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Ferrari’s Sports Car Racers from the 70s and 90s

Submitted by on April 18, 2023

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

Recently, Ferrari debuted the 499P Le Mans Hypercar at the opening round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship, the 2023 1000 Miles of Sebring. This moment marks 50 years since Ferrari last fielded a factory backed sports car in the world of endurance racing with the Ferrari 312PB.

Between the final race of the 312PB and the introduction of the 499P, Ferrari returned to sports car racing with the 333 SP at the end of 1993, although this car was built by manufacturer Dallara. In this article we focus on the Ferrari 312PB and the Ferrari 333SP.

Back in 1971 Ferrari focused on a new sports prototype powered by a 3-litre engine based on the Tipo 001 flat-12 engine that was used in the 312B Formula 1 car. It was their answer to a change in regulations announced for 1972. As the minimum weight of the 3-litre sportscars was raised to 650 kg, Porsche decided not to participate in the World Championship. Porsche’s air-cooled two-valve engine produced just 370 hp and therefore a new engine would have been necessary.

Ferrari’s new car was originally designated the 312P – it was the motorsports press that appended the B to avoid confusion with the V12-powered 312P cars. The 312 PB was developed for racing in Group 6 and although the new car was promising, it did not score any victories.

Ignazio Giunti and Arturo Merzario debuted at the 1971 1000 km of Buenos Aires. Giunti tragically lost his life after the Italian driver hit Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s Matra. Ferrari had to be patient until the final round of the championship as the 312PB scored its first victory during a non-championship event in South Africa. Further modifications led to an increased output of 460 hp.

1972 proved to be totally different for Ferrari as only Alfa Romeo entered the world championship. At the first round of the 1972 World Championship in Buenos Aires, Tim Schenken and Ronnie Peterson scored the car’s maiden World Championship victory. With the exception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari won all races of the World Sportscar Championship with their 312PB.

A 12 centimetre longer version was constructed for the 1973 season, equipped with a 475 horsepower engine. Just a single victory was scored at the 1000 km of Monza and at the end of the season Ferrari decided to concentrate completely on Formula 1.

Chassis 0882 seen at the Spa Six Hours in 2007

It wasn’t until 1994 when another prototype with a Ferrari logo appeared on the starting grid of an endurance race, although not as a works entry. Italian race car manufacturer Dallara built a sports prototype to compete in the World Sports Car championship known as the Ferrari 333SP. The car marked Ferrari’s return to sports car racing and competed in the American IMSA championship.

Dallara built the first 14 chassis and Michelotto Engineering built the remaining 26 chassis. Dallara developed both the transmission and suspension and bodywork. Dallara’s Dialma Zinelli and Ferrari’s Giorgio Camaschalla developed the car’s aerodynamics. Designer Tony Southgate, who was involved in the earlier TWR Jaguar Group C/GTP program, came on board as a consultant. Ferrari designed the chassis and engine, a modified version of the 3.5 litre V12 that was used in the Ferrari 641 Formula 1 car from 1990.

Ferrari debuted with no fewer than four cars allocated to three teams at the Road Atlanta 2 Hours on 17th April 1994. Euromotorsport (Jay Cochran, Mauro Baldi), Momo Corse (Gianpiero Moretti, Eliseo Salazar) and Team Scandia (Ross Bentley, Andy Evans) entered the two-hour race. It was Jay Cochran who cruised the number 50 car to victory. The win at Road Atlanta was followed by a commanding win at Lime Rock, although Ferrari was beaten by Oldsmobile in the championship as they had started the season late. The marque took top honours at the 12 Hours of Sebring followed by another four wins. The 333 SP debuted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997, but couldn’t impress and finished in 6th.

Chassis 034 entered in Endurance Racing Legends at the Spa Classic in 2019

A slightly updated version appeared in 1998 on the grid of the International Sports Racing Series later known as the FIA Sportscar Championship. The car dominated the championship by winning every race and scored the championship’s top two spots. Emmanuel Collard and Vincenzo Sospiri claimed the title followed by Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard. In the same year the car finally managed to win the Daytona 24 Hours.

The Ferrari 333SP appeared in 2001 for the last time both in the United States and in Europe, and it would be more than 20 years before the marque returned to sportscar racing. The 499P was introduced at the Ferrari Finali Mondiali in 2023, wearing #50 to signify the 50 years since the marque had contested the outright win at Le Mans. At its debut outing, the 2023 1000 miles of Sebring, Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen drove their car to third overall, following up with second 2023 6 Hours of Portimão.

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