I first caught sight of the Ferrari 333 SP at Kyalami in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 1998. It was hot, as Johannesburg is at that time of the year, but the track action was even hotter with no less than four Ferrari 333 SPs in action. It was the final round of the ’98 International Sports Racing Series (ISRS), and the media briefing room was packed, as the local press had been eagerly awaiting this event.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, as the Ferrari 333 SP had come onto the scene in America as a result of the efforts of one person, Gianpiero Moretti. The founder of the Momo, as back in 1993, Moretti felt the time was right for a Ferrari to be entered into the newly launched World Sportscar Championship (WSC). Ferrari had its resources fully committed to its Formula One programme, but Moretti was a passionate Italian who wanted a Ferrari under him, and so a meeting was set up with the suits in Modena in March ‘93. In that meeting, attended by Piero Ferrari, Jean-Pierre Moreau (ACO), Mark Raffauf (IMSA) and Gianpiero Moretti, a concept was discussed that would ultimately result in the creation of the Ferrari 333 SP.
The new Ferrari prototype, to compete in the new WSC series, was to be an open cockpit racer. The rules required the car to have a flat bottom between the front and rear axles (no ground effects), a rear wing with no more than two elements, a safety cell to protect the driver, and a 5-speed gearbox. The engine had to be derived from a series production vehicle, eliminating the possibility of a purely race-derived engine. Ferrari’s president, Luca di Montezemolo, was emphatic that no resources would be pulled off the company’s Formula One project, and so the 333 SP would be developed under Piero Ferrari’s watchful eye.
The engine for the 333 SP would be derived from the manufacturer’s F50 roadgoing V12, although IMSA had wanted the new racers in the WSC series to be powered by V6 or V8 production engines. The engine has always been the beating heart of any racing Ferrari, and their V12 powerplants had a long and successful racing heritage to maintain. Having a Ferrari prototype racer on the grid would be a huge drawcard in getting the fans back to the race tracks, and so the V12 engine was suitably detuned and reduced in capacity to meet with the 4-litre requirement. This engine carried 5-valve heads, but this was another compromise that IMSA agreed to, as they had originally specified 2-valve or 4-valve heads.
The other prerequisite that Luca di Montezemolo laid down was that this new racer would not race under the factory banner, it was only to be entered and raced by private teams. Although Ferrari had been absent from sports car competition for twenty years, the Ferrari fans would at least get to see a purebred racer on track that had come from the same hallowed halls as those famed Ferrari GT racers of yesteryear. Although the new racer was every bit a thoroughbred Ferrari, the factory sought the assistance of Dallara and Michelotto in the development of their new prototype sports car.
The cars were sold to customer teams and individuals for $900,000 each, though for that price, the car came with two spare engines and race technical support supplied by Ferrari engineers.
The 333 SP achieved instant success in 1994, its first year of competition in the American IMSA World Sports Championship, winning that Series in 1995. The car continued to be a major player in the various Sports Prototype races in North America where, besides the IMSA World Sports Car Championship, it also competed in the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). In Europe, the 333 SP contested the European-based International Sports Racing Series (ISRS), as well as the 24-hour Le Mans race as from 1997.
Of the original 40 cars built, 27 were raced and photographs of these cars appear in this book. Of the 126 races entered, the 333 SP claimed 49 victories, making it one of Ferrari’s most successful and iconic Sports Prototype cars of all time.
In this richly illustrated book, the author details the origins of this remarkable race car and its truly impressive catalogue of achievements. Readers will note that the book contains no less than 850 images, and although the sub-title of this book reads – A Pictorial History 1993-2003 – this is a little misleading. As a fellow-author, I can assure you that most books that claim to be a pictorial history, are as detailed and informative as a normal book with narrative from cover to cover. Detailed captions, as is the case in this book, require a huge amount of accurate research in order to be credible and informative, and with 850 images to caption this was no small task for the author.
At the front of the book, the author gives the reader the background to the development of the 333 SP, and explains the racing scene into which this racer was launched. Each subsequent chapter introduces the race car’s activities, year-by-year, and this is followed by numerous photos showing the various cars in action that year. Each chapter is then finished off with a detailed table of race results for the year, well laid out and easy to read.
Towards the rear of the book, the author has included a detailed illustration of one of the car’s Certificate of Authority (chassis #040), as issued by Ferrari Classiche (in both Italian and English). While this is interesting to some, these 40-odd pages could perhaps have contained some information of greater interest to the wider readership.
The final section of the book contains a comprehensive list of racing activities for each and every Ferrari 333 SP (by chassis) that raced, giving: Date of race; Race entered; Entrant; Driver(s); Results; and Laps completed. This information is of paramount importance to most readers, and especially for those readers who follow racing in detail.
The large format layout of this book means that the images are large (many never previously published), and the overall design is clear and uncluttered. If sports car racing is your area of interest, then this book is not one you want to be without. Covering such an important race car as the Ferrari 333 SP, this book will make an essential and a very valuable addition to your racing library.