Sold for $2,310,000 at 2014 Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction.
In the world of Formula One is there anything more iconic than the pairing of a Ferrari and Gilles Villeneuve? What about the 312 T3 and Villeneuve? Just about anyone would be hard-pressed to come up with a more emblematic combination of Formula One in the late 1970s.
Villeneuve would be a new face in the Formula One scene having earned a seat driving for McLaren in 1977. However, it wouldn't take very long before this Canadian would endear himself to racing fans around the world and one particularly important il Grande Vecchio based in Maranello.
By the end of the '77 season, Villeneuve would be a driver for Scuderia Ferrari and a World Champion in the making, at least in the eyes of just about everyone in and around Formula One. Famed for his no-holds-barred style of racing, Villeneuve was of the mold Enzo liked. He got on with his job and wasn't afraid to go wheel-to-wheel with the best in order to succeed.
Coming to Ferrari, Villeneuve was expected to perform. There was no breaking-in period. Ferrari demanded results. Many believed Gilles was more than capable. He merely needed a car that was as capable.
Ferrari was already producing a competitive car. The scuderia would debut its 312T back in 1975. Powered by a 3-liter flat-12, the 312T, and the 312T2 that would follow, would be highly successful. Mauro Forghieri and the crew in Maranello would look to evolve the 312, and therefore, produce yet another successful campaigner. The company would, therefore, give birth to the 312T3.
Over the course of the 1978 season, the T3 would be, easily, the best car up and down the paddock. However, this would be fact were it not for the presence of Colin Chapman's revolutionary Lotus 79. With refinements to the wedged-shaped body and the 500hp flat-12, the T3 was a powerful and worthy adversary to the Lotus. And, in the hands of drivers like Villeneuve, it would prove more than enough for Chapman's trickery.
In total, just five 312T3 chassis would be built. Nearly each one of them would achieve success on the track. Chassis 033, which would be the second chassis built, would be driven by both Carlos Reutemann and Villeneuve over the course of the '78 season.
Although its first outing would result in a crash and a small fire, the car would go on to a 3rd place at the Belgian Grand Prix. At the British Grand Prix, just a few weeks later, Reutemann would battle with Niki Lauda in a great fight and would eventually take 033 to victory. It was official, chassis 033 was a race winner and one of the special examples within Ferrari's hallowed walls of racing history. But it would get better. Villeneuve would make his mark by taking this car to victory in the Race of Champions. And, if that victory, in this car, didn't already establish the Villeneuve legend then the victory in the Canadian Grand Prix at the end of the season was certain to raise the Canadian to mythical status overnight.
Following its period of competitive racing, 033 would be sold by the factory in 1981and would end up as part of Fabrizio Violanti's Collezione Maranello Rosso occupying a place of great pride within the collection. Not surprisingly, Violanti would drive the T3 at the Ferrari 40th Anniversary celebration event held at Imola. Perhaps a little too excited about the opportunity, Violanti would bend the front suspension on the car as he touched a concrete barrier during the event. The damage would be quickly fixed and the car returned to its place within the collection.
Now, in 2014, following Violanti's death, 033 has come available for purchase. A car that really could not be any more iconic or impressive in its own right is simply a remarkable specimen within the lineage that is Scuderia Ferrari as soon as it becomes connected with Gilles Villeneuve. It is, they are together, Scuderia Ferrari of the late 1970s.
By Jeremy McMullen
Offered for sale as part of Bonhams' Quail Lodge auction in 2014, the 1978 Ferrari 312T3 Formula One single-seater, chassis 033, would sell for $2,310,000.
In 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.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
During 1980, six examples of the 515 horsepower 312 T5 were created.