There are remarkably few serious GT3 projects that failed to hit the track, one though such misfire came at the very start of what has become a spectacularly successful GT racing category, and it came from a marque that had been the catalyst for the explosion of interests in GT racing in the modern era. No, not Porsche, not Ferrari, and not Aston Martin, but Venturi!
Without the Venturi Gentlemen Drivers Trophy, a successful one-make Series in the mid 1990s – it’s unlikely that the subsequent BPR, FIA GT, and subsequently the GT3 scene would have emerged, for it was here that Stephane Ratel spread his racing wings, the Series offering an avenue for his friends and acquaintances to legitimise their racing activities, ‘Cannonball Run’-style road races were getting a little edgy! It offered too a business model that SRO continue to exploit successfully to this day.
After some heady days for the marque, over 70 one-make racers were built, with ever increasing power outputs for their GT racing cars, culminating in the 600LM of 1994 which saw some success in the early BPR races, before being comprehensively steamrollered as the Ferrari F40s, and latterly the McLaren F1s came on stream.
In motorsport terms, aside from a number of the earlier cars hanging on in there in national competition, the Venturi marque was quiet for a decade until the dawn of the GT3 era.
The Venturi company had hung on in fallow times with the PRV V6 engined (in n/a or turbo versions) Atlantique, a pretty evolution of the original wedge-shaped cars.
Whilst the car was well received in dynamic terms, commercially it was a flop, by 2000 the original company was effectively dead.
It was revived though, principally to produce bespoke electric powered vehicles, including the extraordinary Fetish. One project that wasn’t expected though was a revival of the GT race programme with the aptly name ‘Heritage’.
The car was firmly based on the look of the earlier GT racers, though now on a carbon chassis, but the PSA-derived V6s had been discarded in favour of a c.450bhp 4.2 litre Audi-supplied supercharged V8.
It was announced by SRO as one of the first batch of GT3-spec cars available for competition for the inaugural 2006 FIA GT3 European Championship, tested in the hands of Olivier Beretta at Paul Ricard with a three car effort for Le Castellet-based JMB Racing planned under the technical direction of none other than Gérard Ducarouge.
The car was displayed at the initial press calls at both Paul Ricard and, below, in Monte Carlo, alongside some of the other potential contenders.
JMB also entered a trio of Ferraris that first season and, with the Venturis (or rather the Venturi – only one car was ever seen in testing – though a second was apparently built), hitting the track very late, and the Ferraris proving to be popular with JMB’s customers, thereafter though the programme went quiet, nothing more was heard of the effort. The two cars emerged years later having been sold to a french collector ( a picture of one of the cars in recent times can be seen online here.at the bottom of the page (car in all over white).
Whilst there is no video footage available of the car on track there is this short film showing the car in the dyno, testing the MTM-supercharged V8 – and doesn’t it sound glorious!
The Venturi name races on in Formula E – but with little or nothing left of the bloodline to the ‘French F40’
A sad end to the racing history of a marque that holds a unique and important part in the modern history of GT racing.