The Ferrari 333 SP
was born from a vision shared by two stalwart figures in Ferrari history -- Piero
Ferrari and racing driver Giampiero Moretti, who had founded the MOMO accessory
The Ferrari 333 SP was victorious in its first race. See more Ferrari images.
In early 1993, Moretti was in Ferrari’s office, telling him he wanted to end his racing career in a Ferrari. From that conversation was born the Ferrari 333 SP, the factory’s first pure sports-racing car since the Ferrari 312 PB was launched 20 years earlier.
The America International Motor Sport Association series was changing its rules for the 1994 season, making it the perfect venue for a new Ferrari. This exposure was important to Maranello because, at that time, there were no Formula 1 races on American soil.
Piero Ferrari remembered telling Moretti, “The problem will be convincing others in management that this is a good idea. In short, the effort has to be successful as well as make economic sense.” Ferrari put together a brief, crunched some numbers, and pitched the idea to company CEO Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. He bit, and greenlighted the project.
then turned to Gianpaolo Dallara, a gifted engineer who started his career at
Ferrari in 1959, but had subsequently worked with Maserati, Lamborghini, and
others. Dallara assigned his engineers to work with Ferrari personnel. One
group developed the chassis, engine, and gearbox, another the body. All
understood the cars would be sold to privateers, meaning the design had to take
into account discrepancies in the abilities of the mechanics and pit crews.
The Ferrari 333 SP was Ferrari's first pure sports-racing car in decades.
The Ferrari 333 SP’s V-12 derived from the 4700cc 513-horsepower engine in the roadgoing F50. The stroke was reduced to bring capacity within IMSA’s 4.0-liter limit, and the heads had five valves per cylinder instead of four. Digital fuel injection topped it off. Final horsepower rating was 650 at 11,500 rpm.
The chassis was effectively a Formula 1 tub made wider to meet IMSA’s two-seat requirement. It was constructed of carbon-fiber composites and an aluminum honeycomb core. Suspension also followed Formula 1 techniques with pushrods front and rear. Brakes were large Brembo discs.
The bodywork employed carbon-fiber composites as well, and was developed with the help of Dallara’s wind tunnel. As the Ferrari 333 SP project was under way, Ferrari hired British engineer Tony Southgate as a consultant. This initially concerned Dallara. “Though we chose the way we felt was best,” he recalled, “what would have happened if this guy came in and said, ‘No, we don’t go that way?’” But the instant the two men met, Dallara knew Ferrari had made a good decision, as Southgate contributed to the design’s aerodynamic efficiency.
Ferrari recalled that a number of engineers inside his company had a twinkle in
their eyes as the Ferrari 333 SP was developed. It had been two decades since their
last purpose-built sports-racing car, and all remembered how victories at Le
Mans and other 24-hour races spoke volumes about the reliability of Ferraris.
The aerodynamic styling of the Ferrari 333 SP made it a winner.
To the delight of all involved, the Ferrari 333 SP did not disappoint. Its first race was in April 1994, at Road Atlanta, and the SPs finished 1-2-5. American Jay Cochran drove the winning car, with Moretti the second-place finisher. In the following race, at Lime Rock, Moretti won, and he scored two more victories that year. But because the car had not competed in the season’s first two races, Ferrari narrowly missed winning the IMSA world sports-car championship.
Things started poorly in 1995, when only one of the four Ferrari 333 SPs at Daytona finished. But that race was the exception. The Ferraris won at Sebring, Shearwater, Lime Rock, Texas World Speedway, and Phoenix International Raceway. Ferrari easily won the 1995 IMSA championship.
Dallara continued to develop and build the model into 1997, at which time construction was taken over by Ferrari tuner Michelotto. This was the version that helped Moretti achieve a dream finish to his career. In 1998’s opening contest, the 24 Hour race at Daytona, he shared outright victory with Ferrari 333 SP codrivers Mauro Baldi and Didier Theys. Then, just weeks later, in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the trio’s 333 SP finished first again.
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