Model history: Exactly 20 years after Ferrari last raced a sports prototype, the Maranello based firm surprised the world with the 333 SP in 1993. Jointly developed with Dallara, it was Ferrari's first new prototype racer in over two decades. Designed specifically for the new IMSA prototype regulations, the 333 SP was intended for customer racing only. The impulse for the project was given by Giampiero Moretti, founder of MOMO and Gian Luigi Buitoni, president of Ferrari North America. The program was nick-named 'Il Sogno Americano', the American Dream.
IMSA regulations specified that the engine used could not displace over four litres and had to be derived from a road car. The V12 used was similar in design to Ferrari's contemporary Formula 1 engines, but it was homologated because it would power the upcoming Ferrari F50 road car. For the F50 the 3.5 litre F1 engine was increased in size to 4.7 litre and then reduced again for the 333 SP. All technical aspects, like the 5 valves per cylinder setup, were retained for both the F50 and 333 SP engine. Like many of its legendary predecessors the 333 SP was named after its engine's unitary displacement of 333 cc.
Much of the design work for the chassis and body was done in Dallara's windtunnel. Following the regulations, the 333 SP featured a flat bottom chassis. Carbon-fibre and other composites were used for the chassis and body, resulting in a very light but rigid monocoque construction. Double wishbones and push-rod operated coil springs/dampers were used all-round. The rolling chassis was not much different from the contemporary F1 designs, except for the increased width to accommodate a 'passenger.'
Completed, the 333 SP truely looked the part, a prototype more than worthy to bear the name Ferrari. Throughout its racing career, various modifications were made to the body, including a longer nose, but it did not loose its characteristic look. Apart from its looks and performance, it will be remembered best because of its sound. With a red line far beyond 10,000 rpm, the V12 produced a high pitched sound, pure all the way from idle to its maximum revolutions. On Spa Francorchamps it could be heard all around the 7 km track.
After thorough testing late in 1993, the 333 SP made its public debut at the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic in January of 1994. Three months later it made its racing debut at the Road Atlanta Sprint race. Ferrari's return to prototype racing was a return in style with a 1-2 finish in the first race and a stunning 1-2-3 finish in the next. Even though the cars were run by privateers only, three more victories were scored before end of the season. With a revised nose, the 333 SP was entered in the 1995 Sebring 12 Hours. A victory was had in this legendary race; the first Sebring win for the marque in 23 years.
More victories were scored, resulting in the IMSA driver's and manufacturer's championship in 1995. A natural progression would be an assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours. For long distance racing a special version was created with a larger fuel tank and a slightly detuned engine. In 1995, the only 333 SP entered had little success at Le Mans. A year later one of the 333 SPs entered qualified second and set the fastest lap in the race, only to retire after an accident. In 1997 a sixth place finish was scored. Le Mans remains as the only important endurance race not won by 333 SP in its lifetime.
After an already successful racing career, the best was yet to come in 1998. In the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours, Ferrari booked one of their most legendary victories, with the 1-2-3 finishing cars crossing the line side-by-side. With a further revised body and updated engine, the MOMO team entered the 333 SP in the 1998 running of the 24 Hours race. Three decades after the legendary victory, a Ferrari won the race again, it was also the marque's first 24-hours victory since that historic 1967 win. In the following years, the 333 SP was raced with considerable success both in Europe and in the US. The 2002 Daytona 24 Hours was the car's last official race, finishing off a very successful career that stretched over eight seasons.
The 333 SP's performance and great reliability record made it a popular pick among sports car racers. By the end of its career, 40 examples were produced, an incredible amount for any prototype racer, let alone a Ferrari. Some of these were directly bought by collectors and were not even raced. The first 14 cars were constructed by Dallara, the next 26 by Michelotto. Many of them were later modified by the owners with revised sides, noses and wings to suit their particular needs, usually with help from Michelotto. In the final seasons some chassis were fitted with Judd engines, mostly for cost reasons.
Spanning over eight seasons, the 333 SP's racing car was not only remarkably long but also very successful. Between 1994 and 2002, the car won major championships on both sides of the Atlantic, scoring 56 outright victories along the way. It was also among the very first of a new generation of sports racers and its influence is still visible to this day. The 333 SP certainly ranks among the finest Ferrari racing car and the howl of its sophisticated is still without equal.
The very first 333 SP built, chassis 001 was extensively tested from late 1993. Early in 1994, it was crashed heavily by Mauro Baldi requiring a rebuilt around a new tub. Never raced in again, it joined the fabulous collection of Yoshiho Matsuda the following year. Among the subsequent owners was Brazilian collector Carlos Monteverde. Today it is owned by an American enthusiast, who brought it to the 2008 Cavallino Classic where it is pictured here.
The final 333 SP constructed by Dallara, this example was sold directly to a Mexican collector. Although fitted with the latest specification body and engine, it was never raced in anger. Later in the decade, it was acquired by the Doyle-Risi Racing Team as a back-up car. The services of chassis 015 were ultimately not needed and the car remained un-raced. As can be seen in our pictures from the 2008 Monterey Historics, it has later been used during track-days.
Chassis 016 was the first example built by Michelotto. It was raced by Fredy Lienhard's Lista team in the late 1990s. Lienhard was frequently joined behind the wheel by Momo founder Gianpiero Moretti. Together they secured a victory in the 1998 Watkins Glen round of the North American series. It was the last race for Moretti and to honour that occasion the car has been restored to that day's striking Momo livery. Now retired, the car sees frequent track day outings at events like the 2006 Cavallino Classic where it is pictured.
British privateer racer Ray Bellm acquired this 333 SP to compete in the International Sports Racing Series. Fielded by Lanzante, the car only made a handful of appearances with a 2nd at Brno in 1998 as the best result. It was subsequently sold on to Dick Waaijenberg, who raced it with fellow Dutchman Alexander van der Lof in the ISRS in the following two seasons. Following its contemporary career, it has been regularly used for track days.
Built in 1998, this 333 SP was sold new to Jean-Pierre Jabouille for his JB Giesse Team. It was piloted that year to the International Sports Racing Series Championship by Emmanuel Collard and Vincenzo Sospiri. The car was driven to six wins in the eight rounds it competed in. Mauro Baldi and Laurent Redon scored one more ISRS win in 1999 before chassis 022 was retired from active duty. Now owned by a Dutch collector, it is seen here during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours.
Finished in the 'Rosso Marlboro' also used by the Ferrari Formula 1 team at the time, this 333 SP was bought new by an Austrian collector. He regularly used the car at track days in Europe before offering it at RM Auctions' 2008 Leggenda e Passione sale at the Ferrari factory. The bidding stopped at EUR 500,000, which was not enough to meet the reserve. Chassis 027 did eventually find a new owner and is seen here in action during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours.
Having mastered his F40 LM, this 333 SP provided a step up for the late Benny Caiola. The noted Ferrari collector acquired the car directly from the factory and in the following years regularly entered it in a variety of track days. The 333 SP grew out to be his favourite racing car even after acquiring an FXX. Following his death, Caiola's collection was offered by Gooding at their 2011 Scottsdale sale. The cherished machine found a new owner for $781,000.
This 333 SP was bought by the BMS Scuderia Italia team and raced by father and son Angelo and Marco Zadra in the now renamed SportsRacing World Cup. From 2000 onwards Angelo Zadra was joined by others, Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner, resulting in improved results with several second place finishes as the highest rank for the car. Chassis 029 was retired from active duty at the end of 2001 and has since been used for track days.
Acquired new in June of 1999 by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, chassis 030 was immediately entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driven by Jerome Policand, Mauro Baldi and Christian Pescatori, it qualified 14th but failed to finish. Fielded by the now renamed JMB Giesse team, it scored three victories in the 2000 Sports Racing World Cup in the hands of David Terrien and Christian Pescatori. Still its 2000 livery, chassis 030 is seen here during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours.
Like many of the final 333 SPs produced, this chassis was sold directly to a collector. Its first, German owner had it finished in an unusual but attractive yellow. Unfortunately, a bankruptcy meant that he had little time to enjoy his new Ferrari. Eventually sold through Eberlein, chassis 034 found a new and very enthusiastic owner. In the following years, the yellow 333 SP has been regularly used at track days around Europe and is seen here at a recent outing during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours.
Completed in 2001, this 333 SP was sold directly to a German collector and was not raced in period. The first owner quickly sold it on to an enthusiast in the United States, who at the time also owned chassis 033. He has regularly exercised the very quick machine at a variety of events in North America. Chassis 036 is seen here in action during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 editions of the Cavallino Classic on the Moroso Park track near Palm Beach.
Among the very last 333 SPs built, this chassis was acquired new by Risi Competizione for the 2001 Daytona 24 Hours. Piloted by the highly experienced team of Ralf Kelleners, David Brabham, Allan McNish and Eric van de Poele, chassis 037 was the fastest qualifier on the Daytona Speedway. Sadly the race ended early with an engine failure. Still wearing its Daytona colours, the ex-Risi 333 SP is seen here during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours.
The penultimate 333 SP, this new for 2002 chassis was dispatched to Risi Competizione for the Daytona 24 Hours. Starting sixth, it was piloted by Eric van de Poele, Stefan Johansson and David Brabham. Sadly the final outing for a 333 SP at Daytona ended during the 17th hour with an accident. No longer wearing its Risi Competizione colours, chassis 040 is pictured here in action during the 2012 Dix Mille Tours at the Paul Ricard circuit.
Thats great, wonderful material for modelists. Saddly I have my 333 model already built... but who knows, I can redo parts of it to add details (:
One of the great Ferraris
C-4 guy 01-25-2013
What a wonderful tribute to a fantastic race car worthy of the name Ferrari. Your journalistic capabilities are at times amazing
Wouter. I would like to add if I may, that one of the most intelligent and comprehensive works produced for the media was a series narrated by Alan DeCadenet titled "Victory By Design". There were others in the series but this particular one followed the development of Ferrari from the early days and concluded with the 333 SP. It's worth watching if you can get a copy.