Federal marshals sold a confiscated Ferrari 250 GTO racing car yesterday for $1.6 million to a Providence, R.I., partnership that outlasted bidders from here and abroad.

It is the highest price on record for one of the sleek, red, two-seat hardtops. The Italian auto company produced only 36 in 1963 and 1964; 32 survive.

U.S. Marshal Pasquale A. Mangini said in a telephone interview from New Haven, Conn., that the partnership, known both as Douglas Auto Sales and as GTO Partners, is headed by Leon H. Cornell Jr.

Cornell, moving the car from New Haven to Providence yesterday, could not be reached for comment. His partners were not identified.

Cornell is a real estate investor and game manufacturer who has been buying and selling expensive Ferraris for several years. The car Cornell and his partners purchased was built in 1963. It was last purchased in 1982 for $345,000, but another of the 250 GTOs was auctioned in Monaco on May 26 for $1.57 million, the previous record.

The 250 GTO sold by the marshals was raced at Le Mans and on other road courses in Europe in 1963 and 1964. With a 295-horsepower, V12 engine, the car can reach 180 mph.

The government seized the car from an accused drug dealer's estate after he was found murdered in Spain last June.