Tag Archives: Ferrari 333 SP

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Evoluzionare

There can be no doubt that one of the truly great racers that emerged from Maranello in the ]ast two decades is the Ferrari 333 SP. Elegant proportions and a V12 wail, it has everything that a classic Ferrari must possess. One of the leaders of this exclusive pack is #012 – here is the legend as seen from the inside. Follow this tale of redemption and rebirth……..

John Brooks, May 2019


Fredy Lienhard, Jurgen Lassig, Piero Lardi Ferrari and the HORAG crew at Maranello picking up Chassis #012 in early 1995.

In April 1995, Fredy Lienhard came down south to Georgia to race his new Ferrari 333 SP in the IMSA race at Road Atlanta.


March 1995 – Swiss Championship race at Hockenheim Germany, which Fredy would win in the first event for the car.

Fredy had purchased a new car, chassis #012 and had raced the vehicle the month before in March, at a Swiss championship round at Hockenheim in Germany, and won with it.  Fredy was a Swiss Industrialist, who loved racing, and race cars as an adjunct to his business, using the platform as a promotion for his customers, and as advertising for his company LISTA, which made industrial storage equipment, tool boxes, and office furniture.


Chassis #012 gets pit service during practice for the IMSA race at Road Atlanta in April 1995.

This was basically the second season of the Ferrari 333 SP and the World Sports Car (WSC) formula in IMSA. There were four 333 SPs entered with their main opposition coming from Dyson’s Riley & Scott pair, plus several other WSC cars, as well as a full field of GT cars. The race did not start well. After 14 laps there was a huge accident on the main straight right in front of the pits, involving ex-F1/Indycar driver Fabrizio Barbazza in the Euromotorsport Racing Ferrari 333 SP, Jeremy Dale in a Spice and several GT cars. The race was red flagged for 90 minutes to allow rescue helicopters to land on the track and take Barbazza and Dale directly to the hospital as they were both badly injured. To stand and watch this from the pits was disconcerting to say the least.  Wayne Taylor who was driving our car (Moretti/ Doran 333 SP) was pretty upset about the accident.  After the race was restarted, Gianpiero Moretti got in our car to continue, leaving the final stint for Wayne.


Chassis #012 rests against the wall at Road Atlanta April 1995. The car was deemed a total write off.

After 42 laps there was again a red flag stoppage due to another massive accident, this time on the back straight involving Fredy Lienhard, Steve Millen’s Nissan 300ZX and some other GT cars. The race was called “done” at that point, as it was going to get dark and take too long to clean up and repair the circuit.


The right side of the car did not look too bad after the crash about halfway through the race.

Moretti came into the pit and said, “I am glad this is over, let’s get out of here. It’s not fun racing when I see my friend Fredy up against the guardrail, and my friend Steve Millen being taken away on a gurney”.


Left side of chassis #012 after impact to left wall on Road Atlanta back straight.

In the ensuing confusion, Fredy, who was unhurt (except for what was probably a concussion, although he did not realize it at the time), walked back to the pits, got in his rental car, and drove to the Atlanta Airport. He said later, he did not even remember doing this. In any case, he got on a plane and flew to Zurich that night. The next day he says he felt terrible, experiencing dizziness and headaches. By this time IMSA was looking for all the drivers involved in the second accident and were somewhat perplexed that Fredy was nowhere to be found. The next morning, they tracked him down in Switzerland and called to make sure he was ok, and ask what had happened.

Ferrari 333 SP #012 was deemed a complete write off. The remains of the car were packed up and the chassis sent to Ferrari and Michelotto in Italy for analysis.


The HORAG crew with Markus Hotz in mid 1995 with the car which was now chassis “#012b” the replacement.

A new chassis was ordered from Ferrari. They provided a “replacement” chassis for #012, ostensibly keeping the serial number the same as the first one was “destroyed” (#012b). This was delivered to Hotz Racing AG, c/o Gaston Andrey in Massachusetts. 


Led by Markus Hotz, a new car was built up at Gaston Andrey’s workshop in the USA by the HORAG crew in time for the IMSA Lime Rock race at end of May 1995. Here Fredy and Jurgen Lassig drove to a 5th place finish in the new chassis #012b.

There, a new car was built up by HORAG (Hotz Racing AG) for the IMSA Lime Rock round held at the end of May.


After Lime Rock in 1995, Didier Theys would co-drive with Fredy for the remaining schedule. Here they are in mid 1995, probably at Mosport event.

The car then ran the majority of the remaining 1995 IMSA schedule finishing all races in the top ten, then was shipped back to Europe.


#012b on track at IMSA Mosport in 1995. Fredy and Didier would finish 5th.
# 012b in the Mosport pit lane, August 1995

Didier Theys sits in #012b at Mosport in 1995

Fredy in #012b at Sears Point, August 1995, partnered With Didier they would finish 5th.

Fredy in 012b at the Donington ISRS race in 1997. The car had sat idle for most of 1996, only doing a shake down run at the Interserie in Most, Czech Republic. He and Didier finished 2nd at Donington.

Fredy and Didier on the podium after winning the ISRS event at Zolder Belgium in 1997 in #012b.

 Fredy and Didier Theys win the first ISRS race of 1998 in #012b at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The race win at Paul Ricard, resulted in a letter of congratulations from Ferrari chief, Luca di Montezemolo.

The Misano ISRS event was a night race, and Fredy and Didier scored 3rd place.

Fredy sits in the pits at the Nurburgring during ’98 ISRS race. The disappointing result was a DNF due to a gearbox issue.

There it ran one race in 1996, and most of the ISRS (International Sports Racing Series) over in Europe in 1997 and 1998.  In early 1999 the car was sold to Ted Conrad.  Fredy had meanwhile, bought new chassis (first #016, then #025) to run in IMSA in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

At the beginning of 2000 it became clear that the 4.0-liter Ferrari V12 would not be competitive under the latest rules package with power output controlled by air restrictors on the engine. The IMSA open rules under which the car had been designed and built, had morphed into the new FIA/ACO regulations. Ferrari refused to modify the engine for the new circumstances, saying this engine was not designed to run with such limitations. Ferrari teams, as early as 1999, had started to struggle against other cars with 6.0-liter engines, as, of course, a restricted 6.0-liter engine was better than a restricted 4.0-liter engine. The BOP (Balance of Performance) back then was just a varied restrictor on the air intake, nothing as sophisticated as today. Hence the 6.0-liter engines always had more torque, and the 4.0-liter lost horsepower due to the air restriction.


The man who came up with the FUDD (Ferrari-Judd) concept and implemented it, Kevin Doran.

Ferrari, never on the best of terms with the ACO or FIA in sportscar racing, refused to modify the engines or do the testing to make the engines run more effectively with the new restrictors. Teams started looking elsewhere at other cars or for other solutions in anticipation of the 2000 season.


Engine installation in the Ferrari chassis in 2000.

After Daytona 2000, where the Lista Doran team ran the Ferrari V12, Kevin Doran got the idea to put a Judd V10 GV4 in the Ferrari 333 SP chassis. Judd had been doing a lot of development on their engine for the teams using it and it was certainly quick. Getting a 4.0-liter engine to be competitive in the ACO/ FIA regulations required a lot of dyno and electronics work and testing, which Judd had done.  This engine was to be installed in chassis #025 which the team had been running since the beginning of 1999.


Judd V10 engine rear view in Ferrari chassis

However, this was not an easy conversion as the V12 engine was longer than the V10 as it had two more cylinders. A bell housing spacer and a few other pieces were needed to make it all fit with the standard Ferrari gearbox and suspension.  Hence the “FUDD” (Ferrari- Judd) was born. The Doran team, led by Kevin Doran and Jeff Graves, completed the conversion between Daytona and Sebring in 2000. The team showed up for the 12 Hours of Sebring with chassis #025 now powered by a Judd engine.  Renzo Setti, the Ferrari factory engine rep who supported us at the races in the US, came, took one look, and said, “Ok, that’s it, I am on vacation now”. The car at Sebring, driven by Fredy Lienhard, Didier Theys and Mauro Baldi finished an excellent 5th place, the first privateer, behind the two factory Audis and the two factory BMWs but ahead of the surviving factory-run Cadillac. After that great start the team ran the “FUDD” for the rest of the Grand-Am season. The results were good, with victories at Miami and Elkhart Lake, and finishing 2nd four times.  At the conclusion of the 2000 season, chassis #025 was sold to Dennis Black and then converted back to a Ferrari V12 engine.


The Judd engine was first installed in chassis #025 which was run by the team in 2000. Here the car sits in the Lime Rock Paddock.

Fredy Lienhard drives the first “FUDD” at Watkins Glen in 2000. This is chassis #025. Note the decal on the engine cover…. powered by Judd V10!

At this time, during 1999 and 2000, the original Chassis #012 from Atlanta in 1995 was sitting in a corner at Kevin Doran’s shops in Ohio. Fredy had retrieved it from Michelotto and wanted it repaired if possible as a show car for his collection in Switzerland.  Crawford Composites in North Carolina repaired the tub, and Doran Racing rebuilt the car with all Ferrari components and returned it to Switzerland at the end of 2000 for display in Fredy’s collection.


For the 2001 season, Fredy acquired a Crawford chassis and continued with Judd engines. 

In preparation for the 2001 Grand-Am season, Fredy had bought a new Crawford- Judd. However, finding optimal setup and handling proved elusive in the first 3 races of the season. 


Chassis #012 in 2001. Note the chassis plate is covered up with black tape…..

So in April of that year, the decision was reached to recall chassis #012 from the “museum”, install a Judd GV4 V10 and continue with a known quantity, being what we had run the year before, a “FUDD”. Judd had continued development of their engine, so the GV4 V10 made good power (about 625hp) and almost as important, improved fuel economy.


Chassis #012 (the original)  was returned from the “museum” and run with Judd engine for the remainder of 2001. Here it has just won the Elkhart Lake race and sits in the victory lane with drivers and crew.

This became readily apparent at the Grand Am Elkhart Lake event in 2001.  This was a 500-mile race on a 4.0- mile circuit. Therefore, would be run over the distance of 125 laps.  It was a nip and tuck battle over the first part of the race between us, various Riley & Scott cars, and the Risi Ferrari, who were still running the V12 Ferrari engine. At lap 75 we pitted and Fredy Lienhard turned the car over to Mauro Baldi. We knew if Mauro could make it to Lap 100, he would turn the car over to Didier Theys, and that would be the last pit stop.  Soon, as the race passed 90 laps, all the other cars pitted, out of fuel, so would have to make another stop before the end. I heard a report later, that in the Grand – Am Race Control Tower, someone said, If Baldi makes it to lap 100, the race is over.  He drove superbly and made 101 laps and pitted almost out of fuel. Theys took over and ran to the end and victory while everyone else stopped to top up their tanks once more.  The Judd work on the engine had paid off.  We had made one pit stop over the last 50 laps (200 miles), while everyone else made two.


Mauro Baldi in #012 at Watkins Glen in 2001, where he, Fredy and Didier would finish 2nd.

We ran the “museum car” for 7 races till the end of the season, winning twice, finishing 2nd once and 3rd four times. At the end of the season, the car was converted back to a V12 Ferrari and returned to the Autobau in Switzerland, where it still resides today.  It usually still stretches its legs at track days in Europe, at least once per year.


Fredy Lienhard and ong-time Ferrari engine man, Renzo Setti, at Mugello in 2018

Postscript – Riding in a Ferrari 333 SP

Fredy Lienhard still owns 333 SP #012, it sits on display at the Autobau in Romanshorn Switzerland. From time to time, he takes the car out to “track days” for his friends and business associates. I worked on his race teams for Kevin Doran for many years, so was fortunate to be invited to one of these events in early 2018 (and 2019) at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy.


Myself and 333 SP driver, Didier Theys, at Mugello in 2018 after some laps in Chassis 012.

Weather permitting, I would get the opportunity to go for a “ride”, as a second seat has been mounted in the car for passengers. Although I had worked on these cars for many years, changing engines, gearboxes, installing and removing suspension and brakes, I had never actually been driven in one. The only real race cars I had ridden in were a Porsche 935 in the late ’70s, and a BMW 235-i cup car.  Having had quite a bit of history with this Ferrari, it was with some anticipation that I looked forward to seeing what it was like to actually sit in it at speed.


The water pump system used to preheat the water prior to starting the engine.

Mugello in March can be cold. In fact, the days we were in house at the circuit, there was snow on the hillsides around the track which sits in a valley. So, it was unclear if this was going to work or not.  The 333 SP has to be warmed up with a water heater, especially during cold weather, as there is a danger of the radiators splitting.  The minimum recommended water temperature to start the car is 50C.


Keeping the helmet steady while riding aboard the 333 SP

Despite the cold temperatures, we got the car warmed up, and Didier Theys took a few laps to make sure all was in good order. I suited up, and prepared to get in. The immediate sensation is that this is a tight fit. The second seat, if you want to call it that, is just some padding and some belts next to the driver.  Getting in and buckling up, the sensation is that you are sitting on the pavement. Very different from a road car or race car based on a road car such as a 935 Porsche.  The Ferrari is a 680 HP go kart!  Acceleration is massive, the car just leaps forward. The noise of the engine without earplugs is deafening.  As you exit the Mugello pits, you are on a long straight, the longest on the course, you go over a rise, then descend slightly downhill to the first corner which is a long radius 180- degree right hand corner. At the end of the straight in this 333 SP, the speed is in the neighborhood of 185 mph. Braking here is very, very impressive in this car and this car has steel not carbon brakes. The first impression of a non-driver is that there is no way the car will stop, however it of course does (Didier later told me he was braking 50 meters early, only running at about 80% capacity).  I am convinced the G force under deceleration would throw you out of the car if you were not strapped in tight.


Renzo Setti, John Toohey and myself returning #012 to the Mugello garage after some laps

Due to the “passenger” seat configuration, I found my head was sticking up into the airflow more than Didier. Also, there is a small windscreen in front of the driver about ½ inch tall which helps deflect air which of course is not on the passenger side. The force of the air tended to want to rip my helmet off. So, I had to hang on with one hand and hold the front of the helmet down with the other to see where we were going. All the while, I had to be careful with the spare hand, as right in front of me was the switch panel, with all the ignition and fuel switches. I had to be careful not to hit one of these by mistake!


Mugello’s pit lane

We were on track with other racers. Most of them were GT based such as Porsche GT3 Cup cars and the like.  So, we overtook a lot of people in the few laps we did. Passing was kind of disconcerting, as again the 333 SP is so low, I found myself looking up at the door handles of the cars we were passing! A strange sensation for the uninitiated.  As we zipped through the traffic, the car just leapt from one corner to the next. While the car looks smooth and composed when you are watching it go by, the ride was a lot more brutal and jerkier when on board. The power allowed the 333 SP to just cover a lot of distance very quickly compared to the other cars.  I tried to imagine driving this car at the Daytona 24 hours at night, trying to cope with the slower traffic. A mind- boggling thing to comprehend.  As we progressed, I tried to put myself in the driver’s seat.  I thought, ok, would I stick my nose in this corner to pass this GT car?  Most often the answer was NO! I asked Didier later how he knew these guys would not come over on us in the corner. His response, “My nose tells me, after many years of experience!”  But I guess that is why he is the driver and I am the mechanic!


The Cockpit of #012. Passenger seat on the left! 

Riding in close proximity to the others, in an open cockpit car you notice quickly the exhaust smell of those in front of you. No doubt this was due to my head sticking up in the airflow higher than the driver. Didier said it did not bother him, as the air goes over the driver’s head due to the shape of the front windscreen.


Brakes on #012 today, steel rather than carbon Brembo, still very impressive brake performance

Too soon, it was over, and we returned to the pits. I was left with the feeling, that every race mechanic should take a few laps as passenger in the cars they are working on. Very quickly, you begin to understand what is at stake here, and how fast you are going, what could potentially go wrong and what the consequences might be.


Chassis #012, with the “regular” engine

All in all, an incredible experience to ride in this historic sports racing car, at the famous Italian track which is owned by Scuderia Ferrari. In the USA, we call this a definite “E-ride” (referring to Disney World’s rides ranging from A, the lowest and easiest to E, the most impressive). It was a short glimpse of what is “possible”, and what most of us never encounter. After providing a day to remember for all in attendance, chassis #012 returned to its place on display at the Autobau, where it still sits today.


#012 at Mugello

Fredy Lienhard sits in #012 at Mugello ready for some hot laps.

Ferrari V12 and rear suspension in #012 .

Ferrari enthusiasts one and all!  Didier Theys, Paolo Devolder, Martin Raffauf, Fredy Lienhard and Dino Sbrissa.  Unfortunately Renzo Setti was ill and did not make the 2019 photo……….

#012 carries some good names……….
Mugello…………………

Martin Raffauf, May 2019.

Photos copyright and courtesy of Fredy Lienhard, Kevin Doran, Martin Raffauf and Dino Sbrissa

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