Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

The Last Factory Hot-Rod

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—September 1999 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Just as the F40 represents the ultimate Ferrari street car of the 80’s and early 90’s with 470 horsepower in a 2,800 lb. package, the F40 LM, built by Michelotto for Ferrari, with 750 horsepower and a track-ready weight of 2,300 pounds, could have been the GT class race winner of the late 80’s and 90’s. It was not to be.

Ferrari F40 LM s/n 79890 made its competition debut at Laguna Seca race track on the weekend of October 14, 1989, with Jean Alesi driving. He led the race until his car used up its tires, and he settled for third place. This was a great debut with a great driver, but there was little factory backing, no sponsorship, and only one race left in the season, at Del Mar, where the car DNF’ed.

For 1990, F40 LM s/n 79890 was joined by a sister car, s/n 79891, and one or both campaigned six of the ten races in the 1990 IMSA season, finishing well with three seconds and a third. However what could have been a championship-winning season with then competitive cars was lost for lack of factory interest and sponsorship.

While still competitive in IMSA, the Michelotto-built, but factory sanctioned (and factory blessed and numbered) F40 LMs were mothballed, never to race again. Two more years went by, until 1993 when the Italian GT Championship was opened to supercars such as the F40 LM and the Jaguar XK 220, with Marco Brand winning the 1993 Italian Championship with F40 LM s/n 80742, a Michelotto-built but privately supported race car with a then six-year-old design.

With the introduction in 1994 of both the B.P.R. series in Europe and the Japan Touring Car Championship, about a dozen of the Michelotto-built and privately campaigned cars appeared and did well, often winning pole and fastest lap at races from Suzuka to Le Mans, with victories at Fuji and Vallelunga in 1994 and double victories at Anderstorp in 1995 and again in 1996. But with little development the F40 LM’s were often very fast, for a while, but not reliable enough to win a major endurance race such as Le Mans.

Upon the introduction of the Porsche GT 1 at Le Mans in 1996, the F40 LM’s were finally relegated to racing obscurity, after eight moderately successful years, a long run in the racing world. They could have been much more successful with the type of support provided by Porsche and other manufacturers who were seriously committed to racing.

The factory-built F40 LM’s (19 built) have been changing hands around $400,000, and the dozen or so Michelotto-built but nonfactory blessed cars have been bringing just over $300,000. They are a well-heeled Ferrari enthusiast’s club racer bargain, and offer staggering performance with even more macho good looks than the standard F40. An F40 LM owner is almost guaranteed top time of the day at any Ferrari event he shows up at, and also will have in his possession one of the great “what-if” pieces of the Ferrari legend.

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