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Ferrari would last win at Le Mans in 1965 with a NART-entered 250LM. In the United States, the Maranello outfit was almost mere legend and not reality. Since the mid-1970s the scuderia would focus almost entirely on its Formula One efforts and would only maintain a presence within the GT ranks of endurance racing. However, in the wandering years of IMSA prototype sportscar racing of the 1990s and early 2000s it would be the legend Ferrari that would help carry the water and keep a finger in the levee until the needed revitalization could happen. Ferrari would do this with the 333 SP.
Costs were steeply rising and the competition was getting quite thin within the prototype ranks of sportscar racing, especially within the United States. The dominance of the Toyota Eagle and the Porsches before it had brought interest in prototype racing to a new low. Meanwhile, the costs of the associated technology being employed in the cars were doing nothing but rocketing skyward. Something needed to be done to reign in the costs and increase competition. This was perfect for Ferrari.
Ferrari's main focus, especially since the late 1960s, had been Formula One. The war with Ford would see a period of GT40 dominance and the beginning of the end of Scuderia Ferrari's concerted effort in prototype sportscars. The famous mark would remain a presence within GT levels of racing simply because they were just stripped-out models of their street-legal cars, and, the costs associated with building them was much less. Ferrari would also make more and more of its GT cars available to customers which helped with the costs associated with developing a new car. Prototype racing was something else entirely.
But now, prototypes would be in trouble and in need of a cheaper, more competitive alternative. New regulations would mandate such a focus within the IMSA series in the United States and this offered a great opportunity for Ferrari that would wet the appetites of all racing fans longing for a return of the 'prancing horse' to top-flight prototypes.
Ferrari would partner with Dallara. Farming out the design of the new car to Dallara meant Ferrari really only had to focus on the costs associated with building a competitive chassis. It was already doing that too.
The prototypes of the early 1990s were becoming more and more simply Formula One cars with fenders. Much of the same technology was being shared and some even had engines used in Formula One cars. Therefore, utilizing what they had, Ferrari would begin building its first purpose-built prototype since the 312.
Using the latest carbon-fiber technology, Ferrari would work with Dallara to build a monocoque chassis. They would utilize the same suspension as that which was being employed in the Formula One car and would even make use of their beautifully orchestral V12. Thumping out 650hp in that familiar high-pitched howl, the engine would be a Formula One V12 just tweaked for endurance sportscar racing. Therefore, Ferrari had everything on hand practically to build this car. And what a car it would be.
From the moment it hit the track the Formula One car with fenders, the 333 SP would be practically unbeatable. More than 50 victories and nearly 70 pole-positions would lead to the 333 SP enjoying a long racing career in the United States and in Europe. This particular example, chassis 041, is a note-worthy example of the breed.
The Ferrari 333 SP would be unveiled in 1993 and would continue in production until 2001. It would be the ultimate example of what the new regulations desired—cheaper costs and a competitive car able to race year after year. Chassis 041 would bring the 333 SP chapter to a close as it is the final one to be produced by the factory. What's more, this car is just one of 25 Michelotto 333 SPs.
The car was completed in 2001 and was intended to follow its predecessors into the family business. It would be sold to Ferrari of San Francisco and was planned to compete in the 2002 Grand Am season. It would never be readied, however, and, instead, would remain as it was delivered.
Then, in 2007, the car would be purchased by Shelton Ferrari, which is located in Florida, and would eventually end up as part of a prominent collection in Texas. It has remained as part of that collection to this very day and still retains its original livery, Enkei wheels and Pirelli P Zero slicks.
Though it does not have the success on the track as part of its chronicled history, 041 is by no means an insignificant car. It represents Ferrari's return to prototype sportscar racing. It also represents the end of that time and causes people to look to the future with wonder and hope.By Jeremy McMullen
The Ferrari F333 project was the company's first sports car prototype racer in twenty years, and was developed jointly with Dallara. The racer was created specificlly to challenge the IMSA prototype class with each car being built with the interior of being sold as customer cars. The nickname for the project was 'Il Sogno Americano', meaning the American Dream.
The driving force for the creation of these cars was Giampiero Moretti, the founder of MOMO, and the president of Ferrari North America, Gian Luigi Buitoni.
The body of the cars were functional, and elegant. It was crafted with Dallara's help in their windtunnel. Complying with racing regulations, the car was given a flat bottom chassis, matted to a lightweight monocoque chassis. The cars were clothed in Carbonfiber and other exotic, lightweight materials. The chassis consisted of double wishbones and push-rod operated coil springs. As the years progressed, the cars exterior changed slightly. It was given a longer nose which helped on faster tracks and improved the vehicles aerodyanmics.
For long distance racing, special bodies were created, the fuel tank was enlarged, and the engine was slightly detuned.
Racing regulatios at the time stated that the engines were to displace no more than four liters and were to be derived from a road going car. Ferrari chose the V12 engine that was to power their upcoming F50 car. The engine was used in their F1 program, where it displaced 3.5-liters. The F50 had a 4.7-liter dispalcement size and the F333 was given a 4-liter size. The name of the vehicle was in direct correlation to the engine's unitary displacement of 333 cc. This was a naming style dating back to the company's inception.
The V12 engine had a red line that reached nearly 12000 RPM's. This gave the cars a memorable howl that made it one of the noisest on the track. The combination of style, performance, and sound turned heads, scared the competition, and provided many podium finishes for its driver. Top speed was achieved at nearly 230 mph.
The cars made their public debut at the 1994 Palm Beach Cavallino Classic and their racing debuts at Road Atlanta a short time later. In their first outing in twenty years, the Ferrari's finished in first and second. The following race, the cars claimed the top three positions.
In 1995 the cars secured the IMSA Drivers and Manufacturers Championship, along with a first place finish at Sebring 12 Hours. At LeMans in 1995, the cars did not achieve their desired success. A year later, a 333 SP set the fastest lap of the day and had qualified in second place, but was forced to retire prematurely due to an accident. In 1997, the car secured its best place finish at the race, finishing in sixth place. The illusive, prestigious, and grueling LeMans race would be the only endurance race that would not be won by the 333SP.
During the cars racing career, it secured many victories in both the United States and in Europe. The 2002 Daytona 24 Hours was the car's last major race, bringing to an end an eight year racing career. Many of the cars would continue their racing resume in historic and similar racing events.
In total, there were forty examples created with the first 14 being created by Dallara. The final 26 cars were created by Michelotto.By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2007