In the post World War II era, the world was anxious to get back to racing. There were many interesting creations created during this time. Some were competitive, others were not. Sports Car Racing was becoming more and more popular as the years progressed. This progression came to an end in 1955, when the entire world was in-tuned to the world's greatest racing stage, the 24 Hours of LeMans. The 24 Hour of LeMan endurance race is highly regarded as the most prestigious and competitive automotive race in the world. It is fiercely contested by privateers and manufacturers, alike. A victory or strong finish at LeMans is never forgotten. The same is true for tragedy. LeMans is also known for the worst accident in the history of motor sports racing. During the 1955 running of the LeMans race an accident occurred which claimed the lives of over eighty people. The shockwave that followed nearly crippled the sport, as anger created panic, safety concerns canceled major and minor racing events and many teams withdrew from racing. A few years later, another tragic accident occurred at the Mille Miglia, claiming more lives. This accident occurred during the 1957 season, the same year that Ferrari and Maserati were in a fierce battle for supremacy in sports car racing. Most of the other major marque's chose not to compete at the same level, in an effort to buy back public content, promote safety and stir public interest in their brand.
The governing body of motorsport racing was the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale (CSI), which faced several difficult challenges at this time; how to keep the sport interesting and safe, attract big marque's back to the sport, and stimulate public interest. Various methods were discussed, but eventually the decision to limit displacement size was chosen and in September of 1957, a cap was placed on engine size that ranged from 3 to 3.5-liters. Ferrari had anticipated this change, and had already begun development on a competitive V12 engine.
Ferrari established a new program in 1957 that was intended to run alongside of the works cars in their quest for the World Championship. Ferrari was forced with a major decision; should they develop a quad-cam version of their V12 engine, similar to what Maserati had done with their 450 S, or should they revert back to the single cam layout. The single cam layout was simpler and potentially more reliable. Its design would appeal to the privateer racers as the learning curve would be much less to conquer. The quad-cam design did offer significant benefits, such as being more technologically advanced and providing more power. In the end, Ferrari chose to stick with the design that had been using since their beginnings, and selected the single cam option.
The Colombo designed V12 engine found in the 250GT was producing 260 horsepower. With changes to the timing and camshaft, among other improvements, the horsepower rose to nearly 300. Ferrari began testing their design during the close of the 1957 season, at the Mille Miglia and Nurburgring 1000 km. The results were positive, but not overly impressive and it was clear that more work was needed. The bore was enlarged slightly resulting in a 3.1-liter displacement size and a horsepower rating of 320. Scaglietti was tasked with wrapping these engines in prototype bodies. These prototype racers were entered in various races near the close of 1957, but with inconsistent results. These 'test' sessions gave Ferrari options, and they chose to pick-and-chose which options to keep from the various prototypes. They began with the steel tubular ladder frame of the first prototype car and attached it to a deDion rear axle, solely reserved for the works cars. The customers were given live axles. Though disc brakes may have served the car better, drum brakes were fitted at all four corners as Enzo Ferrari was reluctant to switch to this newer technology. The Colombo designed, short block, three-liter V12 engine was given six twin-choke Weber carburetors and now produced an astonishing 300 horsepower. The engine had been derived from the road-going 250 GT, but little was left from that initial design, to the finished racing product. The rolling chassis was wrapped in a Scaglietti 'pontoon' fendered body, similar to the second prototype that had been created. The design of the pontoon fenders allowed air to freely move to the drum brakes which aided in cooling. The biggest drawback to the design was the increased lift on the straight-stretches. To compensate, Ferrari enclosed the Works racers.
Power was sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox and the 800 kg machines were able to reach a top speed of nearly 170 mph. From 1958 through 1961, the 250 TR was entered in 19 championship races where they emerged victorious ten times.
Continuing Ferrari's naming scheme tradition, the 250 was chosen to represent the unitary displacement of the engine. 'TR' represented 'Testa Rossa', meaning red head, in reference to its red cylinder heads.
When the car was introduced to the public at the November press conference, there were few positives to say about the vehicle. The design was flamboyant and aggressive, but Ferrari was used to criticism as their barchetta, meaning little boat, had also inspired some members of the press to be optimistic on its potential. The technology used throughout the car was outdated. It may have done well in the past, but few believed it would be able to keep pace with the modern racers circling the tracks. The automotive community was not impressed, and instantly declared the vehicle obsolete. The main advantage of the vehicle was its development time and extensive testing and fine-tuning. Ferrari had done their homework, and were hopeful that their preparation for the new racing requirements would give them the edge they would need. They were also hoping that the technology of the other marque's would still require extensive development time to match the endurance of the proven, yet outdated, technology.
The beginning of the 1958 season was rather disappointing. Ferrari was the only marque to enter a competitive racer at the beginning of the season. The other marque's, either by choice or due to lack of time, were unable to field any competition. A few Maserati 300 S machines, driven by privateers, offered Ferrari some competition, but not to the same extent as the year prior. Maserati had worked hard in 1957 to beat Ferrari, and it proved to be too much and they withdrew from the sport after the Caracasa, Venezuela Grand Prix. It had been the final race of the season; more importantly, it was the deciding race on who would be crowned the World Championship. Maserati entered three cars, one was a 300S and two were 450 S. One 450S was destroyed when a collision occurred with an AC Bristol. The other 450S caught on fire during re-fueling. The fire was controlled, but not before burning Moss and Behra. The burned 450S was put back onto the track and Schell took the helm. The vehicle was brought up to speed and began passing Bonnier and his 300S. The 300S blew and Bonnier could not control his car, driving it right into the 450S. This was the final nail in the coffin for Maserati and its quest for World Championship for 1957. Rules changes in 1958 meant the 450S was ineligible to race. Most of the remaining 450 S were sent to the United States where they were raced with mild success.
As the season progressed, Ferrari began to see some competition, mainly from Aston Martin and their newly introduced 3-liter DBR1. With Stirling Moss at the wheel, the DBR1 racers were worthy adversary's for as long as the David Brown gearboxes would permit.
At the Targa Florio, the third race of the season, Ferrari secured another victory with their 250TR driven by Musso and Gendebien. The next race was the Nurburgring 1000 km, which presented Ferrari with several new challenges to combat. Organizers of the race required the teams to operate their race cars on an inferior brand of fuel. Enzo Ferrari was furious and threatened to withdrawal from the race. The organizers did not budge and called his bluff. In the end, Enzo instructed his team to make the necessary changes to the engines to comply with the fuel. Even with the modifications, the engines did not properly accept the fuel, and Ferrari was forced to concede the victory to Aston Martin and their DBR1 racers. A 250TR finished in second, securing the World Championship for Ferrari.
The next race in the season was at LeMans. Ferrari enclosed their works cars to improve aerodynamics, reduce lift, and to take advantage of the tracks high speed and long straight stretches. The Ferrari Works Cars were dubbed the TR58 to help distinguish them from the privateer entrants. After 24 Hours of racing, Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien had emerged the victors. Their closest competition was around 100 miles behind and the team easily slipped into the record books as winning another LeMans victory.
By this point, Ferrari had secured the World Championship and they had won on the world largest racing stage. They had proved that their outdated technology could outpace the fragile technology being campaigned by the other teams. Their sights were turned on the next season, and work began on improving the TR and continuing its racing pedigree. Ferrari had created 19 examples of the TR when they ceased production of the privateer cars to focus on the Works machines. After being raced for a season, Ferrari often sold the cars to privateers who often continued their racing resume in various stages of competition.
For the following season, Ferrari adapted some new technology to the car and improved mechanical components where necessary. The engine was given coil valve springs which boosted horsepower slightly to nearly 310. To make room for the new Colotti designed five-speed gearbox, the engine was move four inches to the left. The big news was when Enzo Ferrari conceded to having Dunlop disc brakes fitted to the car. Pininfarina was tasked with designing a new enclosed body, while Fantuzzi was tasked with its construction. This freed Scaglietti to work on road-going projects.
For the 1959 season, the Buenos Aires race was dropped from the schedule, leaving Sebring as the season's opener. Ferrari's 250 TR59 cars easily went on to capture a first and second place victory. The disc brakes had served the car well, and the lightweight body and improved horsepower kept the car a dominate force. There were still issues with the car to resolve, but nothing that would hinder it from keeping ahead of the competition.
Given time, the opposition was able to rise to the challenge, and were honing in on Ferrari's territory. At the Targa Florio, the three Ferrari car's differentials were destroyed due to the five-speed gearbox and Porsche went on to capture the victory. The problems for Ferrari continued at LeMans. The gearbox issues had not been resolved, and the drivers were told to drive easy on the straight-stretches and not to exceed 7500 rpm's. In the heat of competition, it is difficult to to concede victory to the opposition. The Ferrari drivers drove their cars strong, surpassing the 7500 RPM limit. Jean Behra hit over 9000 RMP's, and by the tenth hour was watching the race from the side-lines. As the twentieth hour approached, all of the Ferrari drivers were watching the race with Behra. A victory, or even a strong finish, for Ferrari was not to be had; Aston Martin won the race and would ultimately win the World Championship.
For 1960, Ferrari chose to stick with their 250 TR, keeping three of the five TR59s and selling the two to privateers. Ferrari experimented with various gearbox and settings, trying to fix their Achilles heal. There was an glimmer of hope for the team when Aston Martin withdrew from competition, leaving Ferrari as the only factory entry. The 1960 season now consisted of just five races. Ferrari one the first round at Buenos Aires and chose to boycott the second round at Sebring. The Sebring race was similar to what had happened at Nurburgring two years prior, where the teams were forced to run on the sponsor's fuel. Enzo Ferrari protested, and this time he was not bluffing. Porsche went on to win the race, and a privately entered TR59 was able to secure four points. Porsche won the next round at the Targa Florio and Maserati was victorious at the Nurburgring 1000km. At LeMans, Ferrari was fastest, finishing in first and second place and securing the World Championship. They had beaten Porsche by a mere four points, proving that the points scored at Sebring were very important.
For 1961, the Ferrari 250 TR cars were drastically updated, and are commonly referred to as the TRI61. They were given a new spaceframe chassis which reduced the overall weight of the vehicle while increasing structural rigidity. The most obvious change was the new bodystyles, featuring a pointy, shark-nose front end and a Kamm-tail in the rear. The rear tail gave the car extra stability at speed.
Ferrari scored victories with the TRI61 at Sebring and LeMans. Their newly introduced 246 SP won the Targa Florio, and Enzo Ferrari had once again secured the World Championship title.
Factory teams and privateers were unable to bring Ferrari's winning streak to an end. So the CSI introduced new regulations that made Ferrari's prototype racers obsolete. The rule changes stated that the World Championship would now be contended by GT cars. Prototype racers were still able to race for overall victory but would not be able to score points.
Work on Ferrari's prototype cars came to a halt; the GT program was given high priority. Ferrari used the engine from the TR and created the 250 GTO, which would continue Ferrari's racing dominance in the sport for years to come.
A four liter class was created, which brought with it strict guidelines. The cars in this category were to resemble road-going cars and to have many of the same amenities, such as windshields. Ferrari was left with no time to create a new racer from scratch; instead they modified chassis 0780, a 250 TRI60, and renamed it 330 TRI/LM. It was given a new chassis number, 0808. The vehicle was lengthened to accommodate the larger, four-liter Superamerica engine. Many of the vehicles components were strengthened to accept the 360 horsepower engine.
The 330 TRI/LM was ready for LeMans, and expectations for Ferrari were high, as few other teams were fielding worthy competitors. Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien secured Ferrari's sixth LeMans victory that year. This would be the final major victory for the TR cars at LeMans. More importantly, it was the last time a front-engined layout would win the coveted victory.
The TR series biggest competition came in 1959, as mechanical difficulties hindered the cars potential and often forfeited the victory to other marques. Of the 19 championship races in which the 250 TR was entered, they scored a victory nearly 50% of the time.
There were a total of 34 examples constructed between 1958 and 1961. The TR59s were the first Ferrari's to be fitted with disc brakes.By Daniel Vaughan | May 2009