Two Ferraris from the golden age of Formula One take to the track
The New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing organisers are well on the way to tying up the final loose ends for next January's Ferrari Festival.
Two of the most recognised Formula One cars of the mid-1980s will be on display, fizzing around Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
These behemoths of a bygone era pumped out 750kW-plus of barely controllable power and were manhandled around various race tracks by the late Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson. During that season Alboreto, in the F156/85s, had his best F1 season, leading the championship for part of the series. He won the Canadian and German Grand Prix, and was on the podium eight times, set the fastest race laps and put the red machine on pole at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Ferrari's results faded badly in the second half of the season as other emerging drivers took the fight to Alain Prost - but the cars remain among the most iconic of the turbo era.
The festival takes place on back-to-back weekends at the Hampton Downs racetrack, January 17-19 and 24-26, and organisers have announced owner Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and one special guest driver will demonstrate the two cars on both weekends.
Sources involved in the event have told Driven that the "one special driver" is Johansson.
"We are just about over the line in confirming that Stefan Johansson, who drove one of the cars, will be [there for] at least one of the weekends," said the source.
"We are just sorting out some of the finer details to get him here, which he is pretty keen to do."
Festival chairman Jim Barclay is rapt at being able to get such great cars to make the journey out to New Zealand.
"The 1985 Formula One season is widely considered by the F1 community to be one of the best and most exciting of all time," he said.
"It is the season that saw new names in Formula One really emerge - Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell were just two of the up-and-coming stars and the likes of Alain Prost, Nikki Lauda and Keke Rosberg were still out there winning.
"To have two of the most iconic cars from that era of Formula One set to run at a New Zealand track, and at our event, is obviously very exciting and something we and the fans will look forward to hugely."
Belgiorno-Nettis has owned both cars (chassis 079 and 082) for some time and they get regular track workouts rather than sitting in some mausoleum collecting dust.
"I purchased my first 1985 Ferrari 156/85, chassis number 079, in 1995," said Belgiorno-Nettis.
"As a 1985 Ferrari works car, chassis 079 was used in nine races. It was raced as number 27 when Alboreto drove it and as number 28 when Johansson drove it.
"In 2006 when I bought chassis 082 it had done a Goodwood meeting in 1999 with Alboreto driving it, I believe.
"This was a new car in 1985 that Johansson drove in practice for the Belgian GP (that race was rescheduled) and at the Canadian Grand Prix (2nd) and US Grand Prix in Detroit (2nd).
"Before I got 082 in 2006, the car had been mainly static for most of the time previously. When I got the car it carried number 27. I had my mechanics pull it down and prepare it for racing.
"Overall the car was in okay condition but not race ready. We renumbered the car from 27 (Alboreto's number in that season) to 28, which was the number that Stefan raced under. Alboreto never raced this car so it would not have been 27 unless he was in it.
"This car has the original seat made by Ferrari with Stefan's name engraved on it and to me it looks like it was moulded to his body shape ... it fits me very nicely as well."
The car has done a lot of racing and has a qualifying engine, a different suspension package as well as a much bigger aero configuration than the number 27 car. It has been set up for shorter, tighter circuits and tends to corner better as it has more downforce.
Over the past 60 years New Zealanders have enjoyed a long relationship with Ferrari cars both on and off the track.
New Zealand's first, and so far only, Ferrari Formula One works driver, Chris Amon, will be at the festival. Amon drove Ferrari Dino single seaters in the Tasman Cup championship in the summers of both 1968 and 1969.
In 1968 he was runner-up in the Tasman series to world champion Jim Clark and won the championship in 1969.
He was an official Ferrari driver from 1967 until his last race in 1970, where he finished second in the Monza 1000km endurance event.
The two 1985 turbo cars are not the only Formula One cars organisers are hoping to secure for the event, and they expect to make further announcements in the lead-up to the Ferrari Festival.
For more about the Ferrari festival, go to www.nzfmr.co.nz
Car's race history
The nine races, in chronological order: Alboreto drove 079 in the Brazilian GP (2nd) and Portuguese GP (2nd), Johansson in the San Marino GP (6th) and Monaco GP (retired), Alboreto in the French GP (retired), Johansson in the British GP (retired), German GP (9th),
Austrian GP (4th) and Dutch GP (retired). The car then passed into the private collection of Alboreto's supporter, Count Zanon, where it stayed for 10 years until Belgiorno-Nettis bought it and took it to Australia. Since then, he has demonstrated 079 at many historic
meetings and now races in it Group R historic events in Australia.
Ferrari 156/85 specifications
Chassis construction Carbon fibre
Max length, width and height 4292/2135/1080mm
Wheelbase, front and rear 2762/1781.7/1663mm
Dry weight 548kg
Tyres 25.0-10.0-13 front, and 26.0-15.0-13 rear