Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

U-Race Ferraris

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—August 1998 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

In 1947, Ferrari built only two cars, both of them race cars. Over 50 years and 70,000 Ferraris later, that racing tradition continues, with this season’s World Sports Car victories at Daytona and Sebring and Michael Schumacher’s recent wins in F–1.

Many enthusiasts dream of buying a Ferrari because of this long racing tradition, yet few Ferrari owners actually become involved in real racing. But in a small way, this is changing.

In 1995 Jacques Swatters, of Garage Francorchamps in Belgium, with help from Jean Sage, former manager of the Renault F–1 team, and the Ferrari factory, organized the first European (Ferrari only) Historic Challenge race. With the exception of a few “privateer–built” Ferrari race cars, only documented, factory–built race cars are eligible, resulting in the ultimate high–speed exhibition of the world’s finest racing Ferraris.

Earlier this year, Ferrari of North America began the (American) Historic Ferrari Challenge. Like the European series, the Historic Challenge is, at least now, a support race for the 355 Challenge. Combined with the Challenge, which attracts about 30 cars per event, it is a wonderful weekend for the Ferrari enthusiast.

Ferrari of North America does pay a reasonable budget for travel expenses to all who enter the U.S. races.

“OK, what’s it cost to race?” Going up the list, the “starter” is probably a 250 Boano, at about $150,000, to race in the drum–brake, pre–1959 class. If you want to go faster, you can add “better than new” engine rebuilds at about $30,000, brake and suspension “tricks” that really work for about $5,000 each, and all the other normal tricks known to any vintage or SCCA racer. Your wallet and ego are the only limits. Once prepared, a weekend racer should have minimal cost, other than oil changes and having your favorite mechanic check everything. Every part on a well–prepared race car should last a full five years.

For those with strong arms and budgets starting around $175,000, a non–factory Competition Daytona is the Ferrari of choice. Buy the right car, and it should easily do a five–race season with no maintenance other than oil changes and a set of plugs.

But to go fast and win, this year’s “E–ticket” Ferrari is the 512 BBLM, available for about $275,000 and about as bullet–proof and low maintenance as a race car can possibly be. Count on a new set of slicks every weekend at about $1,000 a set, an oil change and that’s it. If, of course, you pay close attention to the rev limiter. Otherwise things can get very, very expensive in a hurry.

The hot ride combined with the ultimate sound and the Ferraris that should win are the 512 Ss, 512 Ms and the 312 PBs. All cost well over $1 million. They were built to run 24 hours at Le Mans, flat out. Other than a set of slicks per race, they should require almost no maintenance. To date, to my amazement, the two 512s entered in the U.S. series have not run at the front.

The Shell Historic Challenge has done much to cause the run–up in prices in the most desirable and competitive Ferraris since 1995. The U.S. series can only accelerate the trends. I’ve already picked out the car I want to run next year. See you at the track.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN has been a Ferrari dealer for 30 years as well as a race car driver and exotic car broker.