Ferrari 333 SP – the Last Italian Prototype to Rule in America
The Ferrari 333 SP is a sports prototype car which was in use in different racing competitions all around the world between 1994 and 2003. During that period, the car captured more than ten championship titles with private teams in the IMSA GT Championship and FIA Sportscar Championship.
It never won at 24 hours of Le Mans, but captured victories at the greatest American endurance races – the 24 hours of Daytona (1998) and three times at 12 hours of Sebring (1995, 1997, 1998).
Giampiero Moretti wanted his own Ferrari race car
The story about Ferrari 333 SP didn’t start in Ferrari’s headquarter in Maranello but at the behest of the Italian racer and MOMO auto parts owner Giampiero Moretti. He had a successful career in the American sportscar racing, reaching the peak in 1993, when he finished in the third place of the IMSA GTP Championship, driving Nissan NPT-90.
For the next season, the first under new WSC class rules, Moretti wanted his own Ferrari. And he got it. It was the first Ferrari’s prototypes after twenty years of absence in the sports prototype racing.
Ferrari’s engine and Dallara’s chassis
Ferrari entered the project with a 4.0-liter V12 engine, which was the derivate of the engine used by Ferrari 641 Formula One car. A building of chassis was a job of Dallara Automobili company. The car was unveiled at the end of 1993.
The open-top prototype featured a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque chassis with a longitudinally mounted V12 engine which produced about 600 hp. The engine was mated to the 5-speed sequential gearbox. Both front and rear suspension had the same layout, with double wishbone, pushrod operated coil spring and damper.
Victorious debut in the 1994 IMSA GT Championship
The car debuted in the third round of the 1994 IMSA GT Championship at Road Atlanta, scoring the first victory in its first race. Three private teams were using the Ferrari 333 SP: Momo Corse, Euromotorsport and Scandia Motorsport. At Road Atlanta, the winner was Euromotorsport’s Jay Cochran. In the following round, at Lime Rock Park, Giampiero Moretti and Eliseo Salazar won the race in the #30 Momo car, ahead of two other Ferraris.
Until the end of the season, Ferrari 333 SP was a victorious car three more times, two times driven by Moretti/Salazar, one time driven by Andy Evans and Fermin Velez. Because of the late start of the season, five wins was not enough for the manufacturers’ title. In the drivers’ standings, Scandia’s Andy Evans was the best Ferrari driver in the fifth place.
Two titles for Ferrari in 1995 season
The season 1995 was the first full season for Ferrari 333 SP in the IMSA GT Championship and it took both manufacturers’ and drivers’ title. The champion was Scandia Racing’s Fermin Velez, who won three times, including the victory at 12 hours of Sebring. His co-drivers in the #3 car were Andy Evans and Eric van de Poele. Momo’s driver Wayne Taylor scored two wins with Ferrari that season, finishing fourth in the points, behind Scandia’s Mauro Baldi.
Second places in the 1996 IMSA GT season
In the 1996 IMSA GT Championship, only three teams were winning: Doyle Racing, Dyson Racing and Momo Corse. Giampiero Moretti and Max Papis scored three wins (Road Atlanta, Lime Rock, Watkins Glen). Ferrari finished tied in the points with Oldsmobile but lost the constructors championship on a tie-breaker. Max Papis finished second in the drivers’ championship.
At 1996 Le Mans race, two Ferrari 333 SPs appeared on the grid, run by Team Scandia and Rocketsports, but both retired.
1997 – victory at Sebring and class podium at Le Mans
The second victory at Sebring 12 hours followed in 1997. The victorious #3 Ferrari of Team Scandia was driven by Yannick Dalmas, Stefan Johansson, Fermin Velez and Andy Evans. Later in the season, Ferrari was a victorious car four more times. Three-time winners were Antonio Hermann and Andrea Montermini in the #30 Moretti Racing’s car.
At 1997 Le Mans 24h, one Ferrar 333 SP finally reached the finish line. It was the #3 Moretti Racing’s entry, which finished in the sixth place overall and third in LMP class. Drivers were Giampiero Moretti, Didier Theys and Max Papis.
1998 – wins both at Daytona and Sebring
The season 1998 was the most successful for the Ferrari 333 SP. The slightly updated car won both 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring. Daytona’s race was a part of the SCCA US Road Racing Championship. The victorious drivers were Moretti, Mauro Baldi, Didier Theys and Arie Luyendyk. Three of them (Moretti, Theys, Baldi) repeated a victory at Sebring.
Later in the IMSA GT season, Doyle-Risi #7 Ferrari scored two wins (Las Vegas and Petit Le Mans), The drivers were Wayne Taylor, Eric van de Poele and Emmanuel Collard (only Petit Le Mans). Taylor finished second in the championship standings while Ferrari took manufacturers’ title.
Class win and podium at 1998 24h Le Mans
Another great victory followed in June at Circuit de la Sarthe. The #12 Doyle-Risi Racing’s Ferrari 333 SP finished 8th overall and the winner in LMP1 class. Drivers were Wayne Taylor, Fermin Velez and Eric van de Poele.
Moretti Racing’s car finished 14th overall and third in LMP1 class. There were four Ferrari 333 SP cars in the race. Pilot Racing’s #10 and JB Racing’s #5 didn’t finish the race.
Eight wins in eight races of the 1998 International Sportscar Racing Series
During 1998, besides racing in America, Ferrari 333 SP started his new career in the International Sportscar Racing Series (later FIA Sportscar Championship). In eight races, Ferrari was the winning-car eight times!
Emmanuel Collard and Vincenzo Sospiri won have won six times in the #5 car of JB Giesse Team, taking the championship title.
Four consecutive titles in the European-based sportscar championship
In 1999, the IMSA GT Championship was converted to the inaugural season of the American Le Mans Series. Several private teams (Doran Enterprises, Doyle-Risi Racing, Dollahite Racing) continued to run Ferrari 333 SP against some factory-backed teams (BMW, Panoz, Audi), scoring no wins.
In the same time, the Ferrari 333 SP became a dominant force in Europe. In the 1999 International Sports Racing World Cup, Emmanuel Collard and Vincenzo Sospiri repeated their triumph from the previous year. Next year, Christian Pescatori and David Terrien became the champions, making it three championships in a row for the JMB Racing-entered Ferrari.
In 2001, the European-based championship was renamed to the FIA Sportscar Championship. Ferrari took the fourth title in a row, the champion Marco Zadra was driving for BMS Scuderia Italia.
Outdated car disappeared from competitions after 2003
As the 333 SP became outdated in chassis, engine and aerodynamics, it gradually disappeared from international sports car racing. The last appearance at Le Mans was in 1999. In 2001, no Ferrari prototype raced in the ALMS, although the Risi Competizione car made a few appearances in Grand-Am.
In 2002, the 333 SP was absent also from the FIA GT Championship, returning to few more races in 2003. The 2003-spec Ferarri 333 SP was powered by Judd 4.0 V10 engine, driven by Giovanni Lavaggi and his GLV Racing team. The 333 SP’s final race was the 500km of Monza in June 2003.
40 chassis were built, scored 47 wins in ten seasons
During its lifetime, forty 333 SP chassis were built, numbered from 001 to 041 (the number 013 not being used). Ferrari built four chassis, Dallara constructed ten chassis, with Michelotto building the rest.
In ten competitive season, the 333 SP appeared in 144 events races with 441 total starts. It won 49 times and reached podiums 94 times. The 333 SP was the last Ferrari prototype in the international racing, because after 2003 the Italian manufacturer never returned to the sports car racing with prototypes, only with GT cars.
Ferrari 333 SP technical specifications
Length: 4502 mm
Width: 1994 mm
Height: 1067 mm
Wheelbase: 2794 mm
Track (front and rear): 1686/1597 mm
Weight: 889 kg
Chassis/body: Carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque
Engine: 3997cc, V12 naturally aspirated
Power/torque: 650 hp/447 Nm
Transmission: rear wheel drive; 5-speed sequential gearbox
Front/rear suspension: double wishbone, pushrod operated coil spring/damper units
Braking: front and rear 355 discs
Wheels/tyres: magnesium alloy, front 16X12, rear 16×14.6