The 1995 Le Mans race is perhaps best remembered for the dominance of the McLaren F1, so its competition is often forgotten. That’s a shame, because though other GT1 entries were thoroughly outgunned by the mighty Macca, they are worth praise in their own right. Just check out this list of GT1 entries that year: NISMO Skyline GT-R LM, SARD Supra LM & MC8-R (imagine an insane MR2 LM), Honda NSX LM, Venturi 600LM, a Frankenstein Freisinger Porsche 993 Turbo, several upgraded 911 GT2 Evos, Lister Storms, Jaguar XJ220s, a Corvette ZR1, and last but not least, our feature car and indisputable greatest car ever created by humanity (fact, it’s science), the Ferrari F40 (high five, 13...). Three of them would enter, in fact, despite the type having debuted nearly a decade prior. Finally, the F40 would fulfill its promise as a racer for the road.
This one, fielded by the French Pilot-Aldix Racing Team for Michel Ferté, Olivier Thévenin, and Carlos Palau, would put on the best show of the Ferraris, holding 8th place overall for several hours until an off track excursion dropped it back. More than respectable in the face of such a historically stacked field, from the McLarens to the several prototype efforts. It would finish 12th overall, and 6th in GT1 behind the British fleet and a single mighty NISMO LM. According to Racingsportscars.com’s page on this chassis, this car’s career was busy but brief, spanning only 1995-6, and was mostly filled with DNFs. I suppose if you’re going to pick a race to finish, Le Mans would be the one. Other successes include a win at Anderstorp and a 2nd at Silverstone, both 4 hour races after Le Mans.
The F40 race program was not originally planned by Ferrari, as the car was only intended to be the roadgoing representation of their racing experience to date, as every F-car has been since. But, like smoke and fire (cheap shot), where there’s Ferraris, there’s money. And if that money wants a special racing version of their shiny toy, money gets it. But not from Ferrari, exactly. In this case, French Ferrari agents Charles Pozzi SA was the driving force for a race program. Pozzi’s name had long been applied to Ferrari racing cars (Daytona, 512BBLM...), and this would be the last before the company was absorbed by Ferrari in 2003. So, with lobbying by the Pozzi company gaining the factory’s blessing, Michelotto would build the F40 LM, as they had the 308 Group 4 rally car.
The turbo V8 remained at a bit over 2.9L, but received larger turbos and intercoolers, different cams, and a bump in compression (8.0:1) thus adding over 250hp to the already monstrous road car, with a claimed output of 720hp. I don’t know if this is with or without restrictors, but I find it hard to believe that the ACO would allow that kind of power in race trim, when we all know that the McLaren was restricted from the 620hp road car. In any case, speed was not the problem, because though the F40 was already feather light, they managed to lose another 700 pounds for the race car. Where the hell they found 700 pounds on an F40 is beyond me, since usually the first step in easy race car weight loss is “rip out interior”, and the F40, well, doesn’t have one. Another step is “make body panels out of composite and windows out of plastic”, but that was already done too, and the street car paint is thin enough that you can see the weave underneath. Amazing. 19 were built, some ending up as rich man’s track toys, but most being raced at some point.
So that’s the Ferrari F40 LM, in what I think is an incredible livery, from an incredible race. I find it especially remarkable that the F40 remained so competitive, considering the last road car was built in 1992. This model is of course in 1/43, by IXO. After Le Mans, I’ll share an F40 road car model that I’m very happy to have scored from Jobjoris, and compare the two.
Have a great, uh, work week? Ever closer to Le Mans! Next Sunday I’ll be going back to the 60's as Jobjoris did with that glorious 250P, with an equally spectacular Ferrari “250" from the same lot.
(Background F40 images from Roger Hicks’ The Complete Ferrari, credited to the Neill Bruce Motoring Photolibrary)