Words: Chris Rees
Ferrari’s final closed-wheel racer won the Daytona 24 Hours 20 years ago
Formula 1 may be Ferrari’s premier motorsport arena but the Prancing Horse has a long, rich and distinguished history in other racing classes, too. Ferrari’s Sports Cars, distinguished by their closed-wheel layouts, have seen many glories over the years, from the 166 MM of 1949 winning at Le Mans onwards.
Until the 1990s, the last Ferrari to compete in this category was the 312 P, a hugely successful racer that triumphed in the 1972 World Sports Car Championship. For the next two decades, the Ferrari factory decided to concentrate on Formula 1.
But the Prancing Horse badge would return to closed-wheel racing with the F333 SP prototype. Launched in late 1993 and first raced the following year, this potent barchetta was powered by a 3997cc 65-degree V12 engine, developed directly from the Scuderia’s Formula 1 powerplant. In the F333 SP, the engine developed 650hp, which in a car weighing only 860kg was good enough for a top speed of 368km/h (228mph).
The sophisticated Ferrari-developed honeycomb chassis tub ensured a highly competitive car on the track. The lightweight body, meanwhile, could be completely removed with ease.
The F333 SP’s racing career was singularly successful. In total, it took 47 international wins and 12 championships, from California to the Czech Republic – a remarkable record of results by any standard. In particular, the F333 SP dominated Sports Car racing during the 1990s. Perhaps the high point was victory in the 1998 Daytona 24 Hours race, some 20 years ago.
Piloted by Mauro Baldi, Didier Theys, Giampiero Moretti and Arie Luyendyk, the F333 SP took its historic win at this prestigious event with an average speed of 169.626km/h, having travelled over 4000km in all. The very last race in which a F333 SP competed was in June 2003, appropriately enough at the Monza circuit in Italy.