Tag Archives: Ferrari 333 SP

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Long Island View

At DDC Towers we welcome another contributor, our old friend Andy Hartwell. Andy was one of the  regulars on the ALMS beat at the turn of the century. Here he gives an overview of what drew him to  this area of motor sport. Hopefully this will the first of many contributions from Long Island.

A Personal Journey Through A Golden Age
©Andrew S. Hartwell

It was 1995 and Major League Baseball (USA) decided to cancel the World Series over player/owner disputes.  For this lifelong fan, that action was enough to turn me off to the game we had so often played for hours in the streets where I grew up.  It was time to look to other interests and, as luck would have it, a man from Italy would persuade a famous car maker that the time had come to return to the world of sports car racing.  The man was Gianpiero Moretti and the car he championed Ferrari to build was the 333 SP.

Growing up, when I wasn’t playing ball – pretending to be any one of a number of my favorite New York Yankee players every time I stepped up to bat – the other thing that I was most interested in was sports car racing. I loved seeing the Jim Hall Chaparrals, the Lola T-70s, the McLaren Can-Am cars and all the modern open top racers featured in the racing magazines of the time. There was Road & Track, Sports Car Graphic, Car and Driver, Autoweek/Competition Press, and later, On Track and Auto Racing Digest. Money I earned from delivering papers, along with meager parental allowance monies, would often go towards buying the latest issues. (Along with a box of chocolates or two.) I couldn’t wait to see who was racing what and where. I was in awe of these champions of courage, and in love with the idea of going fast around corners in both directions, not just in a straight line or to the left over and over. 

When I finally was old enough to have a car of my own, Dad found a 1957 Chevy for me and I would tear that baby up and down twisty and narrow River Road thinking, as I had when playing baseball, that I was really Stirling Moss or Jim Hall or Mark Donohue and corners were to be cut, not driven around. I sometimes wished the Chevy was a Triumph or an MG but hey, I was driving and enjoying myself regardless.

In the mid-1960s, Dad and my Brother Steve and I went to a few races at our home track, Bridgehampton. We saw the USRRC, Trans-Am and Can-Am races at that under-developed, bare bones circuit, but the venues condition didn’t matter.  We were seeing my heroes in the flesh and not too far from home to boot.  This was the real thing, not a static image on a page.  It was a time when I came to feel I needed to have a future in this sport.  Not as a driver or mechanic, but as a journalist or photographer. I wanted to see, hear and feel more about what went on within this magical world.

The idea was further cemented in my mind when, at the 1968 Bridgehampton Can-Am race, I cheered on my favorite, Jim Hall when he took the lead from Bruce and Denny in their identical McLaren MK8As.  When the race ended, and the last car crossed the finish line, this 17 year old fan leaped over the fence, ran across the track, and stood in the pits as Hall pulled up right next to me! I reached in and was the first to shake his hand to congratulate him on his second place finish! He wore an open face helmet and I can still see the blood and marks on his face from all the sand that had been thrown up during the race.  Shaking his hand was a seminal moment for me. I knew then I had to have a place in this exciting world!

(Note: 40 years after that race I found a photo someone took of Jim at that moment. In the photo, I am the kid in the white T-Shirt and sunglasses on Jim’s right!  The photo also captured my Dad, in the crowd over Jim’s left shoulder.  And the elbow you see sticking out behind Jim’s left arm belongs to my brother, Steve!  What are the chances of every finding a photo of that magic moment?)

Well, sometimes what you feel you want is the very thing you have to wait the longest to receive. While working a full time job in retailing, I gave journalism a shot, writing short pieces for a Long Island weekly newspaper. I covered a few local club rallies, wrote about the world of racing at Bridgehampton, and submitted a piece or two on Lime Rock and Watkins Glen events. This early involvement came to a sudden halt when the paper’s interests waned in affording print space to a sport that was never really in the mainstream of public awareness.  My journalistic desires were put on hold. I then fell back on my other first love, baseball. I was a Yankee fan again. Moreover, I was reborn as a fan of the game.  Well, that is, until 1995.

Besides baseball, which you could watch on TV for free – an amount equal to my ability to pay,  the years of the mid 1970s through to 1995 were devoted to family, career and economic concerns that put the idea of a journalism or photography career on the back burner.  In fact, I tuned out of the whole racing scene for close to 20 years or so. When others talk of the GTP era, or the Ayrton Senna years, I feel no emotional attachment.  I simply didn’t follow the sport back then.

As the years passed, and our economic status improved, and baseball went stupid and shut down when it should have been celebrating a pair of champions, I decided to pick up a car magazine again. In the pages of Road & Track I saw a picture of the new Ferrari 333 SP.  I immediately had a flashback to the glory days of the Can-Am series and the beautiful prototypes built by Bruce McLaren and Lola and Chaparral. The spark was reignited.

I worked out getting credentials to Lime Rock and later other circuits, so I could be on the scene shooting photos and writing about this new era in racing.  Those early stories in the local paper helped pave the way for me.

In 1996, I had the opportunity to interview Wayne Taylor. This was the year he would go on to win both the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, in his Riley & Scott MKIII with Oldsmobile power.  That blue and white and yellow paint scheme was often what the fans saw come across their line of sight first, provided a certain red Ferrari hadn’t stolen the lead.

That interview with Wayne – which he told me at the conclusion was, I quote, “The best interview I’ve ever had”- would lead to his setting me up with credentials to the inaugural Petit Le Mans (1998). 

When the internet became a thing, I found a website called Sportscarworld and reached out to its creator, Malcolm Cracknell, to see if he could use a little help with the content side of the business.  My first submission to Malcolm at Sportscarworld.com was a picture of the Porsche GT1-98 that would later go airborne, ending the race on a flatbed tow.  We connected well and Malcolm became a friend. I would go on to contribute for years to that first site and the many iterations that would follow. This was at a time when most folks only had slow dial up internet service so the pictures were small and I was ‘advised’ to abandon my thoughts of submitting short videos for posting.  (I think what Malcom said was ‘NO MORE $#%^ VIDEOS!)

I would also go on to become a contributor to TheRaceSite.com and many of my ‘Through The Esses’ columns appeared there, and are still accessible today. A short stint writing for AllRaceMagazine (defunct) happened as well but I’d rather not talk about that experience, thank you.

For the next 20 +/- years I would go on to cover the Petit again for several more years, along with days spent covering racing at Sebring, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio, Mosport, Watkins Glen and VIR.  Never made it to Road America but I just might someday. Along the way I met a lot of wonderful professionals who covered the races as photographers, journalists or public relations specialists.  I’m sure I am leaving some great names off this list, and for that I apologize in advance, but some of the names were Barbara Burns, Craig van Eaton, Sylvia Proudfoot, Regis Lefebure, John Brooks, Janos Wimpffen, Lyndon Fox, Gary Horrocks, Brian Mitchell, Richard Prince, Rick Dole, Chris and Rob Dyson and many more.  Each of them having played significant roles in the sport and in my development from novice to (nearly) professional status.

During my time of active involvement, I was able to talk with and write about many great people in the sport.  I am pleased to say my time – albeit as a part time journalist/photographer – found me watching the emergence of some incredibly talented drivers and teams.  People like Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Mike Borkowski, Guy Cosmo, Mark Wilkins, Jeff Segal and more were just making a name for themselves and I was there to talk with them early in their careers and write about their desires and ambitions to succeed in the sport.

It was also during this time that I found a great friend in Dennis Spencer. He and I would spend a lot of time talking in the paddock about almost anything. He was a great man who seemed – to me, anyway – to have no sense of what fear can do to a mind.  He was smart, intelligent, brave and a man with a big heart.  His sense of humor and his ability to mentor others were remarkable traits that I admired greatly. When he passed the sport lost a magnificent competitor and I lost a good friend.

Dissipating brain cells have led to gaps in memory over all that I enjoyed about the sport. In no particular order I do remember covering the NASAMAX team at Sebring; doing the race reports and press releases for Stevenson Motorsports for a little over seven years; covering the Red Bull Racing team at Daytona and, I think, Sebring;  Meeting and reporting on George Robinson’s 74 Ranch team when Jack Baldwin had the lead driving role; Sharing hotel rooms and rides with Janos Wimpffen and later, Lyndon Fox;  Sharing space at a private home in Sebring with several fellow enthusiasts;  Having a hotel or two on the beach at Daytona;  Staying in less than stellar accommodations for Sebring; Flight delays; Losing my dailysportscar jacket at the airport;  Staring down a pig/boar late at night on the way back to Sebring;  Dropping my camera bag into the only puddle within 50 feet of me at Watkins Glen.

Yes, it’s been a fun ride and I feel so very fortunate to have been there during what many folks consider a golden age of sports car racing.  Today, I find myself more attracted to Vintage Racing and seeing some of the cars of the past – both recent and ancient – doing what they were built to do.

Yes, 1995 was a seminal year for this journalist/photographer. But, I wonder if you can guess what my interests today include outside of racing?  Can you say, “Batter up!”?

Andrew S. Hartwell February 2019

The Land that Time Forgot

For over a quarter of a century Patrick Peter has been one of most successful promoters in motor sport, rivalling his former partner in crime at BPR, Stéphane Ratel.

The Le Mans Classic, Tour Auto and Chantilly Arts & Elegance are all world class motoring events that Peter has created but even he had to admit defeat some 20 years ago when he attempted to get the GTR Euroseries off the ground.

The wildly successful BPR-run Global Endurance Series for GTs splintered in late 1996 under pressure from the FIA aka Bernie and Max on the topic of TV rights. It also suffered from conflicts of opinion that the ruling trio had with each other on the future direction of their partnership, I tried to document that turbulence back at the time. http://www.doubledeclutch.com/?p=10162

The net result in 1997 was the FIA GT Championship, a partnership between Stéphane Ratel and Bernie Ecclestone. It was wildly successful in its first season but under the surface it had already laid the ingredients for its own destruction by allowing Mercedes-Benz to drive a coach and horses through the homologation protocols as understood by the other manufacturers. The GT1 class of the Championship collapsed at the end of 1998. The FIA GT Championship only just survived to run the GT2 cars again for the following season without the factory teams, Chrysler Viper excepted. It was a lesson that Stéphane never forgot, keep the manufacturers under control, support the gentlemen drivers.

Patrick Peter launched the French GT Series in 1997 and that was taken over the following year by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation. So Peter then attempted to promote a European GT contest in the spirit and style of the early BPR days, the GTR Euroseries. In the end five rounds were held; Jarama, Paul Ricard, Misano, Nürburgring and Spa. The grids were considerably smaller than expected and Peter admitted defeat after the Belgian event held in late July.

There were quite a number of positive aspects to the series, the conviviality of the paddock was in contrast to the “korporate kulture” that AMG-Mercedes in particular brought to the FIA GT Championship, I know which one I preferred. The GTR grids were largely a collection of Porsches of varying vintages and performance, GT2, Cup Cars etc. The first round in Spain was won by the McLaren F1 GTR of Thomas Bscher and Geoff Lees, it would prove to be the penultimate international victory for the F1 GTR.

The following race held at Le Castellet would also be a landmark for one of those ascending the top step of the podium. This being the final international victory for the irrepressible Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams, one of the most popular figures in British motor sport for over half a century. He shared the win with Maxwell Beaverbrook and Geoff Lister in the former’s Porsche 911 GT2 EVO.

A proposed double header with John Mangoletsi’s ISRS to be run at Brno foundered when the Czech circuit’s pit and paddock facilities were not rebuilt in time. Mango’s Barmy Army went anyway, GTR Euroseries headed for the Adriatic and Misano. The contest would be shared with the anaemic Italian GT series and for reasons that were not clear then or now the Enzo Calderari/Lilian Bryner Ferrari 333 SP was also allowed to race….six seconds a lap faster than the GTs…..it looked and sounded great till the oil pump failed early in the proceedings.

The contest had two elements, the four hours GTR event (Silver Cup) and the Italian GT round at six hours (Gold Cup). Only 15 GTs joined the yellow Ferrari on the grid for a 18.00 start, it would prove to be a long evening. On the positive front Nigel Smith (a good bloke) won the race with Michel Ligonnet (another good guy) and Ruggero Grassi (no idea) in the Seikel 911 GT2.

Next outing, at Nürburgring, was a low point for the season, only 10 entries showed up. The spoils going to the Freisinger 911 GT2 (what else?) of Wolfgang Kaufmann and Michel Ligonnet.

GTR Euroseries was not only contested by Porsches, other exotica ran such as the Maserati Ghibli with none other than Arturo Merzario behind the wheel with co-drivers Simone Manzini and Luca Polmonari . However Art was the one in the stetson puffing on a Marlboro, plus ça change………….

Adding colour and a good old V8 rumble to proceedings at all of the races was Cor Euser’s Marcos LM600 that he generally shared with Herman Buurman.

At the next round, held at Francorchamps as a support race to the 25 hour VW Fun Cup (!), the Ford GT40 impostor aka the VBM 4000 GTC made a welcome appearance. The race was won by the same pair that had triumphed in Germany, which made it three wins out of five for Ligonnet. Perhaps the indignity of ceding numero uno status to dozens of imitation Beetles was the final straw but round five at was the end of the road for the GTR Euroseries. Why had this concept not worked as expected?

As with most enterprises timing is all important and 1998 was not the year to launch such a series, however appealing it might be to the gentlemen drivers seeking sanctuary from getting knocked around by the GT1 factory-pro brigade in the FIA GT. In ’94 and ’95 BPR rode the crest of a wave, the re-birth of GT Racing, after the destruction of Group C and the impracticalities of Group B regulations. There was a genuine enthusiasm for the competition which was underpinned by the realisation that how the game was played mattered as much as the result. Friday night dinners at the circuits for competitors and media reinforced this camaraderie. Barth, Peter and Ratel were pioneers in many respects, for example taking their merry band to Zhuhai in late 1994 for the first ever motor race in The People’s Republic of China. The fact was that there was no alternative to BPR on this side of the Atlantic, outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours, if endurance motor sport tickled your fancy.

Four years on and the landscape in endurance sportscar racing in Europe had changed out of all recognition. For their second season FIA GT Championship retained most of its supporters in the GT2 class from 1997. Those like Ray Bellm, Rocky Agusta, Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, and the aforementioned husband and wife team of Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner, who had chosen to jump ship headed to prototype racing in the ISRS rather than buy a dated GT2 Porsche.

The new French GT series that Peter had created had up to 40 cars on the grid, a fair number of which he might have expected to follow him around Europe. Instead the French teams enjoyed the comforts of racing at home, here supporting the Dijon round of the FIA GT Championship.

Porsche and Ferrari were also a problem. Neither had a new GT racer available. At that point in time that would be a serious obstacle to the success of a GT race series. Porsche Motorsport were still chasing the head of the field in their 911 GT1 98 and their plan was to build a prototype to continue their astonishing run of successes at La Sarthe. Wendelin Wiedeking had different ideas and as CEO the boss always has the last say. He spent the money on developing the Cayenne, highly profitable but……. let’s leave it at that. Porsche would build the wildly successful 911 GT3 R, based on the 996 model, but it would not be until the 2000 season that 64 examples would be sold.

Ferrari only had eyes for Formula One at the turn of the century and had yet to realise that a handy profit could be accrued by getting Michelotto to develop and build Ferrari GTs, that programme would also begin in 2000 with the 360 Modena. For many of those who can afford such a hobby only driving a Ferrari will do, Maranello Madness you might say…….

The basic soundness of the GTR Euroseries concept has been validated later by the success of the International GT Open. Devised by ex- endurance racer Jesús Pareja it took advantage of the plentiful supply of GT2 and, later, GT3 cars to ensure a healthy grid. The timing was right.

One benefit that came as a result of the end of GTR adventure was it gave Patrick Peter the time for the eventual creation of the Le Mans Classic, without any doubt one of the greatest celebrations of motoring competition and car culture on the planet. Clouds and Silver Linings come to mind………

Finally may I wish the loyal readers of this site a happy and healthy 2019.

John Brooks, December 2018