It was the car to have in 2003, and BMS Scuderia Italia proved that the Ferrari 550 Maranello was still a potent force in the FIA GT Championship as Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari headed home team-mates Matteo Bobbi and Gabriel Gardel in round one at Monza.
After an action-packed high-attrition race Gollin received his second consecutive win at the historic Italian venue as a 29th birthday present, as the two BMS cars led home the newer GPC Giesse Squadra Corse 575 M Maranellos, which finished their first-ever race in third and fourth places.
In N-GT, Stephane Ortelli and Emmanuel Collard took a strong win, finishing seventh overall in their Freisinger Yukos Porsche 996 GT3, chased by the GPC Giesse Ferrari of Fabrizio de Simone and Christian Pescatori, with Proton Competition claiming its first ever podium in third.
It has all looked so different in a chilly but dry warm-up session, when the #7 RML Saleen of Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton set the fastest time ahead of the pole-setting BMS Ferrari Gollin and Cappellari. Tom Coronel's Lister Storm was third to hint at an open competition come the race. In N-GT, the #62 GPC Giesse Ferrari 360 Modena set the best time, ahead of the #50 and #99 Freisinger-run Porsches.
A frosty morning at Monza was replaced by blue skies and sunshine, although temperatures remained low. Despite the conditions, however, some 25,000 spectators came to the circuit to see the first round of the 2004 series, and were treated to a 'home' win for Ferrari.
The result has given the BMS team a healthy early lead, with 18 points, while Gollin and Cappellari took the lead of the driver's classification for the first time in their partnership.
"It was almost a problem-free day for us," former single-seater aspirant Gollin explained, "We had to be careful about the fuel consumption, but we chose not to make a final splash like we'd originally planned. But it worked out very well, and we are now leading the championship for the first time, and I hope to stay there all season!"
"I did the middle stint today, and it was not an easy one," Cappellari admitted, "I had to save the tyres for Fabrizio's stint, because I know that he never asks to change tyres, and because of that I had to drive very carefully. Also, the track was very dirty and slippery with oil in one corner. But it was a very good race and a great result."
The reigning champions made a dominant start to the season, starting from pole and leading throughout the 87-lap race. The #1 and #2 cars pulled away from the rest of the field, followed only by the #5 Saleen. Although Bobbi led early on, Gollin and Cappellari eventually took the win, finishing 44.7secs ahead of their Italian and Swiss team-mates, who had been delayed by two extra pit-stops and a spin.