Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

Racing Vintage Ferraris

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—September 1998 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Last month we reviewed racing in the Ferrari Historic Challenge, sponsored, in part, by Ferrari North America, and a takeoff on the very successful European Ferrari Historic Challenge. The most recent races, held August 1 and 2, at Road Atlanta, drew a good field of historic cars. In addition, there was a companion feature event, the 355 Challenge Cars, combined with a Ferrari–only track event sponsored by Ferrari of Atlanta.

The Road Atlanta Track has been vastly improved. Owner Don Fanoz has proved that vast amounts of money can make a good race track into a great race track. The infamous “dip” in the back straight is gone, filled in and now a chicane. The pits and all facilities are being upgraded to current ETA standards in the hope of getting a CART race in the near future.

While former Fl drivers such as Emanuele Pirro or professional endurance drivers such as Anders Olofsson race regularly in the European series, no pro drivers run in the U.S. series, so a good amateur can do well here.

Among the historic entries was a 1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C (ex–Scuderia Ferrari) brought by Peter Giddings, a ’65 365 P (S/N 0832) and a ’69 612 Can–Am car (S/N 0866), both brought by Bob Dusek. The 612 Can–Am car, with well over 700 horsepower and tires like a steam roller, should easily have won the race, but was driven without pelt by its current owner to a modest finish.

Last month we mentioned that the E–ticket ride for the Historic Challenge was the Ferrari 512 BBLM, priced under $300,000 and relatively bulletproof. But what does it take to make one win?

One high–profile and wealthy participant has had his 512 BBLM engine built by one of the better shops in the U.S. The car now features the latest and greatest in modern engine and brake technology, carbon fiber body panels and chassis tweaks, all pushing the rules to the limits. However, while faster than the other 512 BBLMs on the straights and under braking, it is not winning.

The winning car is a former NART Team car with a double Le Mans history, but is still an essentially stock 512 BBLM (S/N 35527), yet it wins. The owner has spent his time and money testing and doing set–up work, testing at each track before each race, becoming comfortable with the track and the car. This stock 512 BBLM lacks the horsepower and big brakes of the previously mentioned car, but the crew, the car and the driver have all been tuned to each track. This car won both the Saturday and Sunday Historic Races.

Ferrari of North America has scheduled the next 355 Challenge race at Colorado Springs on Sept 19 and 20. Hopefully the Historics cars will be there as well. And you don’t have to have a BB512LM to participate and have some fast fun. Drag that dusty 375 MM or seldom–used 250 SEFAC SWB out of the garage, haul it out to the closest race track and practice, test, and tune. Then head for Colorado and showcase your car in the way it was meant to be seen.

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