How Maserati Developed a Dominating Supercar the Last Time Around in the MC12

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Maserati supercars don’t come around very often. In the past, the automaker was turning them out when it was either bankrupt, close to bankrupt, or under the same umbrella as fellow Italian performance icon Ferrari, which tends to get more of the spotlight in that regard. But today, Maserati will reveal its first supercar since 2004 in the form of the MC20: a mid-engine, carbon-fiber halo car powered by the brand’s new twin-turbo V6, a 621-horsepower 3.0-liter dry-sump gem revving to 8,000 rpm. In light of this occasion, it’s worth looking back at the last time Maserati went all-in with the now-legendary MC12.
To understand that iconic supercar based on the Ferrari Enzo, it helps to go back even earlier to 2003, when the Trident team got the green light to develop its Corse Competizione project based on Maranello’s most advanced F1-derived hardware. Back then, chief test driver Andrea Bertolini and his crew had nothing but GT racing dominance on their minds. Even if achieving that meant being cheeky with their road cars.
The plan was fairly simple. Take the Ferrari Enzo and its cutting-edge stress-bearing monocoque, powerful and rev-happy naturally-aspirated V12, F1-style gearbox and suspension, and then make it faster, more aerodynamic and durable enough for endurance racing. Then tone down some of that ever so slightly, so the car can be sold in the mandatory numbers with plates attached. For the road, 630 horsepower with less drag was more than sufficient, while having dry-sump lubrication as standard meant the cars could take corners at maximum velocities all day long.
The MC12’s shape was dictated by a combination of the wind tunnel, Frank Stephenson’s pen at Pininfarina, and the limitations set by the Ferrari Enzo’s chassis, including the Tipo F140 engine, a six-speed automated manual transmission, and a pretty much race-ready push-rod style suspension. Using a carbon fiber and Nomex honeycomb sandwich construction with two aluminum subframes, this monocoque was rumored to weigh just 154 pounds, with Maserati going for a targa roof F50-style instead of the Enzo’s bolted and bonded one.
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For GT racing, the MC12 also had to grow 6.2-inches in wheelbase while keeping the Enzo’s track, gaining a long tail for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. On the road car, this package was aided by a 6.5-foot rear wing. To get rid of hot air, Stephenson added more vent slots to the front than holes in a good chunk of Swiss cheese, all of which led to the MC12 Stradale being considerably quicker than the Ferrari it was based on. And while the same could be said about James Glickenhaus’ one-off P4/5 by Pininfarina, the main achievement for Maserati was how others just couldn’t get ahead of the MC12 GT1’s full-width rear wing. That was the whole point of the exercise.
Looking back, the only regret Stephenson says he has over what’s probably his favorite creation is that they couldn’t change the shape of the Enzo monocoque’s A-pillars. That’s the parts bin for you.
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