Maserati built only a single MC8 GranSport Laboratorio as an experimental prototype to race in the Nürburgring 24 Hours – and it remains the marque's last factory racer

Three manufacturers define Italian racing history; Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. The latter once ruled over their closest rivals with the all-conquering 250F Formula 1 car in the 1950s. But after that dominance ended, Maserati has slipped into a racing decline, to the point they’ve not had a factory racing presence in motorsport for over a decade.

With the MC12, Maserati did manage to reign supreme in sportscar racing during the mid-2000s. But one more car was built in 2006, after the final MC12 had rolled off the production line, which has remained the Tridente’s final factory racer ever since; the MC8 GranSport Laboratorio.

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Maserati’s R&D Factory Team weren’t leaving anything to chance when building the MC8 GranSport Laboratorio. Former Ferrari and Benetton Formula 1 engineer Giorgio Ascanelli was given the reins for the project, with his R&D team tasked to develop a standard GranSport GT3 as a test bed for new racing modifications.

A new sequential gearbox and carbon fibre driveshaft were the chief modifications and due to its prototype nature, with the gruelling Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race chosen as a test of its abilities. Given its non-standard parts, Maserati even had to enter the MC8 as an experimental prototype.

Maserati MC8 GranSport: Modena’s last factory racer

Nothing was left to chance for the prototype’s debut. Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini were brought in from the factory’s crack FIA GT championship squad, both of whom would go on to win that championship with the MC12 in 2006, and were joined by ex-F1 pilot Eric van de Poele and touring car veteran Gianni Giudici.

Alas, the Nürburgring would claim another victim. Starting from 10th place, the MC8 GranSport Laboratorio wouldn’t even make it to the fifth hour of the race. With van de Poele at the wheel, the Maserati clashed with a rival car while running in fifth place, rolling onto its roof and being forced into retirement.

While the MC12 went on to have a fruitful career, still racking up wins and championships several years after the final chassis was built, the MC8’s racing career went no further than the Nordschleife.

It’s done very little running since – though the MC8 has clearly been repaired since that Nürburgring rollover. Presented in its original factory Vitaphone colours – identical to that seen on the all-conquering MC12s – Maserati’s final factory racer is now being sold by Cambi Auction House during its Racing & Sports Car auction, held at Milano AutoClassicsa.

Heading across the auction block tomorrow, Saturday November 24, during Milan AutoClassica at the Rho Fiera exhibition centre, this unique piece of Maserati racing history doesn’t come cheap. Cambi estimates you’ll need somewhere in the region of €400,000 – €600,000 ($454,000 – $681,000, £354,000 – £531,000) to acquire the MC8 GranSport Laboratorio.

Gallery: Maserati MC8 GranSport: Modena’s last factory racer