24 Hours Stories: Ferrari, two icons for the 1990s
Throughout the month of December, here is a very special advent calendar, dedicated to unusual stories and anecdotes of the legend of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For this December 18, return to the 1990s, which saw two very different Ferraris on the track in the Sarthe.
If the victory of the McLaren F1 GTR from its first participation was one of the major events of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1995, Ferrari also marked this 63rd edition, by the presence of two fundamentally different cars, added to the crossed legend of the prancing horse and the 24 Hours: a high performance road and a new prototype.
The Ferrari F40 occupies a very unique place in the history of the prancing horse. Appeared in 1987, this model not only celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the brand, but also became the last car launched during the lifetime of Enzo Ferrari, who died on August 14, 1988.
Besides the historical importance of the F40, the Ferrari 333 SP is an important novelty: it is the first Ferrari prototype seen in the Sarthe since 1974, and even 1973 if we go back to the last appearance of a prototype of ‘factory. The 333 SP was born from the passion of Gianpiero Moretti. Entrepreneur of high reputation in the world of motorsport, he is the creator of accessories (steering wheels, rims) MoMo (contraction of the first two letters of Moretti and Monza), also supplier and sponsor of Ferrari in Formula 1. Named after the unit displacement of its V12 (333 cm3 for each of its twelve cylinders and SP for Speciale Prototipo), the project receives the support of Piero Ferrari and Luca di Montezemolo, who returned to the management of the brand at that time, for a car intended to race on both sides of the Atlantic, whether at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or in the United States.
The F40 started at the 24 Hours in 1994 (retired) and the 333 SP in 1995. This last year, out of the three Ferrari F40s at the start, two arrived, with respectively twelfth and eighteenth places for Michel Ferté / Olivier Thévenin / Carlos Palau (Pilot Aldix Racing) and Gary Ayles / Massimo Monti / Fabio Mancini (Ennea SRL / Ferrari Club Italia). The only 333 SP only looped seven laps before giving up on an engine problem. Qualified 17th, she climbed to third position.
The last victory of a Ferrari prototype
The 1996 24 Hours saw the last appearance of the F40 at the 24 Hours. The four units entered were forced to retire, as were the two 333 SPs at the start. If we will not see the F40 again on the 24 Hours circuit, the 333 SP undergoes new developments from 1996 under the leadership of the British engineer Tony Southgate, to whom we owe the Jaguar XJR- 9 and XJR-12 victorious at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990.
These developments will bear fruit in the 1997 and 1998 editions. Associated with Max Papis and Didier Theys, Gianpiero Moretti sees his passion rewarded with sixth place, the best result of the 333 SP in the general classification. The following year, that of the Doyle / Risi team won in the LMP1 category (eighth in the general classification) in the hands of Fermin Velez, Wayne Taylor and Eric van de Poele.
In 1999, the last Ferrari 333 SP seen at the 24 Hours was entered by the French team JB Racing and forfeited the seventh hour due to engine failure. Over the past two decades, the Sarthe prancing horse record has gained numerous successes in the GT categories. And today, Ferrari is preparing for its long-awaited Hypercar return by 2023, fifty years after its last appearance in the premier class and 35 years after its last victory in prototypes.
PHOTOS (DR / ACO ARCHIVES): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HOURS, 24 HOURS DU MANS – From top to bottom: the first Ferrari 333 SP at the start of the 24 Hours in 1995 (n ° 1); that same year, Michel Ferté, Olivier Thévenin and Carlos Palau offered their best result in the F40 (n ° 34); the 333 SP of Moretti / Theys / Papis (n ° 3) and Van de Poele / Taylor / Velez (n ° 12), respectively sixth in 1997 and eighth in 1998.