This is the very special Ferrari Daytona SP3

By topgear, 22 November 2021

This is the very special Ferrari Daytona SP3

It has the richest back catalogue of all, but Ferrari will never do a ‘continuation’ car. That doesn’t mean heritage is off-limits, though, which is where the Icona series comes in. Meet the Daytona SP3, a limited series, carbon fibre-bodied and mid-engined V12 two-seater fuelled by memories of the spectacular late Sixties/early Seventies Sport Prototipo era, and the 1-2-3 result in 1967’s Daytona 24 Hours race in particular. Ferrari will make 599 examples, each costing €2m (RM9m) including local taxes. Inevitably, they’re all already spoken for, with deliveries due to start at the end of 2022.

That finish in ’67 was memorably choreographed so that the three cars – a P3, P4 and 412 P – could take the chequered flag in unison. Payback, if any were really needed, for the rout Ferrari suffered at the hands of Ford and the GT40 six months previously at Le Mans. That explains the new car’s name, which was something that was hotly debated internally at Ferrari.

Why? Because a new Ferrari Daytona is obviously going to invoke the memory of the, er, original Ferrari Daytona, the sharky modernist masterpiece front-engined GT that arrived in 1968 and set the company on a whole new design path. Except that it was never officially called Daytona, and is known instead by the less catchy handle 365 GTB4. "We think the name perfectly captures the Icona concept," vice president for sales and marketing Enrico Galliera tells Top Gear. "The Daytona result was Ferrari’s revenge on Ford."

Here endeth the history lesson. Because, like the Monza SP1 and 2 Icona cars that preceded it and despite its inspiration, the Daytona SP3 is further proof that Ferrari is fully future focused and pathologically opposed to retro. Chief Design Officer Flavio Manzoni has long cited the 330 P3/4 as a personal favourite, but he’s really stretched out on this one. "I think this is the best car I’ve ever been involved with," he tells us during a preview event at a secret venue in Florence. "It’s a futuristic interpretation of a classic sports prototipo, and a perfect showcase for what the team at Ferrari Centro Stile can do."

It’s difficult to dispute. The cues are all there but magnificently mashed up. Look at it head-on and the cresting front wings are straight out of the classic endurance racing playbook (think also Ferrari 512 S and 712 Can-Am), and flow into a pair of functional bonnet air vents. The headlights follow Ferrari’s current slimline LED path but have ‘eye-lids’ that retract in a manner that calls to mind pop-up headlamps. The door mirrors have been repositioned to the top of the wings, another nod to the great endurance racers. And check out the ‘cab-forward’ stance and the way the windscreen wraps around the cockpit, an impression heightened when the detachable roof panel is in pace. It’s all deeply evocative.

Then there are the ‘butterfly’ doors, which feature an integrated air box that delivers air to the side-mounted radiators. There’s a beautifully pinched waist, and an organic softness to some of the forms is matched by a pronounced edginess elsewhere. The rear might be the wildest part of all, composed of a series of horizontal blades that underscore the SP3’s futuristic character while betraying the influence of a more obscure reference point: Pininfarina’s 1968 Ferrari 250 P5 concept car (look it up). The tail-lights are set into a horizontal light bar beneath the spoiler; the tail-pipes exit through the upper part of the diffuser. This is car as abstract art.

As ever, make up your own mind but be in no doubt: the Daytona SP3 is a stunning looking machine in the flesh, a car that turns up the volume on the visual entertainment depending on where you stand (literally). "You can take cues from the past but it’s vital that you don’t lose the visionary approach," Manzoni continues. "You can see how it’s possible to connect the beauty of our heritage with our vision for the future. We would never do a 'restomod', it’s low-level. Never make something that is banal or obvious."

Technically, the Daytona SP3 is also intriguing. The helicopter pitch is a more analogue, non-hybrid LaFerrari, although Galliera is quick to dispute this when I put it to him. "This is emphatically not a LaFerrari Speciale. When we do a new hypercar it’s the pinnacle of performance, exploring a new technology frontier," he insists. "Icona is more design-driven, and we have some collectors who are very focused on that aspect of Ferrari. Although some elements are shared with the LaFerrari, the philosophy and strategy are completely different."

Understood. But while the Daytona SP3 effectively remixes some existing componentry, it’s still sharp as a blade. The chassis and bodyshell are made from carbon fibre composites, much of it derived from aeronautics and Formula One, including T800 carbon fibre for the tub and T1000 for the doors and sills. This is as good as it gets: in fact, it’s so strong it’s the stuff the nuclear industry relies on to make the centrifuges in which they enrich plutonium.

Note also that the seats are integrated into the chassis, as was the case on the LaFerrari, reducing weight, optimising the driving position and promoting more of a single-seater feel inside. It feels very racy indeed. The HMI is the latest Ferrari system; the main instrument display sits in a pod that seems to float above the carbon fibre main structure. We’d go so far as to say this is the best Ferrari interior yet – focused, reduced, and emotive.