At the 1958 London Motor Show newly crowned world champion driver Mike Hawthorn tried to launch his Tourist Trophy Garage business in Farnham, Surey, as Ferrari’s UK importer, selling two cars, one a heather-grey 250GT to Tommy Sopwith.
Both Sopwith and his friend, Colonel RJ ‘Ronnie’ Hoare, ran Ford main dealerships and both used Mercedes-Benz 300SLs. The Colonel’s roadster was a horror and Sopwith suggested: “Why don’t you take my bloody Ferrari — it’s never run on twelve cylinders since the day I bought it!”
The Colonel spotted the high-tension lead tracking which had been the Ferrari’s problem and from then on simply adored the car. In 1959 he coveted another “but couldn’t really afford it” so he conceived a cunning plan.
Poor Hawthorn had died that January and Hoare approached Enzo Ferrari about starting a British concession. His new company, Maranello Concessionaires Ltd, was founded in July 1960 and the Colonel decided to race Ferraris in his home market.
Coincidentally, Tommy Sopwith had just founded Equipe Endeavour to run Jaguar 3.8 saloons through 1961 for Michael Parkes and Jack Sears. Since most meetings would include a GT event, the Colonel provided a Ferrari 250GT short-wheelbase Berlinetta for Parkes, initially the ex-Moss 1960 TT winner ‘2119GT’ then the replacement ’61 Competizione model ‘2417GT’. The new team won four of its seven GT races and took a fine second in the major Goodwood Tourist Trophy.
This liaison continued into 1962, the epochal 250GTO emerged and, for the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch, Enzo Ferrari lent Colonel Hoare a works Dino 246GT sports-prototype in which Parkes won brilliantly. The team’s first overseas entry then brought John Surtees and Mike Parkes second in the Montlhery 1000km, sharing 250GT0 ‘3647GT’.
In 1963, Ferrari persuaded the Colonel to enter Le Mans, fielding the 4-litre 330LMB ‘4725GT’ for Jack Sears and Michael Salmon to nurse the troubled car home a creditable fifth overall.
Graham Hill won the Goodwood TT in Ronnie’s latest GTO ‘4399GT’ and for 1964 sports-prototypes beckoned. Hill and Jo Bonnier were a tremendous long distance duo and in the Colonel’s 330P ‘0818’ they finished second at Le Mans and then won the Paris 1000km at Montlhery. Graham won his second successive Goodwood TT solo in ‘0818’. Afterwards, the Colonel asked him how the race had gone. “Oh fine,” replied Graham. “And the car?” insisted the Colonel. “The car? Oh, just like an effing tractor,” grunted his top driver.
Meanwhile, 250LMs entered by Maranello Concessionaires won the Reims 12 Hours (Hill and Bonnier again) with the 250GTO ‘4399’ in third place driven by Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti. Scarfiotti drove the 330P to win the Ettore Bettoja Trophy at Monza and the team ran sports-prototype and GT Ferraris on through the 1965-66 season, with Roy Pike and Piers Courage posting the best result: GT category winners at Le Mans in 1966 with a 275GTB/C ‘9035GT’.
Just one more victory remained for the team, the GT-supporting race to the ’67 British GP, which was won by Dickie Attwood in the 250LM ‘6167GT’.
By 1968 there were no suitable Ferraris for the Colonel to run and Maranello Concessionaires did not reappear as an entrant until 1972, when Peter Westbury and John Hine co-drove their Daytona Competizione at Le Mans. They did not reach the finish. Doug Nye