Cheat Codes - 1989 Moneytron Ferrari Mondial 3.2 Group N
In 1982 the FIA introduced a new naming scheme for road racing categories around the world. Previously the organization had been using divisions based on numbers, but their definition had become muddled. Over the years every “Group” was linked to multiple disciplines, which lead to a a lot of confusion. To make matters simpler, the FIA switched to letters.
With this decision Group A, B and C were formed, but there were still double meanings. Groups A and B covered both rallying and touring cars, and Group C had to be divided into two sub classes. Luckily, the change also relaxed technical regulations across the board, allowing the creating of fire breathing monsters in Groups B and C. In international touring car racing Group A became the de facto top category, with exotic homologation specials screaming around the track.
The high strung Group A cars were however deemed far too expensive for national touring car series. With this in mind the FIA created Group N, a lower category for nearly standard cars. As the category was geared towards small national teams with very limited budgets, homologation requirements were made more lax. This made it easier for teams to get a waiver to run an unconventional car.
Among the possible modifications to the “Showroom Class” were uprated dampers and springs, a different exhaust, and engine management system. Everything else had to be kept the same as it had been when the car left the factory. These rules made running a car even cheaper, but put a strong emphasis on the stock qualities of the car. After all, it was virtually impossible to improve on the stock machine’s flaws.
One man with a healthy interest in the category was Belgian entrepreneur Jean Pierre van Rossem. A self-proclaimed stock market guru, Van Rossem had made a name for himself with his company Moneytron. This stock market investment firm relied on a supposed Moneytron super computer which was alleged to be able to predict stock market trends.
Van Rossem claimed that his supercomputer could trade much more efficiently than a human stock broker ever could, and promised nearly limitless profits. For safety reasons, the brilliant device was locked into a secure room behind his office, only accessible by himself.
His bold statements attracted the attention of numerous wealthy clients. None of which, including the Belgian Royal family, ever took the time to ask Van Rossem about the specifics of his magical computer. Enthused by his flash success, Van Rossem looked for other ways to attract wealthy clients. This search lead him to take on the role of title sponsor for the cash-strapped Onyx Grand Prix team, who were struggling to make their debut in the 1989 season.
Jean Pierre van Rossem’s hunger for money was only matched by his love for Ferrari’s. At the height of his wealth he owned as much as 108 of the things. Because of his obsession, he wanted to enter a Ferrari in the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. The event was exclusive to Group A and Group N touring cars, so Van Rossem had to think of something. Group A was out of the question, as Ferrari rarely built 2500 cars of any model. Consequently his mind turned to Group N, knowing the regulations were much less strict there.
With his plans laid out Van Rossem contacted Ferrari, and proposed using the Mondial 3.2 as a base for his ambitious project. Ferrari agreed to cooperate an provided him with two brand new cars. In concordance with Group N regulations, not much had been changed on the cars. The 3.2L Tipo F105C 32 valve flatplane V8 had been tickled up to 340 horsepower from 270, and the suspension had been beefed up. Apart from the necessary roll cage and racing seats, the cars were almost completely stock.
The Mondial's transversely mounted 3.2L V8.
Van Rossem’s large capital allowed him to hire some big names to drive his two cars. Car #73 featured Onyx F1 driver Bertrand Gachot, Group C driver Harald Huysman (BEL) and 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg (FIN). The second car (#74) was piloted by experienced sportscar racer Mauri Bianchi (ITA), Group C driver Pascal Witmeur (BEL) and Le Mans prototype veteran Philippe Martin (BEL).
The high concentration of driver talent in such an unusual car felt like the perfect marketing opportunity for Van Rossem. He thoroughly enjoyed his extravagant lifestyle and involvement in his beloved world of motorsport, but most of all he wanted to promote his outlandish company.
The relatively powerful Ferrari’s were put into Division 5 of Group N, facing opposition from cars like the Porsche 911 3,2, BMW 535i, Mazda RX-7 Turbo, Porsche 944 Turbo, and showroom stock versions of the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth.
The Mondial’s performed well on the long straights of Spa, and recorded a 29th (#73) and 36th (74) time in qualifying out of 68 cars. In Division 5 the #73 was only bested by three Porsche’s and a Ford Sierra, taking 5th in class. The second car settled for 9th.
After enjoying a lot of attention all weekend, the cars set off to face 24 hours of non stop abuse on one of the most challenging tracks in the world. The cars were still running well, but in an endurance racing anything can and will happen.
This fact was made painfully obvious to the #74 team when they suffered a violent tire blowout in the early stages of the race. Unfortunately the car was damaged beyond repair, and the team had to throw in the towel.
With one car down things looked bleak in the Moneytron camp. The sister car struggled as well, but just kept on going. Under the strength of its driver talent, the unreliable stallion screamed into the night. When dawn broke it was still going, but left far behind by the competition. At race end the car was marked as non-classified for being too far back, but it had completed the grueling event nonetheless.
After the Spa adventure the cars were raced by lesser drivers in the local Procar championship, without much success. The car’s campaign came to a screeching halt when Jean Pierre van Rossem’s empire collapsed in on itself.
His Moneytron “supercomputer” turned out to be completely fake. His boasts about being able to predict the course of the volatile stock market were hopelessly false, but his clients were enchanted by the hip sci-fi 1980’s idea of a relentless money grabbing box of microchips. Instead Van Rossem employed a rather outdated pyramid-scheme, by paying out new clients with the money of older ones, and dealing in duplicated stocks.
Van Rossem was arrested for numerous scamming practices associated with Moneytron, and sentenced to 5 years in prison in 1991. His 108 Ferrari’s, yacht and two private jets were all sold off to cover his debt. The racing Mondial’s were spared, but quickly forgotten. The cars sat in a barn for almost 20 years, with battle damage still visible. In 2008 the cars were recovered and restored to their former glory.
The Moneytron Ferrari Mondial 3.2’s were nothing more than a comically rich man’s weekend toys. An avid Ferrari fan, Jean Pierre van Rossem wanted to race his favorite brand at Belgium’s most prestigious touring car race. Unfortunately for the wealthy conman, his dastardly schemes involving fake supercomputers and bad stock market practices caught up with him. In his fall he took down his two beloved brainchildren. The cars were sentenced to rotting away in a dusty prison for 20 years, far more than Van Rossem ever faced.