The 2018 Silverstone Classic featured numerous exciting race cars, and to many fans this fire-breathing F40 (s/n 80742) stole the show. The iconic yellow, white, and red Monte Shell livery really made the car stand out from the pack as it screamed by, turbos all a-chatter and orange flames shooting from the triple-pipe exhaust on downshifts. The Ferrari cornered fast and flat, with little body roll, then disappeared with a final glimpse of that huge rear wing, louvered engine cover, and shark-gill flanks. It may be a couple of decades old, but still looks as fabulous as it did during its heyday in the 1990s.
While s/n 80742 is the world’s most successful racing F40, it didn’t start life in its current form. Instead, it rolled out of the Maranello factory in 1989 as a street car, sold new to a Milanese owner who registered it for road use. But in 1991, the Ferrari was bought by Roberto Angiolini—the son of Marco Angiolini, founder of the successful World Rally Championship team Jolly Club—who sent it off to Michelotto. The famed race-car constructor converted the F40 to a specification that would allow it to run in the premier class of the 1993 Italian GT Championship. The rules and regulations for this series were determined by the Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana, and Michelotto converted a total of seven F40s to this CSAI-GT spec.
Specifically, s/n 80742 received a flat floor with built-in air jacks, new (but still stock-looking) lightweight carbon-fiber body panels to cover Speedline racing wheels, Perspex windows, uprated Brembo brakes, adjustable rose-jointed suspension, a quick-fill fuel setup, a fire-extinguishing system, a roll cage, and race seats. Ferrari’s 2,936-cc twinturbocharged V8 engine was tuned to produce around 590 hp, some 120 horses up from a stock F40. With Monte Shell as main sponsor, the Jolly Club F40 was liveried in Shell’s corporate colors and 35-year-old Milanese sports-car racer Marco Brand bagged the seat.
Competition in the top CSAI class would come from five similarly prepared F40s, a Jaguar XJ220, and a Porsche 911 Turbo. The second-tier class included a Jolly Club-entered Ferrari 348 tb driven by Oscar Larrauri and a pile of Porsches. A Mazda RX7, a Nissan 300 ZX, and a gaggle of Alfa Romeo SZs filled the lower classes.
The first race of the ’93 season was held at Monza and Brand, who hadn’t shone particularly brightly before, did so here by winning overall. He then kept his newfound form going, and won eight of the nine rounds he entered to clinch the championship. (Teammate Larrauri easily won the GT2 title with the 348, scoring enough points to take second place in GT1.)
For the ten-round, double-header, 20-race 1994 season, all three participating F40s were entered under the Jolly Club banner. Sponsorship for our featured Ferrari moved to Totip—appropriately enough, the organizers of a popular Italian horse-racing lottery—and it was repainted white and green. Brand disappeared from the driver lineup, his seat being taken by a variety of pilots over the course of the season.
Larrauri took three wins in s/n 80742 before switching back to his 348, then Federico D’Amore claimed a first and two seconds, and Mauro Trione one win and four seconds. The car didn’t compete in the final three rounds, leaving Vittorio Colombo to claim the championship, with 11 class wins and several podiums, in a different F40 (s/n 94362).
MEANWHILE, OVER IN JAPAN, 1994 was the first full season of the All Japan GT Championship. The entries for the five-round series included Nissan Skyline GT-Rs and a 300ZX, Toyota Supras, Porsche 911s, a Lancia 037, a Lamborghini Countach, and much more.
Ricky Chiba’s Team Taisan fielded a Ferrari F40 (s/n 80780) and a ferocious Porsche 962 piloted by Anthony Reid, who had finished third in the 1990 Le Mans 24 Hours. (The then 37-year-old Scot, who had won the Japanese Formula 3 title in 1992, was one of several British and European drivers who discovered Japan was good for their careers, and quite lucrative, too.) Taisan’s F40, sporting #40, finished third in all of the first three rounds, with a driver combination of Reid, Tetsuya Ota, and Keiichi Suzuki, and won the final round with Ota and a transplanted Oscar Larrauri. Reid and Japanese pop star Masahiko Kondo scored one win and one third place in the Porsche 962, so, all in all, it was quite a successful season.
Toward the end of ’94 Taisan also acquired s/n 80742, which Michelotto then converted to full LM specification. The F40 LM, which had debuted in 1989 at Laguna Seca in the hands of Jean Alesi, received new bodywork with a more purposeful front splitter and an adjustable rear wing, a 720+ hp engine with larger IHI turbos and no restrictors, an uprated gearbox, wider OZ wheels and tires, even bigger Brembo brakes, and improved suspension.
In its new LM guise, s/n 80742 contested the final race of the ’94 season. At Mine, wearing #34, it finished 8th in the hands of Suzuki and Hideshi Matsuda.
In 1995, s/n 80742 only raced twice. Reid and Kondo finished 11th in the first round at Suzuka, then suffered a DNF in Round 2 at Fuji. The pair then switched to a Porsche 911, in which they finished third in Round 3 at Sendai and won Round 5 at Sugo. Taisan’s other F40 finished ninth at Fuji. Thanks to these cars, along with another 911 and a pair of BMW M3s, Taisan clinched the year’s team title.
After moving back to England in 1997, Anthony Reid went on to become a popular figure in the British Touring Car Championship and then the British GT Championship. In 2012 he switched to historic racing, where he’s continued his winning ways to this day.
“In ’94 I was racing for HKS in the Japanese Touring Car Championship,” explains Reid. “HKS produced these incredible components, especially turbos, and HKS and Taisan collaborated because they were next door to each other at Mount Fuji. They souped up these Ferrari F40s [along with Taisan’s other cars] to make them a lot quicker. The Ferrari, being low slung and lighter than the Nissans, was more nimble, so we were a match for the Skylines even though they had lots more horsepower and four-wheel drive. That’s why we could win races against the big Japanese manufacturers.”
Reid describes the F40 as feeling like a modified road car rather than a purpose-built race car. “There were certain compromises, such as the driving position wasn’t great,” he recalls. “Although the chassis modifications helped, it would still understeer in and oversteer out of corners. The turbo lag was considerable, and very tricky when it was wet. You had to anticipate the lag and drive the car accordingly; you had to carry good speed into the corner but allow yourself time for transition.
“It was quite physical to drive, especially in the really hot Japanese summers. Although it was mid-engined, there was no power steering, no power brakes, and no air conditioning. You sat pretty close to the front axle line; you felt like you were over the front wheels. The brakes were good but heavy, and so was the steering with those big slicks. The gearbox had a nice gate and it was very definite. We didn’t have any gearbox issues, so it must have worked well.
“Suzuka was one of my favorite circuits, and Fuji has got one of the fastest straights anywhere in the world,” adds Reid. “You entered this very long straight flat out in fourth gear and then went up to fifth. So you were already doing 160 mph as you entered the main straight. I remember clocking 236 mph in a Porsche 962 on the straight, but the Ferraris must have been doing 200.”
Reid competed in different cars due in part to his Taisan teammate, the aforementioned Masahiko Kondo. “He was known as ‘Matchy’ and he was as famous as George Michael would be in the western world,” Reid says. “He wasn’t the fastest of drivers, but [team owner] Ricky [Chiba] wanted me to race with him so that we could get some decent results which would get massive publicity for the team and our sponsors. As compensation, Ricky bought me a Rolex Daytona watch from the main Rolex dealer in Tokyo, who at the time was sponsoring Paul Newman, just to use his image around Japan. [Kondo and I] used to travel around in a stretched limo, and wherever we went we got mobbed by screaming young girls. It was very tough in those days.
“I think Kondo found it difficult to drive the F40 so we switched to a Porsche 911, which was much more of a customer car,” concludes Reid. “We won the Team Championship in ’95, which was more important to Ricky than the Driver’s Championship, and I received a good bonus. I remember going to Ricky’s house in the center of Tokyo. He took me down to his basement, which is a garage, museum, and entertainment area, and we had a drink at his bar. I looked up and there was a Ferrari F40 screwed to the ceiling. I exclaimed my horror and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got two more.’ They were fun times and we got paid well. The biggest mistake I made is that I didn’t buy one. F40s were quite reasonable money then!”
WINDING THE CLOCK FORWARD, in 2017 our featured F40 found a new owner: James Cottingham of U.K. Ferrari specialists DK Engineering. According to Cottingham, Chiba, who had initially kept both of the Taisan F40s in his personal collection after the ’95 season, had later sold the car to another Japanese collector. In the early 2000s, it went to the United States, where, in 2006, having been returned to its Shell colors, it was on consignment with broker (and regular FORZA contributor) Michael Sheehan. S/n 80742 next made its way to Germany, where it participated in historic races and Ferrari track days.
“When I bought it, it was a really tired race car,” says Cottingham. “Steven Read bought it from us in a deal that included a restoration. He knew we wouldn’t cut corners in restoring it. I had wrapped it in Taisan livery when I marketed it, and Read wanted it back in its original Shell livery.”
“The F40 was the GT car of the ’90s,” opines Pete Racely, Read’s collection manager. “What made this car appealing to us is that it’s got the best history of any of them. We try and get cars with the best history that we can. It had most of its success in Shell and Totip livery, so we decided to take it back to Shell, when it won the championship.”
DK stripped the F40 down to its bare shell in preparation for returning the car not only to its original livery but to its original Italian GT specification, complete with narrower wheels.
“In one of the period photos when it was in Totip livery, you can see right-hand door damage [in 1994 at Magione],” Cottingham explains. “There was a big hole in it, and that repair work is still visible on the inside of the door. The rest was fine. We removed the sills, the floor, repaired them, and refitted them. We had to fit a new rear lower valance, because in Japan they changed the position of the exhaust, but we still have the original one.
“The roll cage was very individual to this car,” he continues. “It has extra bracing where the roll cage goes across the top of the door and down the front into the dash, so it’s different to any of the roll cages you see in other F40 race cars. They did that in Japan, and Anthony [Reid] helped identify the car for us.”
A few other items also weren’t returned to their original condition. “We have not restored the [rear] clamshell because the arches had been widened for the wider tires in Japan,” says Cottingham. “We kept that and had new clamshells made: one LM, one GT.”
DK and Read also decided to keep the LM-spec gearbox, which was sent to Michelotto for refurbishment, and the much more powerful LM engine.
“I had Xtec Engineering rebuild the engine,” Cottingham says. “It was running on Magneti Marelli engine management, which is unusable and unmanageable now, so they’ve converted it to Motec. Xtec have run and rebuilt a couple of [Ferrari V8] engines for Lancia LC2s using Motec, and, this being very similar, we used them because they are tried and tested. They made an extremely good job of it. We’ve capped the power at around 690 horsepower for reliability but we could get more.”
The rest of the restoration was comparatively straightforward. “We had to replace certain things to make it safe for racing today, the suspension has been crack-checked, and so on,” explains Cottingham. “We pulled out the stops and did it all in just six months. The complexity of the rebuild was okay; there was nothing beyond us.”
The rebuilt F40 was given its shakedown in May 2018, at Austria’s Red Bull Ring Grand Prix circuit. For help with setup, Read and Racely turned to Swiss driver Steve Zacchia, who won the 2004 Le Mans Series GTS Championship in a Ferrari 550 which Read now also owns [“Prodrive’s Ponies,” FORZA #156].
“As the F40 is my dream car, I said ‘Yes’ immediately,” recalls Zacchia. “It is the Monte Shell, the most victorious F40 ever made. It’s a very special car and it was very impressive to drive. It’s an old car with old technology, but I felt immediately safe. The gearbox, the steering, the brakes, and the chassis were all good.”
Zacchia reports that speed comes with confidence, and that, when pushed hard, the F40 responds. “On the exit of corners you have some power oversteer which you have to manage with the steering wheel, and then the next corner is coming very fast,” he says. “Everything is coming very fast, and you need to react very fast—on the brakes, on shifting down, you have to do the blip also, heel and toe. There are four positions for the turbo boost. It was running a bit rich, which is normal after an engine rebuild so as not to damage anything, and I had flames shooting out the back. It was magic. I love this type of car because you have to really drive the car, it’s not the car driving you.”
Piloting a car like this F40 at speed isn’t an easy matter, however, as Masahiko Kondo had found out in Japan in the 1990s. “It would be very difficult for a gentleman driver to drive this car fast,” Zacchia cautions. “To drive the car very fast would be very physical. The driving position is very strange. I was thinking I was driving a truck. The steering wheel, the angle is so high it is a little bit difficult. It’s not the same as a modern GT car, and you sit a little bit sideways and the pedals are a little bit offset, too. There is not much room inside the car. My helmet was bashing the roll cage and I couldn’t wear my HANS device! It was a proper old-school racing car.
“It is very difficult to give negative points on the car that I have been dreaming about since I was five years old,” adds Zacchia, “but to be honest there are some things that need to be improved. I got to drive it again at the Silverstone Classic [with the LM bodywork fitted] and some things had been improved. They’d adjusted the fuelling and it was making 40 or 50 more horsepower. I really enjoyed that and hope I will be able to drive it again.”
“It’s an impressive car,” concludes Racely. “There are no driver aids at all, and that’s what makes it neat. When you screw up the boost all the way it’s got some legs, it really has. The modern ECU helps get rid of some of the turbo lag, with the fuelling which is more precise, but it’s still old school. Being production-based a little bit, it’s very user friendly. You don’t have to pre-heat the motor or anything like that. You get in, fire it up, and go. It has 100 percent lived up to expectations. We’re bringing it to the States to live over here and it will get run.”