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Ferrari 333 SP

With an exciting Swiss past

When the Ferrari 333 SP was introduced at the end of 1993, it marked the Italians’ return to endurance racing. Prior to that, the factory had last fielded the 312 PB, with which they won the 1972 World Sports Car Championship; in 1973, the Italians withdrew from the prototype class and concentrated on Formula 1.

The 333 SP was designed in accordance with the IMSA GT Championship regulations, which were introduced in 1994. At the instigation of loyal Ferrari customer Giampiero Moretti and the efforts of Gianluigi Longinotti-Buitoni, then CEO of Ferrari North America, Ferrari put the 333 SP on wheels, which was to become Ferrari’s only modern sports prototype.

Ferrari worked with Dallara Automobili and Michelotto to develop the 333 SP, with Dallara responsible for aerodynamic research and Michelotto primarily responsible for component assembly. Interestingly, all 41 examples of the 333 SP were not built by Ferrari, but by Dallara (chassis numbers 002 to 014) and Michelotto (chassis numbers 001 and 015 to 041).

The 333 SP was a true racing car built on a flat-bottomed carbon fibre monocoque chassis and benefited from the Formula 1 experience of both Dallara and Ferrari. The model featured conventional double wishbone suspension with coil springs actuated by a push rod. WSC regulations required engines to be standard and not to exceed 4.0 litres displacement. This allowed Ferrari to fit a 4.0-litre V-12 F310E engine, which was a long-stroke version of the 1990 “Type 036” Formula One engine. A similar version of this engine was also used in the F50.

Ferrari’s return to endurance racing was immediately successful, with five wins in seven IMSA races in 1994. In 1995, the 333 SP won the 12 Hours of Sebring, taking both the IMSA drivers’ and constructors’ titles. The car’s finest hour, however, was undoubtedly the 1998 Daytona 24 Hours, when the Momo team took the first Ferrari victory in that race since 1967. By its last official race in 2002, the 333 SP had taken part in more than 350 races, winning over 50 and winning 12 major championships along the way.

We show 025 here because the car has a nice Swiss history. The Ferrari was built by Michelotto in late 1998 and originally painted red. In 1999, the new 333 SP was sold to Doran-Lista Racing, based in Erlen, Switzerland, a partnership led by Swiss enthusiast and driver Fredy Lienhard. Lienhard was the owner of Lista AG, a leading manufacturer of industrial and workshop cabinets. Lista would be seen on Doran Racing cars throughout the era and became a highly recognisable racing livery even to casual spectators. Lienhard’s partner Kevin Doran was a veteran endurance racer who had made a name for himself as a successful technician and team manager.

025 was already Lienhard’s third 333 SP, as he also owned 012 and 016. In his first race, Lienhard, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Arie Luyendyk drove 025 to a respectable eighth place overall at the 1999 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Its next outing was at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where Theys, Baldi and Lienhard retired due to gearbox failure. In May 1999, chassis 025 took its first victory when Theys and Lienhard drove to victory at Lime Rock from third on the grid. The Ferrari competed in six more races that year, finishing eighth overall at both Mosport and Road Atlanta.

In 2000, IMSA adopted the FIA/ACO international regulations and the four-litre V12 had to run with an air restrictor. 025 entered the Ferrari engine in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, but was forced to retire after a short lead due to an engine fire. Kevin Doran then decided to fit a Judd four-litre V10 engine to the car, which was deemed more competitive. On its debut at Sebring in March 2000, the 333 SP finished 5th overall in the 12-hour classic. The 025, driven in its final year mainly by Lienhard and Theys in the remaining 10 outings, finished on the podium six times, including overall wins at Homestead, Miami and Road America. After the 2000 season, none other than Kevin Doran restored 025 to ALMS specifications. This included sending the car’s Ferrari V-12 engine to Michelotto for an overhaul before it was expertly reinstalled in the car. This history-making Ferrari will go up for auction at Gooding & Co. in Monterey in mid-August, expected to fetch $4.5 million to $5.5 million.

The car shown below is chassis number 032, built in 1999. This Ferrari 333 SP was originally delivered to Japan – and never raced once in its life.

We have more Ferraris in our archives.

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