GRR

Is this the most obscure sponsor in the world?

26th March 2018
Bob Murray

Who, or what is Sheila Wong Chong? You, like us, might have been wondering that after seeing the name plastered across the front of the white Ferrari 512 BB Le Mans that everyone fell for during the Group 5 high-speed demo at the 76th Members’ Meeting at the weekend. 

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We know the BB LM in green (Nick Mason’s), in blue and, at 76MM there were, as expected, a couple of red ones. But white?

One thing for sure, car No 48 looked just as it does today back in 1981 when it competed at Le Mans, with its correct period livery and same assortment of sponsors’ names, from Michelin and Pace Petroleum right down to a carpet shop. And including, in pride of place across its nose, the name of Sheila Wong Chong. 

At Le Mans in ’81, the distinctive LM was driven by Ferrari and Le Mans specialist, and long-time Goodwood favourite, Mike Salmon. Entered in the IMSA GTX class (which was based on Group 5 regs), it was co-driven by team owner Simon Phillips and American racer Steve Earle. The car managed 140 laps before retiring. Salmon also drove the car that year in the Silverstone Six Hours.

Over the decades since then something of a mystery has been grown up around the name on the car’s nose (Google it and you will see what we mean). 

We canvassed a few opinions as to what it might refer to. One chap on the Ferrari’s team was sure it referred to one of the drivers’ partners at that time, while the man charged with steering it for the demo laps at 76MM, David Franklin, had a different view.

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“I have always thought it referred to a favourite Chinese restaurant in California back in the ‘80s… but don’t take that as 100 per cent.”

Today the stunning 512 BB LM lives in Switzerland and is owned by Arnold Meier. It is the first time it has been seen at Goodwood. 

“It is a very nice and easy car to drive,” says David Franklin, who is more used to punting a Ferrari 312 P up the hill at FOS than unleashing this big Le Mans monster on the Motor Circuit. 

“They look big and cumbersome but they don’t feel that way to drive at all. The gearbox is the synchro unit from the road car and the engine, with about 500bhp, is not mega powerful but has a good spread of torque. You could easily imagine doing a 24-hour race in it.”

A great car then but we are still no clearer about the name. Sheila, if you are out there, do get in touch…

  • 76MM

  • Ferrari

  • 2018

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