Sold for $1,375,000 at 2013 RM Auctions - Monterey.
Chassis #: 015
Engine #: 031
The American dream means even something that appears dead and over can be re-birthed and become a reality. This would never be more true than what took place at the 1994 IMSA GT Championship at Road Atlanta.
The GTP cars of IMSA would be officially banned starting in 1994. The American series would conform to the new regulations of the World Sports Car category. This change in regulations offered new manufacturers a great opportunity as there would be the need to change to conform to the regulations.
The original vision of the series had been for privateer and factory teams to compete on equal footing. Over time, the factory efforts would come to dominate and this saw a severe diminishing in fan support.
The new WSC regulations were aimed at reducing costs and increasing competition. Factory racing engines were banned in favor of production engines. The chassis had to have a flat bottom to reduce downforce. In addition, the cars had to be open-top. These were some drastic changes but it suited certain manufacturers just fine.
Giampiero Moretti, the founder of MOMO, and Gian Luigi Buitoni, the president of Ferrari North America, recognized an opportunity was about to present itself. It was known the new regulations would be coming into effect and this provided Moretti, an amateur racer, to take advantage. Moretti and Buitoni would join together and would use their influence to persuade Ferrari to return to endurance sportscar prototype racing after a 20 year absence.
Ferrari would be intrigued by the fact the new regulations meant they didn't have to develop a whole new racing engine. They would be able to take one of their production engines and tweak it for competition. Ferrari would also become interested in the project when they were able to contract Dallara to work jointly in the production of a prototype chassis to house the Ferrari engine.
More than once Ferrari would have to be coaxed into throwing its full weight into prototype sportscar racing. However, throughout the 1950s and 60s the factory from Maranello would dominate the prototype scene. In 1993, Moretti wasn't asking Ferrari to jump in on the same kind of scale and this would be very interesting to the factory. Ferrari would especially be interested in the project given no Formula One races took place in the United States at the time and it was an important market to maintain a presence. Therefore, Ferrari would agree and Dallara would be onboard, 'Il Sogno Americano', or the American Dream, would be born.
The new regulations stipulated an engine size not over 4-liters. Ferrari would determine to use the same V12 engine that it had been using in Formula One but its use would be allowed as it would be homologated in use for the F50. While the F50 would be of larger size than that which would be used in the new 333 SP, just about every other detail of the engine would be entirely the same.
To save costs as much as possible, Ferrari would look to integrate as much from its Formula One effort into the prototype project. This would include the construction of the chassis. Using carbon fiber and other composites, the 333 SP body would be based upon the F92 Formula One car, only made wider to accommodate the mandatory passenger seat.
Working with Gianpaolo Dallara and his windtunnel the design of the 333 SP body would move forward. The result of the work would be a rigid, but very light, combination of chassis and body.
Completed, testing for the new 333 SP would begin in mid-to-late 1993 and would be concluded in late 1993. When the prototype made its competitive debut at the 1994 IMSA GT Championship at Road Atlanta, the car certainly looked beautiful and fitting to be called a Ferrari. However, when the engine came to life and hit full song down the straights, suddenly the 333 SP would hit just the right pitch and immediately heads would turn to take in the soundtrack.
In its debut, in typical Ferrari fashion, the Ferrari 333 SP would go on to finish first, second and fifth. Then, at Lime Rock later in the season, the new Ferrari would sweep the podium. As a result of its immediate success, the Ferrari 333 SP would barely miss out on the championship. Had the car been ready in time for the start of the season it would have been more than likely the car would have taken the championship in its debut.
The 333 SP would go through some slight revisions for 1995 and would barely miss out on the championship one more time, even after scoring victories at Sebring, Shearwater, Texas and Phoenix.
By 1998, Dallara would be done building 333 SPs. The project would then be turned over to Michelotto. One Michelotto-prepared 333 SP would be driven by Moretti, Arie Luyendyk, Mauro Baldi and Didier Theys in the 24 Hours of Daytona. The quartet would go on to lead 108 laps and would take a dominant victory adding one more highlight to the racing career of Moretti and the 333 SP.
When all production of the 333 SP ceased in 2001 just a total of 40 cars would be built. Five would be built by Ferrari. Nine would be produced by Dallara. The rest would be constructed by Michelotto. One of those built by Michelotto would be 015. Since no chassis would bear 013, 015 would actually be the final 333 SP constructed by Dallara.
When completed, 015 would not immediately set to the track but the display stand. Selected by Pirelli, the chassis would make its first appearance at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show. This debut would be followed up with an appearance at the Turin Salon just a month later.
Following its introduction at car shows, 015 would be purchased by Carlos Hank Rhon through Ferrari Houston. Rhon is a noted Ferrari collector and actually elected just to store the car away at Rissi Racing in Houston.
The car would change hands a number of times but would never actually take part in any race but just remain a display vehicle. Its first competitive turn of a wheel would not come until 2008 when it was tested at the Pre Historics event at Laguna Seca. Practically brand-new in just about every way, the car would navigate the circuit without a problem proving it was still, at the end of the day, a proper racing prototype.
Although the prototype would not take part in any race competitively it would feature some intriguing updates, including a six-speed Xtrac gearbox, upgraded brakes and bigger 18-inch wheels.
Practically new from the factory, this undamaged 333 SP would seem as just having been ordered from Dallara and ready for action on the track. Even without a racing history, 015 is still a fitting tribute Ferrari's return to prototype racing and is certainly deserving of the same honor bestowed upon other 333 SP examples.
Presented at the 2013 RM Auctions Monterey event, chassis 015 would draw estimates prior to auction ranging from between $1,250,000 and $1,550,000.Sources:
'Lot No. 244: 1996 Ferrari 333 SP Evoluzione', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1061180). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1061180. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
Fuller, Michael. '1994-2003 Ferrari 333 SP', (http://www.mulsannescorner.com/ferrari333.html). Mulsannecorner.com. http://www.mulsannescorner.com/ferrari333.html. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
'Ferrari 333 SP', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/627/Ferrari-333-SP.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Knowledge. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/627/Ferrari-333-SP.html. Retrieved 14 August 2013.By Jeremy McMullen