One Of Ferrari’s And F1’s Most Important Cars—The 1982 126C2—Is Heading To Auction In Abu Dhabi
Every so often a racing car that it is hard to overstate the significance of comes to auction. This one, going under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s Abu Dhabi sale later this month, is one such car. It’s the sole-surviving example of one of Ferrari’s and Formula 1’s most famous cars, from one of Ferrari’s and F1’s most traumatic and dramatic seasons. And, amid it all, it is the very car that claimed two of Ferrari’s and F1’s most evocative-ever triumphs. It’s a 1982 126C2, of which only seven examples were produced, and it’s estimated to go for $2,000,000 to $2,500,000.
The 126C2 for 1982 benefited from then-raw turbo power, but crucially—unlike its turbo-powered rivals Renault and Brabham-BMW—this Ferrari also was reliable. Furthermore, while chassis traditionally were a Ferrari weak point, this year under the direction of English designer Harvey Postlethwaite the 126C2 was much-improved. But equally what followed was an ill-starred ‘82 campaign for F1, in which much of the tragedy befell Ferrari.
And this car heading to auction, chassis 061, was right at the center of the story, taking one of Ferrari’s most evocative-ever race wins and pole positions, and the success of this car was vital in Ferrari salvaging the world constructors’ championship from the difficult year.
Chassis 061 was driven by debonair Patrick Tambay, who was brought in by Ferrari after Tambay’s friend, the inimitable Gilles Villeneuve, was killed in a qualifying crash for that year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Tambay, in only his second race for the team, took chassis 061 to third place in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch then fourth in the French round at Paul Ricard.
While all this was going on it looked like Tambay’s Ferrari team-mate Didier Pironi was cantering to that year’s F1 drivers’ championship. But tragedy awaited him in the German round, when during a practice session in heavy rain and blinding spray he sustained fearsome leg injuries smashing into the back of Alain Prost’s Renault. The injuries ended his F1 career.
But then the next day, again in chassis 061, Tambay gave Ferrari timely succor by winning the race. Tambay in 061 then got fourth in the next round in Austria, despite losing lots of time with a puncture. Then the car had its second totemic triumph. With Pironi out, and Ferrari’s home round at Monza imminent, the team brought in Italian-born motorsport legend Mario Andretti to return to the Italian team. And amid fervor from the Ferrari-loving tifosi in the grandstands, Andretti in 061 immediately put the car on pole position at Monza. He also took the car to third place in the race, impeded by a sticking throttle.
Even though Andretti in 061 retired from the final race of the year, at Las Vegas, with suspension failure in what proved to be the legend’s final F1 race, it all helped ensure Ferrari’s constructors’ crown that year. Pironi, amazingly, still finished second in the final drivers’ table, just five points off the champion Keke Robserg.
The car was sold to Jacques Setton in 2000, it joining numerous Formula 1 and Sports-Prototype Ferraris in his collection. It then passed to a Dutch Ferrari collector before being sold again to another prominent Ferrari collector, Michael Willms. During the latter’s ownership, roughly 15 years ago, the car was fully restored by Uwe Meissner’s Modena Motorsport operation and ran in official Ferrari F1 Corse Clienti events. It is immaculately prepared and ready for immediate enjoyment, and would be a highly-significant addition to any racing car collection.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s, Sami Sasso