I don’t feel that the 612 ever reached its full potential. There was a lot left in it but the project always had a low priority at the factory and our results reflected that. Ferrari never really appreciated how competitive CanAm was. The car wasn’t finished until the middle of 1968, there were engine problems with the 6.3-litre V12 and we didn’t arrive until the last round of the series at Las Vegas. Our race lasted all of 100 yards before Jim Hall went off and I ended up in the desert with the throttles full of sand.
The original car had big air brakes on the tail like the Mercedes at Le Mans. When you pressed the brake pedal the big flaps came up but the only result was a huge amount of vibration. In retardation terms they weren’t a great help. For 1969 I ran the CanAm team with Bill Gavin looking after the logistical side and Roger Bailey in charge of the car. The car had been modified at the factory and the air brakes were removed. We fitted a suspension-mounted rear wing in the States which improved the handling. It was something Enzo would never do because he thought it wasn’t safe and I suppose that history proved him right.
Given the fact that it was a 6.3-litre 4-valve V12 one would have expected it to smoke off and leave the Chevy-powered can in the background but in fact it couldn’t foot it in a straight line with the McLarens, which at that stage still had 7-litre Chevvies.
I used to say that I was the only one going fast enough for the McLarens to slow down and have a bit of a play with. It was almost on the pace but not quite. At one or two races I almost stayed with the McLarens but it was a matter of only being able to stick with them rather than having any chance of getting past.
A 6.9-litre engine arrived in mid-season but we had been having continual oil problems which were eventually traced to a problem in new-type oil coolInstead of helping matters, the new coolers were causing a restriction in the oil flow and starving the engine of oil. So that stuffed the back end of the season and the only two 6.9 engines.
There was probably a lot more in it than was ever extracted. After I had run out of engines during qualifying at Laguna Seca, Bruce loaned me his spare McLaren. I hadn’t practiced in it, just started off the back of the grid. It felt as though it had more power but I’d have to say that the Ferrari was a better handling car. As in Formula 1, we had one of the’ best chassis but the engine was never quite on the pace. It was the story of my life at Ferrari, really…