Ferrari 250 TR - Driving XCH 555 

The Ferrari 250 TR has its little idiosyncrasies, and I have come to know and understand it, no one knows it better than I.    

Mechanically the 250 is relatively easy to look after as there is not much to it, no cam belts, the cams are chain driven. Two oil filters, one main and one bypass, these with the oil are changed on a regular basis. The gearbox is standard Ferrari 250 GTE as is the rear axle which has a bespoke limited slip differential (LSD).

The normal pre-race checks take place in the workshop, water, oils, and brake fluid levels along with brake pad wear. Empty the fuel tank, which can hold 100 Litres, then refill with a measured amount for the next qualifying session. I calculate fuel consumption at 5 mpg on track, but on the road it is about 18 mpg.

Ferrari 250 TR Spinner

Polished alloy rimmed Borrani wire wheels are great looking but they are so time consuming to keep clean and bright. At first I was conscious of damaging the chrome on the spinners, the single nut which holds each wheel on the hub, that was until I realized they are each made from a solid stainless steel billet - brilliant.

After brake fade on an extremely hot day I now have the habit of bleeding the brakes after qualifying, this is preventative and peace of mind more than anything, that said the brakes are great. With original GTE discs, ATE calipers, cooling ducts, AP Racing brake fluid and Ferodo competition pads, there is no problem in that department. It's the lack of mechanical grip from the narrow racing tyres which limits deceleration and lateral G forces.  

The last things to do are to have a good look round and a check for anything not as tight as it should be, slightly over inflate the tyres as it's easier to drop the pressures at the track. Finally a wash and polish make it ready to load on the trailer or drive to the track if it is local.

Starting the TR begins by turning the battery master switch on, then the ignition and when the fuel system has filled the 6 carburetors (see Specifications page), next, open the oil accumulator and close once it has discharged its one and a half litres contents of oil. This partially pressurizes the engine oil system, even before it has turned a revolution, fantastic for reducing wear. Then two or three full strokes of the accelerator.

Now it's ready to press the little black starter button on the dash, no accelerator - yet, it usually bursts into life straight away, usually firing on 12 quite quickly. I can't describe the sound of the engine which is impossible to reproduce as my Snetterton Video proves.

I always take time to warm the engine before putting it under load, most wear takes place when an engine is cold. When the engine oil is at least warmed through the oil accumulator can be slowly opened to refill the system ready to do its job on track.

In some ways the TR isn't as easy to drive as a modern car, although there is no electronic technology to worry about, in fact the most technical parts on the car are the distributors, which consist of three lobe cams, two sets of points and one condenser in each.

There are no seat belts in the TR, nor paddle gear change, power steering, ABS, air con, satnav, windows, radio, need I go on? Traction control is of course the drivers right foot.

Ferrari 250 TR Gear Change Gate Note Reverse Lock Out

The gear change gate is synonymous with Ferrari and in this case is an addition to the GTE gearbox, note the reverse block.

I race it with out the normal seat, my makeshift seat is made out of two part expanding foam in a bin liner, exactly how we did it in Sports 2000 way back. It doesn't look pretty but it does give me a better fit and I can get lower and further back in the cockpit.

To drive it quickly takes a certain amount of work, partly because it does not have a steering rack but a steering box, which is less precise than a rack. It also has a 16" Nardi steering wheel, which is huge compared to today's cars. Consequently it has a larger turning circle and more turns lock to lock.

Narrow by today's standards are the 5.5" x 16" Borrani wire wheels which are fitted with Michelin racing tyres. These are a third the width of a modern Ferrari and are a major factor in the way the car drives. The addition of an LSD had a big change on the cars driving characteristics, it no longer spins an inside wheel out of corners and a balanced throttle into slower corners promotes (now) slight understeer but as the engine has good torque and power and can easily converted into oversteer.

A larger front anti-roll bar (ARB) now with solid mounts and bushes improved the understeer and when the tyres were changed from Dunlop to Michelin there was an increase in understeer. This I put down to the smaller rolling radius of the Michelin. An increase in rear ride height and lowering the front ride height has improved the understeer. Now in medium to fast corners the handling is relatively neutral.

I would really like to try the two makes of tyre back to back, this would prove or not my theory that the Dunlops are the quicker............in the dry. I have little doubt the Michelins do have more grip in the wet.

As far as wet weather racing goes, I have not had the luxury of being able to change to wet settings. With the few wet races I have had, I've not had the time to change anything other than the brake bias, which has been cockpit adjustable on the move for some time now.

It would be impractical to change to a true wet setting because the co-axial spring / Koni damper configuration has to be removed and the dampers fully compressed. This engages the valve in the lower end and then can be soften or stiffened by rotating the top part against the bottom in the desired direction. 

XCH 555 is a fabulous car to drive, look at and work on and admired by all, it is so rewarding in all aspects. I thought it was great to drive on the road but when I went racing with it I was given a whole new experience, infinity more pleasurable to compete with than just driving on the road. It has a completely different personality at speed, by that I really mean at speed in corners, it comes alive.

I do appreciate how lucky I am, and have always thought of myself as being the custodian of XCH 555
until the next one comes along.

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