|Sheehan Speaks by Michael Sheehan
In 1998 Ian Hetherington, an English software mogul, decided to race
his Euro model F50 in the Ferrari Maranello Challenge. He raced
Ferrari F50 S/N 103496 in six of the twelve Maranello Ferrari
Challenge races in preparation for an assault on the 1999
For 1999 Hetherington and F50 S/N 103496 returned for 13 of the 14
rounds of the championship. With three first and three second place
finishes, they ended the season second overall, missing the
championship by a single point.
S/N 103496 returned for the 2000 Championship and competed in all 14
rounds, with two firsts at Donington, another at Silverstone, two
firsts at Oulton Park, and a first and then a second at Le Mans, and
was the overall winner of the 2000 Championship.
S/N 103496 also participated in the Porsche vs. Ferrari Challenge, a
different series, competing against hot rod 930/935/936s in 1998 and
1999, often finishing as the fastest Ferrari.
On October 2000, S/N 103496 was sold to a retired American driver who
still owns a substantial collection of cars he once raced in the IMSA
series. On November 1, in preparation for its early November arrival
in the US, a package detailing the race history of this car, with many
supporting photos, was prepared and sent on to the EPA and DOT
requesting approval as a race car entry, exempting the car from the
usual EPA and DOT regulations. No problems were expected; after all,
what better defines a race car than „a car that has raced.š And with
39 races, F50 S/N 103496 would seem to more than define "race car."
On November 2, DOT requested proof that the new owner was a qualified
race driver. Simple enough; copies of his racing licenses and detailed
photos of the car provided by Mortimer, Houghton, and Turner Ltd., the
authorized Ferrari dealer which had supplied the car, were sent to the
EPA and DOT.
On November 2, we also retained Lance Beyer, a former lawyer for DOT
with many years of experience dealing with them, in an attempt to
interface between the entrepreneurial spirit of the Ferrari world and
the mindset of Federal bureaucracy.
On November 3, after review of the photos, DOT requested a statement
from MHT Ltd. confirming that the car was a race car, had raced in 39
separate races, and that its intrinsic value was as a race car and not
a street car. MHT Ferrari supplied the appropriate letter.
On November 9, F50 S/N 103496 arrived at Miami airport but remained in
Customs awaiting DOT and EPA approval.
On November 15, DOT contacted Ferrari of North America and asked if
Ferrari had ever built an F50 race car. FNA replied in the negative
and so we were advised by DOT that, since Ferrari had never built an
F50 race car, this car could not be recognized as a race car. DOT was
then supplied with copies detailing the presentation of the first F50
GT (which had received DOT/EPA exemptions), which DOT considered to be
an evolution of the F50, into the US as featured on the cover of
Cavallino magazine issue 100, the Ferrari Market Letter, and Forza
DOT accepted that their source at FNA had erred and another hurdle was
Upon reviewing the letter describing the car supplied by MHT Ferrari,
DOT next decided they needed a letter from Specialised Cars, the
company that prepared this car for racing, listing the work done and
stating its position that this car is indeed a race car. On November
17, the letter was supplied and approved. Two more weeks gone.
After receiving the letter from MHT Ferrari, DOT then decided they
needed a „strongerš letter, which was dutifully supplied on November
20. DOT next decided they needed confirmation from the race organizer
that Specialised Cars was qualified to do the work described in their
letter outlining the conversion of F50 S/N 103496 from a street car to
a race car. On December 8, DOT was supplied with a letter from John
Swift, director of the Maranello Challenge Series, outlining
Specialised Cars‚ qualifications.
Working their way up the organizational chain, DOT asked for a letter
from the Maranello Challenge sponsor, Maranello Concessionaires, that
Specialised Cars was qualified to prepare race cars and confirmation
that this car was recognized as a race car. Thanks to John Newman,
General Manager of Ferrari UK, the letter was supplied on December 8.
In anticipation of what might come next, on December 18, I asked Art
Zafiropoulo, owner of F50 GT S/N 001, to provide the import paperwork
showing his F50 GT‚s importation under the race car exemption. This
was sent to EPA and DOT.
Now past thirty days in storage with US Customs, it was necessary to
put the car into bonded storage rather than have customs seize the car
for lack of clearance paperwork. The costs of importation climbed.
On January 2, DOT next decided they needed „currentš photos detailing
the many modifications made to convert the car to racing standards. On
January 8, with special permission from US Customs, Al Roberts of
Shelton Ferrari photographed the car in a dark and dusty warehouse and
sent the requested photos to DOT.
Our attorney was able to narrow down DOT‚s concern to one area, that
of intent. DOT‚s mindset was „what was the main intent of the
manufacturer when the car was built?š In layman‚s talk, we „onlyš
needed to prove the car was re-manufactured as a race car, and DOT
would approve the car.
On January 25, we supplied DOT with a very detailed letter from
Specialised Cars outlining the costs of remanufacturing this car as a
race car and the greater costs needed to reconvert it back to a street
car, making its use as a street car financially impractical.
On February 1, DOT asked Al Roberts of Shelton Ferrari to go back and
take better photos showing the ride height by putting a ruler up to
the bottom of the car, along with clear photos of the fuel filler
opening. Additionally they also wanted a letter from Shelton Ferrari
repeating what was already stated by Specialised Cars in England.
February 8, Tom Shelton of Shelton Sports cars provided a detailed
cost analysis letter to DOT about the costs of re-conversion.
The next day, DOT agreed to release the car.
February 22, DOT typed the letter releasing the car. End of Act One.
Next month, Act Two: EPA wants to know if a can of Coke will fit under