Image credits: © Ferrari.
1972 Ferrari 312 PB
ace cars are typically competitive for only a single season; sometimes they can last longer than that but most of the time they are outpaced the following year or become obsolete due to changes in racing regulations. This was true for Ferrari's sports prototypes at the end of the 1967 season, which were unqualified to race in 1968 due to new rules imposed by the FIA (Federation International d'Automobile). Ferrari turned their attention to Formula One but had little success during the 1969 season. Disappointed, the team re-focused their sights on prototype racing to contest the 3-liter prototype category. Their F1 cars had a similar displacement which meant they had experience and thus, the logical choice.
For the 1969 season, Ferrari introduced their 312 P with a 48-valve engine similar to their F1 cars. It made its competition debut at the Sebring 12 Hours where it was piloted by Amon and Mario Andretti. It qualified on pole and ended the race in second overall and first in class. This would be the vehicle's best performance, as reliability issues would plague it during its short lifespan. It was used on half of the season, and later replaced by a five-liter 512 S. The 512S proved to have the speed necessary to win, but it lacked the reliability to be an outright contender.
Once again, Ferrari switched canceled the project before it had time to fully mature and focused their efforts on a new racer. The remaining 512S were sold to privateers. The new car was a three-liter prototype utilizing the newly developed V12 engine designed by Mauro Forghieri. It had a 180-degree angle which gave an exterior design similar to that of a boxer engine. In reality, it was a very flat V-engine meaning the pistons move in unison rather than in opposition to one another.
The racing debut of the engine was made in a 312 B Formula 1 racer. The 'B' represented the Forghieri V12 engine, though it was not a boxer engine. The Ferrari 312 P of 1971 through 1973, later known as the 312PB, was powered by the Forghieri engine which rested in an aluminum semi-monocoque, similar to the F1 car. In other words, it was basically a full body Formula One car. It had a five-speed gearbox, vented disc brakes, and weighed around 660 kilograms. The 460 horsepower engine was mounted mid-ship and sent power to the rear wheels.
The 312PB made its inaugural debut at the Brands Hatch 1000km race in April of 1971. The car was immediately competitive and proved its potential by finishing second behind an Alfa Romeo 33/3. This would be one of the few highlights for the car during the 1971 season.
For 1972, things shifted in Ferrari's favor, as FIA rule changes abandoned the 5-liter sports car class. Only the 3-liter prototypes were able to run in the World Sports Car Championship. During the 1971 season, and during the offseason, the car was continually modified and its shortcomings were identified and fixed. Horsepower was increased from an initial 450 to 460. Experimentations and testing were done with aerodynamics resulting in a very refined racer. Next, Ferrari worked on the cockpit, specifically the driver's selection. They hired the best and most talented drivers such as Brian Redman, Arthuro Merzario, Jacky Ickx, Tim Schenken, Mario Andretti and Ronny Peterson to help guarantee another manufacture's championship.
The testing, tuning, planning, and acquired talent paid off almost immediately. The opening race of the championship was at the Buenos Aires 1000km race and the 312PB driven by Schenken and Peterson emerged in first place. This was the 312PB's first World Championship victory which was soon followed by many others, as Ferrari won all championship races that season, except for the 24 Hours of LeMans. The reason it did not win LeMans that year, is because it was not entered. The team felt its talents were best suited for 1000km races and not an endurance racer capable of competing a full 24 hours. Ferrari would end the season with 160 points and the Manufacturers Championship Title.
The 1972 season had been a phenomenal year for Ferrari. The 312 PB had been very reliable and very fast. For 1973, the car's wheelbase was slightly enlarged and the engine was tuned for an additional 15 horsepower. Sadly, the 312 PB took only one victory in 1973, and that was at the 1000km of Monza in April. Reliability issues and increasing competition kept the 312PB from having another dominant season. When the 1973 season came to a close, Ferrari withdrew from sports car racing.By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008
n 1973 Ferrari did not win a single F1 race. The flat-12 312 B engine introduced in 1970 had done well during the early parts of its career, racking up numerous victories, but as time progressed, the competition became fierce. Ferrari was being outpaced by other firms such as Cosworth and McLaren and was quickly relinquishing its strong-hold on Formula One racing. Something needed to be done. A new engine, new car, new driver, and new personnel were all considered. Enzo Ferrari began by giving the chief engineering job to Mauro Forghieri. Forghieri immediately began redesigning the engine. Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni were signed as drivers. During the 1974 season, Regazzoni was runner-up behind McLaren's James Hunt in the championship.
The 1974 season proved to be a vast improvement over the prior year but still far away from where Enzo wanted it to be. The 312 B3 captured nine pole positions, with only two turning into overall victories. In total, Ferrari was able to score three victories during the 1974. The problem with the 312 B3 was its reliability. By the close of the 1974 season, production had begun on a new car.
More power, less weight and better performance were the goals of the new racer. The flat-12 engine was modified to 485 horsepower, far out-powering its competition. A new transverse gearbox was directly bolted onto the engine in an effort to amplify weight distribution. The name 312 T was derived from the use of new the transverse gearbox. The 312 T was completed, tested, and ready to be raced part-way through the 1975 season. At its first race it easily secured a pole position but failed to finish after it crashed in the first lap. Of the next five races, the 312 T finished first in four of them, securing the constructors and drivers title for Ferrari. Lauda had proven his driving skills and the worth of the 312 T.
During 1957 and 1976, seven 312 T's were created. Variants of the 312 T followed, due to regulation changes and ever improving competition.
In 1976 a new car, the 312 T2, was introduced. The Spanish Grand Prix had made the prior version obsolete. Ferrari and Lauda were positioned for another successful season. A terrible accident left Lauda on the side lines. Luckily he had not been killed. The crash had occurred in one of the left-bend turns when the rear wishbone broke after coming in contact with a curb. The car was thrown off the track, breaking through a couple of fences and coming to a rest next to a rock. The vehicle was on fire. Two other race-cars crashed into the Ferrari. Lunger had lost his helmet on one of the fences and sat trapped in the cockpit of the blazing Ferrari. It was nearly a minute before he was rescued and pulled from the vehicle. He had inhaled a dangerous amount of smoke and gases seriously injuring his lungs. He suffered burns on his face and hands. It took nearly a week in the hospital before he was able to travel back to his home in Austria. He underwent rehabilitation and began working with fitness experts. After 42 days absent from Grand Prix racing, he returned with a fourth-place finish at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The win kept him in the lead for the world championship. His wounds were not completely heald and were causing problems with his vision. His eye-lids had been badly burned and were not 100%. So during the Japanese Grand Prix, under very heavy rain, Lauda resigned from the race after completing only a couple of laps and forfeiting the world championship.
Lauda came back strong in 1977 with the Ferrari 312 T2, seeking redemption to the 1976 season that had cost him the world championship by just one point. With three overall victories and six second place finish, he easily won the driver's and constructor's championship.
For the 1978 season, Lauda switched teams and join Alfa Romeo. Gilles Villeneuve from Canada became the new driver for Ferrari.
A new chassis was created retaining its old drivetrain and dubbed the 312 T3. In total, five examples were created using the Type 015 12-cylinder engine and producing over 500 horsepower. The 580 kg car was poised for victory. However, strong competition from Lotus with their ground effects cars and piloted by Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson meant that Ferrari's Reutemann would finish third in points.
Formula one was changing dramatically. The competition was fierce and the technology was advancing. Renault entered the scene with V6 engines that were turbocharged. These racers were very fast on the straight-stretches. The Lotus cars were fast through the corners. Ferrari found help from Pininfarina and Fiat who attached ground effect technology to the 312 T chassis. The result was the 312 T4. The 312 T4 proved to be very reliable and fast, scoring Ferrari another Driver and Constructor's world championship.
In 1980, the 312 T5 was created after minor modifications to the 312 T4 were made. The Ferrari domination of Formula 1 again slipped away. Only a few points were scored and the team ended the season eighth in the constructor's championship.
During 1980, six examples of the 515 horsepower 312 T5 were created.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
Chassis Num: 0892
The 312 PB was loosely based on the 1969 312 P V-12. It was to race in the international manufacturers' championship. Between 1971 and 1973, Ferrari produced eleven 312 PBs and they were ultimately the most successful Ferrari sports racing cars eve....[continue reading]