How to own your very own Formula One car

DAVID MCCOWEN
Last updated 10:12 14/03/2014
Guido Belgiorno Nettis driving his classic 1985 Ferrari F1 car.
Fairfax Australia

CLASSIC RACER: Guido Belgiorno Nettis driving his classic 1985 Ferrari F1 car.

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Formula One is an rarefied world reserved for drivers with the talent and backing to succeed at the highest levels.

But you don't need to be an elite athlete or champion driver to get behind the wheel of your own F1 car.

Top teams use a handful of cars each season which then go into hibernation, often emerging in the hands of wealthy collectors as the ultimate toy for track-day adventures.

The most straightforward way to run a modern Formula One car is through Ferrari's Corse Clienti program, described by Ferrari Australasia chief executive Herbert Appleroth as an exclusive club for F1 owners.

"It not only sells our Ferrari race cars to clients but maintains and transports the fleet of cars," he says.

"It also organises events all over the world called Ferrari racing days, and owners can choose which event to attend, they just turn up and everything is organised for them."

Said to cost about NZ$50,000 an outing, the Clienti program is restricted to post-1970 Ferrari grand prix machines, most of which cost more than NZ$1 million.

Other companies offer similar services that are not restricted to the Ferrari brand, while a handful of owners around the world run their own cars.

Sydney businessman Guido Belgiorno-Nettis has two Ferrari 156/85T models driven to success by Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson.

He came across the machines while shopping for an exotic road car.

"I had no idea you could buy an F1 car. I thought they were somehow traded within circles and never came to market," he says.

"I bought the car thinking I would just demonstrate it but one thing led to another and I got involved with racing."

Belgiorno-Nettis declined to disclose how much the cars cost to buy and run, only saying that it was significantly cheaper than running a modern machine through Corse Clienti.

Older, simpler cars such as Belgiorno-Nettis' 1985 machines are simple to operate, like a classic Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane compared to a state-of-the-art Boeing Super Hornet.

"Modern cars simply can't be run by mechanics, they need technical support to get going," he says.

"My car is much simpler. It's practical for me to run this car in this country without too much support from the factory in Italy.

"It's reliable, it's fun it's quick, it's a car that you can really enjoy. It's a thrill every time you drive it.

"I've had a lot of fun with them."

Classic race meetings offer a chance to stretch the cars' legs from time to time.

Like their road-going counterparts, the values of retired grand prix cars vary wildly.

Bonhams auctioneers sold a 1994 Benetton-Cosworth driven by Michael Schumacher to his first world title for $1.13m in 2013, alongside a Mercedes-Benz driven by Juan Manuel Fangio that fetched $33m.

But those results are at the upper end of the market, and there are bargains to be had.

A 1990 Footwork-Arrows machine raced by Le Mans winner and former Ferrari man Michele Alboreto traded without its engine for $59,825 in 2012, while a fully restored 1992 Lamborghini-Minardi sold on eBay in 2013 for less than $200,000 and a V8-powered 1987 Tyrrell with spare parts costs around $120,000.

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Machines driven by world champions fetch considerably more, and several are available for sale.

Cars International has a 1983 Toleman Hart car driven by Ayrton Senna to his first point-scoring result, along with two cars being sold on behalf of former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan.

A 1991 Jordan-Ford that gave Michael Schumacher his F1 debut should fetch a decent sum, as should a 1998 Jordan-Mugen-Honda that won the Belgian Grand Prix in the hands of 1996 world champion Damon Hill.

Bonhams will offer a 1969 Lotus 49B driven by dual title winner Graham Hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, while RM Auctions will offer three cars for sale in May.

Those cars include a 1989 Ferrari driven by Nigel Mansell and a 1974 Hesketh driven by James Hunt and Alan Jones.

Prices have not been listed for any of those cars, but they all have the potential to fetch $1 million or more.

If that sounds too rich, European race experience companies offer genuine F1 driving opportunities in retired cars for around $1000 per lap.

That makes for quite an expensive pastime, but not many enthusiasts can say they have driven a V10-powered F1 car once raced by Jean Alesi or Pedro de la Rosa.

Buyers looking to get bang for their buck could take home a competitive Formula 3 car that offers high downforce, open-wheel thrills for about $50,000, or if buying an F1 car is all about the look, several companies offer static replica cars that can start plenty of conversations from $20,000 or so.

-Fairfax News Australia

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