all but dominated the FIA GT Championship in the second half of the 2000s before it inevitably met the fate of race cars, becoming ineligible and obsolete.

The MC12’s racing career may be over, but its place in history has been secured, and its Stradale form is still one of the rarest and coolest supercars out there.

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