21 May 2017

Francorchamps, Le circuit de Spa Francorchamps

On 21 May, the Canadian 1991 Grand Prix winning Benetton B-191-02  driven by Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher in the 1991 Grand Prix will return to the Spa Francorchamps circuit for the Bonhams Spa Classic sale on 21 May 2017.

The future seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher made his debut at the legendary Belgian track in 1991 to immense acclaim. It is testament to his skill as a driver that he was able to qualify seventh in the race, despite having had to learn the track on two wheels rather than four – he cycled the famously tricky circuit on a fold-up bike which he had brought with him after his team mate Andrea de Cesaris was caught up in contract negotiations and unable to show him the course in time for the race.

Finishing just one place ahead of the young Schumacher was the Brazilian Nelson Piquet, racing the car offered by Bonhams at their sale. Capable of 650hp at 13,000rpm, the vehicle was designed by John Barnard and Mike Coughlan. It is powered by a 3.5-litre Ford Cosworth HB V8 engine, has a moulded carbon-composite monocoque chassis and weighs in at just 505kg.

The car was introduced for the third GP of the 1991 season, and made its debut at San Marino with Roberto Moreno at the wheel. He was replaced by Nelson Piquet, three-time World Drivers’ Champion, who drove the car to victory at Montréal. The 1991 Canadian Grand Prix was, to say the very least, dramatic. Mansell led from the start, whilst Berger, Prost, and Senna all retired with various mechanical problems. By the final lap, Mansell still led Piquet, Modena, de Cesaris and Gachot. Slowing down at the L’Epingle hairpin to give the crowd a premature celebratory wave, Mansell forgot to change down which resulted in stalling his Renault V10 engine, allowing Piquet to zoom past and snatch surprise victory!

The car later finished 5th in the British GP and 8th in France before it was handed over to Schumacher for the last two races of the season, in Japan and Australia.

After the season closed, with the legendary Ayrton Senna clinching his third and final World Championship title, and Piquet sixth in the table, the car became a museum exhibit. In 2016, it underwent a complete rebuild by an F1 specialist team, including an overhaul of the engine, gearbox, chassis and safety equipment. It has been completely restored to its original condition, with the sole exception of updated security features in accordance with FIA regulations.

Presented in excellent running order, this is an opportunity to own a genuine, ‘on the button’ Grand Prix winning car driven by two of the greatest drivers ever to have taken to the tarmac.

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