Benetton F1 Car from 1993 Season Heads to Auction
F1 cars don’t come up for auction very often, but later this month bidders will have the chance to compete (with their wallets) for a Benetton F1 car Riccardo Patrese drove to a second-place finish at the 1993 Hungarian GP. The car will be offered at Bonhams’ Bonmont Sale in Cheserex, Switzerland, later this month, offering an elite group of collectors the chance to purchase a car with some history from one of the more drama-filled periods in the motorsport.
Those familiar with this time period in F1 will perhaps recall it as one of the highlights of Benetton’s entire F1 team venture. Backed by the clothing brand fortune, the Benetton family fielded an F1 team starting in 1986 with Alessandro Benetton at the helm starting in 1988.
This period in Benetton history is certainly known for Michael Schumacher’s early wins, and for the 1993 season he was joined by Patrese. After Benetton finished third in the ’92 Constructors’ Championship, instead of making the decision to modify and race the 1992 car the team decided to begin with a clean sheet, sparked by a new F1 mandate for narrower tires.
“Therefore, the B193B design began from scratch, the first car not ready to race until April,” Bonhams notes. “The cars were built in a new 85,000 square foot factory, and from the Imola race forward these B193B cars with their Ford HB 75-degree V8-cylinder engines proved competitive in the hands of drivers Schumacher and Patrese.”
The car that Bonhams will offer later this month, chassis B193B-02, served as the team’s spare car and was used for testing, but then became the chassis that was given to Patrese, with the car’s first F1 outing taking place at the German GP at Hockenheim. Patrese’s best finish that season was at the Hungarian GP where he finished second behind Damon Hill, who won his first Grand Prix race in that event, driving for Williams-Renault.
B193B-02 continued to compete with Patrese behind the wheel that season, but failed to finish the Portuguese GP at Estoril after colliding with Derek Warwick’s Footwork-Mugen-Honda. The damage was not extensive, but it was used as a spare chassis for the remainder of the 1993 season after it was repaired, including at the Australian GP and the Japanese GP towards the end of the year.
“Riccardo Patrese – having driven the active-suspension Williamses through 1992 – brought much knowledge to Benetton which proved invaluable early in the 1993 season with these B193B cars so equipped,” Bonhams adds.
The car as it exists now is without an engine and gearbox, with Bonhams estimating it to bring between $89,000 and $130,000 on auction day.
Among former race cars, and specifically F1 cars, there are certainly several tiers of importance when it comes to collectability and ownership. At the top are fully functional F1 cars that had been driven to some major win by one of the sport’s greats, and retain their engines. Whether those engines are as-raced units or replacements that may not have been in a particular winning race—the differences there are largely overlooked because engines get swapped so frequently.
Sitting below those are cars that may not have won, but certainly competed in races with an F1 driver behind the wheel, and retain their engines and other needed gear to be restarted with an appropriately skilled crew. Cars driven by relatively obscure racers for only a few events are usually in this category—they lack some major victory or a household name in their provenance, and they may not have been the hottest thing that season. As the top-tier cars, they’re also frequently in “ran when parked” condition, but could theoretically be made to bark into life with a few hours’ notice.
Cars with a history of participating in races, but are now somehow incomplete and cannot be started, occupy the third tier. These tend to be various “bitsas” that ran in events, but are now missing some crucial parts, usually because engines were taken out and put into other cars later in the season. These tend to be various spare cars from a given season that later donated parts to other, but remain presentable and have some history.
The fourth and bottom tier are various display-only pieces that are usually just bodyshells and wheels that never ran in a race, and were thrown together for promotional purposes to sit in the foyer of some airport, automaker museum or team headquarters. They certainly contain genuine parts and can look pretty convincing, but usually don’t have a real cockpit interior or drivetrain.
The car in this auction arguably sits between the second and third tiers, lacking an engine and gearbox but otherwise being complete, and having achieved a podium finish more than 25 years ago.
Former F1 cars are collected in an elite segment of the collector car community, one barely represented in the U.S. But unlike many other vehicles capable of bringing six or seven figures at auction, they are not really cars that can be driven without crew support. For similar reasons, they’re not really tickets into the top vintage car tours or concours events—even if you could trailer one to a top-tier concours you can’t really start it in those conditions to move it around the lawn due to ground clearance issues. As a result, even with engines these cars are seldom exercised, and seldom exhibited—concours events rarely have an F1 Class that one could even theoretically enter. So this is why you don’t really see F1 cars at various lifestyle events, even those to which many cars are trailered.
Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots from the upcoming sale in Switzerland.
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