A special-edition Ferrari 458 Italia, valued at around 6 million yuan was lifted onto the third floor of the 600-year-old Gate of China on Sunday evening, performing drifts and 360-degree turns on the ramparts as a part of promotional event to highlight the 20th anniversary of the Italian auto company's entry into the Chinese market.
The stunt left tire tracks and permanent damage on the landmark.
Some witnesses filmed the process and posted it online, which caused widespread anger among internet users. City officials charged the local Ferrari dealership US$12,000 to rent the landmark for business use.
"The damage may be invisible at the moment but it is very detrimental," Yang Guoqiing, expert for historical sites in Nanjing, told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
"It is not worth destroying a historical site for US$12,000," one netizen said on Sina Weibo.
Ferrari China apologized for the stunt on its official Weibo page Tuesday, saying it deeply regretted the incident and would cooperate with local authorities to solve any problems that had been caused. The official in charge of the landmark was also reprimanded for the incident.
The stunt driver's wheel-spinning demonstration left skidmarks on the 600-year-old city wall in Nanjing. The wall is said to date from the Ming dynasty.
Video footage outraged China's online community who called the stunt disrespectful. Much of the anger was aimed at the city authorities after speculation grew that they rented out the wall to Ferrari for $12,000 (£8,000).
Nanjing Cultural Relics Bureau spokesperson Wu Jing said: "No enterprise or individual is allowed to use the city ramparts in Nanjing for commercial purposes."
Ferrari said that the driver was an employee of the city's Ferrari dealership and not of the company.t said: "Unfortunately, an employee of the dealership - not a Ferrari employee - took it upon himself to drive the car in the way you will see in the video with the very regrettable result that tyre marks were left on the ancient monument.
"Ferrari has unreservedly apologised to the Chinese authorities and local community for any damage and offence caused, and has promised to work with the necessary officials to repair any damage caused by the negligence of this individual."
It said the Nanjing Kuaiyi Automobile Trading Co planned to hold a car exhibition at the Zhonghua Gate - a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) city gate and castle - to celebrate the brand's entry into China 20 years ago on Monday.
But the night before, an unidentified employee drifted a car worth millions of yuan without permission and left tire marks on the ancient wall, triggering widespread outrage over damage to the heritage in the capital city of east China's Jiangsu Province.
"We will take further measures to ensure that similar cases never take place again," the Italian car maker said in a statement yesterday.
According to a China National Radio report, the expensive racing cars were hoisted onto the wall for the event starting on Sunday. But later, urban management officials in Qinhuai District stopped the activity and ordered the organizers to remove the cars to ensure the historic wall wouldn't be damaged.
Kuaiyi signed a deal with the Zhonghua Gate management administration to hold the ceremony, but didn't inform the Qinhuai District cultural authorities for authorization, the tourist bureau said.
The head of the Zhounghua Gate management administration, Yang Houyin, told China News Service that he never allowed drifting and that "the activity is of small-scale that we usually don't apply to the cultural authorities."
Yang was sacked from his position later yesterday.
The gate management administration was said to have charged 80,000 yuan (US$12,704) for the ceremony, but authorities wouldn't confirm that figure.
Early reports indicated the stunt at the Zhonghua Gate, or Gate of China, in Nanjing in eastern China had been planned, triggering a flood of angry reactions on social media, according to the Xinhua news agency.
But the car company said Wednesday "what happened in China was not authorized."A local dealer was supposed to have a car on display at the Gate for a commercial event and an employee moved it the night before "without any authorization," leading to the damage, a spokesperson from Ferrari said.
Tire marks were reportedly left on a section of the landmark that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) -- a portion said to be the best-preserved part of the site.
Yang Guoqing, an expert on ancient city wall preservation, told Xinhua that the incident also possibly damaged the inner structure of the gate.
Ferrari has apologized and canceled the event.
"Ferrari is fully at the disposal of the local authority to solve the situation," the company said. "At the same time Ferrari has asked the dealer to take immediate action with the employee who had such regrettable behavior"
Initial reports that the marks had been left as part of a publicity stunt led to angry denunciations on Chinese social media sites.
"We cannot tolerate that Ferrari used the ancient city gate to make a show and ruined it. If you do not respect the city, you do not deserve to stay here," one resident posted online, according to AFP.
"A 6 million yuan [$950,916] Ferrari versus a 600-year-old ancient city wall ... What are the Nanjing authorities doing? So sad," added another blogger, using the name Baobei Fei.
The area's tourist bureau also was reprimanded over the incident by the Nanjing government, tourism spokesman Jin Jiechun said.