The ex-Patrick Tambay, 1983 San Marino Grand Prix-winning

1983 Ferrari 126C2B Formula 1 Single-Seater

"I swear it wasn't me driving that car that day. It felt as if Gilles was there with me." Patrick Tambay.

Winning a Grand Prix can be an emotional affair at the best of times but never was the magic as strong as this one. The crowd got exactly what they wanted, the victor was perhaps the most popular man in the paddock, and the whole affair seemed to be guided by an unseen force.

Race day was one of those stunning Italian days with clear skies and bright sunshine, and 100,000 tifosi arrived at the circuit with high hopes of a Ferrari victory. The Frenchman was starting third behind Arnoux and Piquet in the same spot Villeneuve had started his last race. During the night fans had painted a maple leaf on the grid in honour of Villeneuve, an act that moved Tambay to tears before the race began.

Piquet stalled on the grid leaving Patrese as the sole Brabham while Arnoux got away cleanly from the front with Tambay close behind. The crowd went insane at the site of the Ferraris in the lead. The Frenchman lost his place to Patrese after just two laps and was forced to watch as the Brabham shot off in pursuit of his team-mate. Patrese took the lead after six laps and looked as if he had the race sewn up before he made a disastrous pit-stop on lap 34. In his eagerness to get in and out quickly Riccardo overshot his pit. An overstretched air hammer lost its hose and Patrese made it even worse by failing to keep his brakes on during the wheel change. By the time he rejoined the race, Tambay had taken the lead and built up a comfortable ten second cushion.

Patrese chased hard and by lap 47 the gap was down to five seconds. Five laps later and Tambay's lead had been slashed to just 1.5 seconds. The crowd were on tenterhooks. On lap 55 the Brabham got ahead as the pair entered the Tosa hairpin. With just two corners to go it looked as if Ferrari would fall at the final hurdle, then Patrese made another mistake and ran wide at Acque Minerali. He hit the 'marbles' and speared off into the tyre-wall. The race belonged to Tambay, Ferrari and the memory of Gilles Villeneuve.” So goes gpracing.net’s review of the 1983 San Marino Grand Prix…

Until the relatively recent Schumacher era, Ferrari had not won a Formula 1 World Championship title since its back-to-back Constructors’ Cup laurels in 1982-83. This splendid, 1.5-litre turbocharged example of Maranello’s finest is contemporary works driver Patrick Tambay’s victorious machine which he drove to victory in that 1983 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. 

Patrick Tambay’s Formula 1 career spanned ten seasons from 1977-1986, during which he established a fine reputation as not only an extremely capable racing driver but also a most popular and personable character. In all he contested no fewer than 114 Grands Prix, amongst which he won two, started five times from pole position, set two fastest race laps and amassed 103 World Championship points.

Having been appointed to the Ferrari factory team in mid-season, 1982, as a replacement for the late Gilles Villeneuve, Patrick Tambay’s perseverance in the face of adversity yielded a superb rebound victory in that year’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring just 24 hours after team-leader – and formerly Villeneuve’s team-mate – Didier Pironi had suffered career-ending injuries in a qualifying accident.

This disaster, following upon the heels of Villeneuve’s death, could easily have broken the resolve of a lesser team than Ferrari but Tambay’s reaction was the winning drive which reduced Mr Ferrari himself to tears and completely enraptured the otherwise grief-stricken Italian tifosi. Having thus won the German GP for Ferrari, Tambay would win again at Imola the following year.

This Imola-winning car is one of only two aluminium-honeycomb hulled, interim model 126C2B machines, built new for the 1983 season. Their design was based upon that of the 1982 Formula 1 Constructors’  World Championship-winning ‘C2 design modified to comply with the new ‘flat-bottom’ regulations for ’83. While Ferrari’s chief chassis engineer Dr Harvey Postlethwaite was finalizing an all-new moulded carbon-composite flat-bottomed ‘C3 design, these ‘C2Bs proved extremely competitive during the first half of that season.

In fact chassis ‘065’ offered here is accompanied by a factory record indicating it was used as the team spare car at Rio and Long Beach – raced by Patrick Tambay, retired – before being adopted by him as his regular race car for the San Marino (1st), Monaco (4th), Belgian (2nd), Detroit (Rtd at start) and Canadian (3rd) GPs. Once the team’s replacement ‘C3s became available, ‘065’ resumed spare car duties in Britain, Germany, Austria and Holland.

Its twin-turbocharged 120-degree quad-cam V6 engine delivered some 620bhp at 11,500rpm in race tune. Its Works career over, Tambay asked to retain chassis ‘065’ and it remained in his ownership until sold at auction by Brooks Europe in Monaco in May 1997, when it was acquired by the current owner, a well-known collector on the Cote d’Azure and a personal friend of Tambay. Since then the car has been used sparingly for occasional track demonstrations and has been maintained by the owner’s own professional race team in pristine condition.

This two-owner ex-Works car is an extremely rare Formula 1 Ferrari from the ‘80s in having a record of five starts, one (very memorable) Grand Prix victory, a second place and a third. It has both the perfect provenance, and perfect history, to claim true collectability.