Following the demise of the IMSA Camel GT series in 1993, the new World Sports Car (WSC) concept began the following year. The WSC formula emphasized open cockpit prototypes, unlike the out-going GTP cars. Gone were the days of the Porsche 962, Toyota Eagle, Nissan ZXT GTP, Jaguar prototypes and others.
Some former GTP cars were being “converted” to WSC specs, but the big news was Ferrari constructing a purpose-built WSC entry, known as the Ferrari 333SP. Built in conjunction with Dallara, it would be the first Ferrari sports racer in many years competing for an overall victory.
As the 1994 season began, it was obvious the WSC cars were not yet up to the challenge of the big endurance races. A Nissan 300Z GTS class entry won both Daytona and Sebring overall to open the season. The new Ferrari was on display at Sebring, but considered not ready for the rigors of an endurance race- the official on track debut was scheduled for Road Atlanta. On April 17th, 1994, a new chapter in Ferrari racing history was written.
The field of WSC cars that arrived at Road Atlanta in 1994 included Roger Mandeville’s new Mazda Hawk, and a variety of chopped GTP cars including Jim Downing’s Kudzu, The Auto Toy Store Chevrolet Spice and the Brix Racing Oldsmobile Spice. Four 333SP entries were on the grid, one from Momo and Scandia and a pair by Euromotorsport.
The new Ferrari did not disappoint, as Jay Cochran drove the #50 Ferrari 333SP to its maiden win at Road Atlanta (Cochran still drives, most recently at the wheel of the Dyson LMP entry at Sebring in 2011).
Gianpiero Moretti and Eliseo Salazar finished second (Moretti is often credited with convincing Ferrari to build the 333SP). The Momo team became the most recognized Ferrari 333SP team of the WSC era and a crowd favorite. Ferrari would be the dominant car during the WSC era, although the American built Riley & Scott would be close behind. In fact, a Riley & Scott would win at Road Atlanta in 1995 and 1997.
The Ferrari 333SP made history at Road Atlanta again in 1998, winning the inaugural Petit Le Mans with Wayne Taylor, Eric van de Poele and Emmanuel Collard at the wheel. The 333SP days were numbered however, as a new breed of LMPs competing in the American Le Mans Series brought racing to a whole new level.
The Ferrari 333SP certainly made its mark in racing, and it all started with a spectacular debut at Road Atlanta 19 years ago!
Written by: Ken Breslauer