1983 Ferrari Formula 1126 C3-068 Formule 1
Year of manufacture1983
Car typeSingle seater
- The first Formula 1 Ferrari with a carbon fibre shell
- Highly original, transparent history
- Points scored in the constructors' world championship title
- In the Manoir de l'Automobile collection since 2001
- 2nd GP Austria 1983, driven by René Arnoux - World Champion
The 1982 season had been marked not only by the tragic death of Gilles Villeneuve but also by the serious accident of Didier Pironi during testing for the German Grand Prix. At the time Pironi was in the running for the world title and victory in the F1 Constructors World Championship was not a simple consolation for Ferrari who appeared to gain more determination and ambition from these dramatic incidents.
Like McLaren, who were set to redefine F1 with their MP4 and its carbon fibre shell, Ferrari also decided to embrace this new technology with the brand new 126 C3. Unfortunately, they had quite a wait. Building a factory for construction of the carbon shell took longer than expected and the C3 made its first appearance in July 1983 at the British Grand Prix.
In the meantime, the 126 C2B, a modified version of the 126 C2, did more than act as an interim. Still a little too heavy, but equipped with a more reliable V6 Turbo engine that was 20bhp more powerful (580bhp), it made an impact at the start of the season in the hands of Patrick Tambay, when he won the Saint Marino Grand Prix. René Arnoux, the new recruit at Ferrari, took a little longer to find his form, although he managed two pole positions and two podium finishes early on. The driver from Grenoble, who had spent most of his F1 career driving on radial Michelin tyres, took a while to adapt to the classic Goodyear tyres. He had mastered it by June, however, qualifying on pole in Detroit, then winning from pole position the following week in the Canadian Grand Prix. This was a prelude to a great summer, featuring two wins, two second places and an all-French battle with Alain Prost for the World title.
The driving was amazing, and the arrival of the 126 C3 was an added bonus. Four chassis took part in the World Championship from July 1983: #066, #067, #068 (the car in the sale) and #069. With its lighter carbon/kevlar shell, the single-seater, designed by British engineer Harvey Postlethwaite, was also more powerful (600bhp), and was immediately on the pace. Proof of this came on its debut at Silverstone, the scene of the British Grand Prix on 16 July 1983. The two red cars claimed the front row of the grid, with Arnoux on pole. Unfortunately, however, they gave up one or two places in the race, as the Goodyear tyres suffered with the fast times and high temperatures. This would prove to be a recurring theme for the C3. In " clement conditions " the car won the German Grand Prix. René Arnoux proved to be untouchable, setting a new lap record. A week later, in Austria, Ferrari brought out one of their other cars for Arnoux, chassis 068, who was no longer just an outsider in the Championship. He finished second, just behind the Renault of Prost and in front of Nelson Piquet whose BMW engine in the Brabham seemed to regain form inexplicably (…) towards the end of the season.
According to the book " Ferrari, the Grand Prix Cars " by Alan Henry, chassis #068 only participated in this Grand Prix where it finished in second place.
Two weeks later at the Dutch Grand Prix, Patrick Tambay put himself on the front row with the second quickest time in qualifying. Things didn't go so well for Arnoux, however, and he had to start from the middle of the pack, qualifying in a less convincing 10th position.
The race was a different matter, with an accident putting Prost and Piquet out of the running, allowing Arnoux to storm through to victory after an amazing comeback that included a new lap record. According to the renowned and reliable 'Formula One Register' of Duncan Rabagliatti and the Auto Hebdo of the day, whose diligent journalist systematically listed the chassis numbers, it was in chassis #068 that Arnoux achieved victory in the Dutch Grand Prix.
This would be the only win for the Ferrari 126 C3 068, which according to various sources was then confined to its role as reserve car for the rest of the season. It would also be the last victory for a 126 C3. With the exception of the Italian Grand Prix, where the Ferrari had leading roles at their home circuit (Arnoux finished 2nd and Tambay 4th), they were practically invisible in the last rounds of the year. Hampered by unresolvable problems with grip aggravated by concerns about the brakes, some would go so far as to describe the performance as disastrous at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.
However, on the eve of the South African Grand Prix, the last race of the season, everything was still possible (with a few 'ifs' thrown in) for Arnoux. In the provisional classification of the Championship, he remained two points ahead of Piquet and eight behind Prost. Early in the race, however, all hope of winning disappeared when the engine failed on the 9th lap. Neither Tambay, having started on pole, nor Alain Prost were much happier, as Nelson Piquet, his engine 'on vitamins' already causing suspicion, was crowned champion at the end of the race. The final tally of points put René Arnoux in third position and Tambay fourth, ensuring Ferrari dominated the F1 Constructors World Championship. The 126 C3 was only able to sing for one summer, and in the words of the song " il suffisait de presque rien… " (it amounted to almost nothing), coming so close to being the first French world champion…. At the very least, the car could boast an ephemeral glory envied by many of its rivals.
Time was up for the 126 C3 after that, replaced at the start of the 1984 season by the new C4. And so chassis 068 headed to France, and more specifically, to Charles Pozzi in Levallois-Perret, the historic French importer for the marque. It sat amongst other flagship examples of Ferrari France, assembled by the dynamic Daniel Marin, and occasionally the sound of its V6 Turbo engine would be heard, without ever taking to the track again.. The car stayed there until January 2001, when it sold to Michel Hommell (publisher of Echappement, Auto Hebdo and others, a formidable enthusiast and highly discerning collector). For the record, he obtained a transfer certificate from Ferrari France similar to that of…a road car.
Displayed in his fabulous museum in Loheac, Brittany, the car looks incredible in its carefully preserved original configuration. It has fulfilled its task impeccably : to be admired by thousands of visitors to this day …
This Ferrari Formula 1 126C3 #068 is of major historical interest, having scored points in Ferrari's race for the World Title. It is a glorious representative of this Golden Age in Motorsport's highest class of racing.
It is impossible today to find a Formula 1 Ferrari in such a well conserved and original condition, that has passed directly from Ferrari in 2001 to Michel Hommel's Automobile Museum in Lohéac.
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For more information and photos: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-1983-ferrari-126-c3-068-formule-1-3980-98
Photos © Rémi Dargegen