It's incredibly difficult to think of a thing more beautiful than the Series 1 Ferrari 250 GTO with its long hood and short Kamm tail, those beautiful knock-off wheels and the jewel-like 3.0-liter V12 under the hood with its six Weber carburetors. Seeing one anywhere is a cause for celebration, but seeing one on track, in its natural environment, is akin to having a religious experience.
Pirelli appreciates this, and in an effort to help keep more of these cars on the track and out of the walls of various racing circuits, it has designed a tire specifically for Ferrari's magnum opus that looks period correct but hides a bunch of modern technology. It's called the Stelvio Corsa, and it is quite possibly the best worst business decision that Pirelli ever made.
We'll explain. The Ferrari 250 GTO was built as a homologation special. This means that, in order to participate in certain race classes, Ferrari had to produce a certain number of roadgoing cars to be sold to the public. Homologation specials aren't unique to Ferrari; most manufacturers who race have a few under their belt, and they're always truly special cars.
In the end, Ferrari built 36 250 GTOs in two body styles, and thanks to a heaping helping of good looks and a serious racing pedigree, the cars have gone on to become some of the most valuable cars in the world, with one example selling at auction for $38.1 million. So, how can a tiremaker like Pirelli justify the expense of developing and manufacturing a bespoke tire for a car of which only 36 were made?
Passion, mostly, which sounds like a cop-out answer and lazy journalism on my part, but racing is so integral to Pirelli's DNA that it's created a series of special tires for significant cars built between 1950 and 1980 called Pirelli Collezione. In addition to the Stelvio Corsa, Pirelli has created the Cinturato 72 for Maserati as well as both the P7 and CN36 for Porsche and the P5 for Jaguar.
The Stelvio Corsa looks like a period-correct tire from the early 1960's, but as you might have guessed, tire technology has come a long way since then. The engineering team behind the Stelvio Corsa carefully studied photographs from the archives of the Pirelli Fondazione to get the look just right while utilizing modern compounds to dramatically increase wet weather performance and overall grip. The other upside is that, since this tire was designed for only one car, the designers could ensure that the performance characteristics wouldn't dramatically change the nature of the car.
So, the next time you find yourself at a vintage racing event and something long, low, red and impossibly curvy slinks and burbles its way past you to get to the track entrance for some hot laps, thank Pirelli for being a ridiculous company. We certainly will.