Ferrari has used the GTO moniker on just two occasions in the past, once on the original 250 GTO of 1962, and then again in 1984 with the so-called 288 GTO.

In both cases the O stood for 'Omologata' – because both cars were produced for homologation purposes to allow Ferrari to go racing.

Read Steve's first drive of the Ferrari 599 GTO, plus see the pics and video

The 250 became a well-known sports racing car in the 1960s while the 288 was originally intended as a precursor to a Group B racing series that never actually happened; its prime purpose was still, however, to provide the platform for a proper competition car.

The 599 GTO has no such purpose. When I spoke with Ferrari’s amiable boss Amedeo Felisa over lunch on the GTO’s launch last week (as you do), I asked him if Ferrari had any intention of going racing with the 599, and, if so, whether a return to sports car racing might be under consideration.

On both counts the answer was an emphatic “no.”

Ferrari is happy with its involvement at GT2 level in sports car racing, said Felisa, but has “absolutely no intention” to go any higher than that – not with the 599 or any other car in the near future.

So does that make the 599 GTO unfaithful to its creed? In a literal sense I suppose it does. Ferrari has no intention to going racing with this car, which means the O in its name has a great big hole in it in more ways than one.

But on the other hand, does this actually matter in 2010? The 599 GTO is still an extraordinarily committed car in engineering terms; as a product it’s at least as impressive in its way, and in its time, as the 250 and 288 GTOs were in their days.

So who really cares if Ferrari has taken a slight liberty with its branding and attached the legendary GTO moniker to a car that will have no competition pedigree?

It’s Ferrari’s history, after all, and it can do what it likes with it. The fact that the 599 GTO has been given the badge in the first place surely just means that Ferrari is rather proud of its latest creation – so much so that it has wheeled out one of its most sacred names for the car?

Anyone who thinks it is a travesty to have done so should probably find something else to worry about instead.

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