Prancing Horse or a lame duck?
We recall a historics star who developed his own strain of competition Ferrari
Fabrizio Violati is perhaps best remembered for his famous – some might say notorious - Maranello Rosso collection of historically-important sports and racing cars. His name features prominently in Iso Bizzarrini - The remarkable history of A3/C 0222, the first in the Porter Press Exceptional Cars series. Nevertheless, Ferraris were his first love, and the Roman wasn’t above trying to improve on the factory originals. It’s just that decent results proved hard to come by.
Born in June 1935, the Roman gained a degree in geology prior to joining the family firm which, among other things, produced mineral water. However, motor sport was his great passion. Aged 16, he became a works rider for Vespa, before making the switch to four wheels in 1959 when he began competing in hillclimbs aboard a Fiat 600. A year later, he graduated to an Abarth 750, only to have a massive accident which resulted in him being hospitalised for six months. His family forbade him from racing cars thereafter, but they did not mention anything about competing on water...
The passion for fast cars never went away, though, and in 1965 he stumbled across a Ferrari 250 GTO. He overruled family objections and returned trackside to claim countless wins in historics aboard this car before going for broke and entering the World Championship for Makes. Ferrari 512 BB/LM (chassis 25229) was delivered to Violati’s workshops in Rome in 1980. The regular LM bodywork received revisions which, its makers hoped, would help it cleave the air more cleanly. It was clearly recognisable as a BB/LM, however.
Above: 1980, Ferrari 512 BB LM. Image taken from Le Mans Model Collection 1949-2009
The car was first fielded in the April 1980 Monza 1000 Kilometres under the Scuderia Supercar Bellancauto banner, with Violati and Spataco Dini driving. They failed to finish. Two months later, the duo were then joined by Maurizio Micangeli for a tilt at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The car was out after 10 laps. No matter, Violati then initiated the construction of something that bit more radical: the so-called 512BBB, or Berlinetta Boxer Bellancauto. It was not, however, built on the foundations of the team’s existing car, but was rather a new Ferrari (chassis 35529).
Above: 1981, Ferrari 512 BB LM. Image taken from Le Mans Model Collection 1949-2009
What’s more, it looked nothing like a regular BB/LM, instead featuring a (purportedly) low-drag body which, contrary to what has been written elsewhere, was nothing to do with Pininfarina. It was conceived and created in-house by engineer/designer Armando Palanco, who was assisted by F1 occasional Roberto Lippi and former Scuderia Ferrari chief mechanic, Giulio Borsari. Breaking cover at the 1981 Monza 1000 Kilometres, the car lined-up 16th on the grid, and finished 15th. It was the last classified runner, but this was still sufficient for it to claim class honours! The car was then entered in that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, but it was forced out with a broken transmission.
Above: 1984, Ferrari 512 BB. Image taken from Le Mans Model Collection 1949-2009
This became a familiar theme. The car proved quick so long as it stayed together, the bodywork being chopped and changed, and reconfigured seemingly between each outing. Following another unsuccessful tilt at Le Mans in 1984, by which time the car bore distinctive ‘bubble’ livery in honour of the family’s Ferrarelle brand of mineral water, the car never appeared in frontline motor sport again. Not that anyone really noticed.
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