Ferrari 348 LM 1993

Chassis No. ZFFUX35X000095450
Engine No. F119 G040 28273

Two letters: LM. Le Mans. Ever since Ferrari’s first win at the Sarthe circuit, at the hands of Luigi Chinetti in the 1949 edition of the French epic, the Maranello marque has had a special relationship with this most prestigious of 24 hour endurance sports car races. That legacy has continued to the present day, when, in 2023, Ferrari once again triumphed in the French countryside.

Rewind three decades. With the number of Group C prototype entries dwindling during the 1992 race, for 1993 it was announced that GT cars would once again be invited to participate for the first time in seven years. Eager to field an entry, Robin Smith’s UK-based Simpson Engineering began exploring GT car options. Deciding that a Ferrari 348 might be the most interesting platform for development, discussions with the Ferrari factory ensued regarding the construction of a special 348 prototype for the Le Mans race. Despite a slow-going initial communication via fax, a visit to Maranello in April 1993 resulted in the factory officially agreeing to sanction Simpson Engineering’s effort to build a race version of the 348 for Le Mans, and with that, and the race just two months away, the 348 LM project was officially underway.

A considerable file of digital correspondence from May and June 1993 records back-and-forth communications between Simpson and Ferrari regarding the minutiae of setup details and fitment of special homologation racing parts. Once the base car had been obtained from Maranello, Simpson Engineering set about stripping and race preparing it with the assistance of Formula One designer Sergio Rinland and significant input from the Ferrari factory. Modifications included revisions to the suspension pickup points, upgraded brakes, and a Hewland DG300 Mark 2 five-speed transaxle. A letter dated 31 May 1993 from Corrado Cingi of Ferrari’s Homologation Division to Robin Smith at Simpson Engineering confirms the VIN number for the “Ferrari 348 Prototype to Race the 24 Hours of Le Mans” and includes instructions for Smith on how to stamp it into the 348 LM chassis.

Arriving at Le Mans, the relatively unaltered looking 348 LM created quite a stir as it was amongst the first Ferraris to race at Le Mans for a decade, appearing on the grid with the Michelotto-built 348 GTC LMs as well as an F40 GTE. It successfully qualified and things were looking good for the start of the race. Unfortunately, during the morning warm-up, an incident occurred in the Porsche Curves with Eddie Irvine’s Toyota LMP1 car impacting the Ferrari, causing considerable damage and ending the ’93 Le Mans effort for the Simpson crew before the green flag flew.

Several months of repairs and rebuilding ensued, while consistent development to the car would bring further body lightening and modifications along with improved aero packages for the 1994 season. The 348’s 3.4-liter V8 engine had initially been left mostly untouched with approximately 350-380 horsepower in its 1993 race trim, later being developed into a considerably more potent unit claiming around 480 hp.

By November 1993 the 348 LM was again ready for the track and raced at the 4 Hours of Vallelunga, running strongly until a broken throttle cable relegated it to 17th position overall. An appearance by Richard Piper at the March 1994 British GT Championship Race at Silverstone resulted in 9th overall.

Returning to Le Mans in June 1994, the 348 LM now sported Totip sponsorship livery and visually reflected the continued development efforts of Simpson Engineering. The car ran well in the GT2 category, but after 57 laps the clutch gave way, leaving driver Tetsuya Ota stranded on the Mulsanne straight. This would be the end of 95450’s career at Le Mans, but far from the end of its competitive racing exploits.

The remainder of the 1994 season would include appearances at the Vallelunga 4 Hours and a notable trip to Japan for the Suzuka 1000 Kms. The 1995 season would see the car in Maxell livery competing in the BPR Global GT Endurance series where it saw action at Jerez, Paul Ricard, Jarama, the Nürburgring, Donington, Anderstorp, Zhuhai, as well as the Suzuka 1000 Kms again. A fine best result of 4th in class at Suzuka would be the season’s high point. A couple of British GT Series appearances rounded out the car’s period competition career in 1996 and 1997. Satisfyingly, 95450’s development and races through Le Mans ’94 were chronicled in a 50-minute documentary produced by Peacock Films UK, a digital copy of which is available for viewing.

Seldom seen since its 1990s glory days, the 348 LM has lived a relatively quiet post-racing life. It made its way to the United States where it was acquired by a long-term collector owner in July 2000, who would keep the car for 22 years until it was sold to the consignor in 2022. Records with the car suggest that the 348 LM may have been enjoyed on track at least one more time in 2002, before going into a 20-year period of hibernation where it has been mostly off the radar as part of a private collection.

Most recently, in July 2023 the 348 LM was entrusted to John Walko Racing of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a well-known name in Ferrari Challenge circles, for a major service to bring the car back to running condition. Fluids were refreshed, the fuel system was serviced, while an engine out service including the timing belt was performed, in addition to numerous other service items deemed necessary. Subject to further preparation for track use, the 348 LM represents an especially intriguing choice for entry to premiere historic racing events such as Le Mans Classic, or to once again challenge GT class icons in the Masters Endurance Legends Series. Any Ferrari competition car is a special automobile, and those that raced at Le Mans exist in rarefied air; this example, the sole 348 LM ever built, is in a class all its own.

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Make: Ferrari
Model: 348 LM
Year: 1993
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