Swiss precision at the Scuderia
Former driver Peter Schetty oversaw a glorious period for Ferrari in sports cars with its dominant 312PB
The 1972 sports-prototype season is recalled as a classic for Ferrari. Its works team of 3-litre, flat12-engined 312PB cars just trampled roughshod over all opposition to monopolise the World Championship. In contrast, Maranello’s Formula 1 team veered temperamentally between vulnerable and victorious. The new team manager, freshly retired Swiss driver Peter Schetty, welded the Scuderia into a weapon even more formidable than John Wyer’s formerly dominant Gulf-JW organisation. Schetty’s team was certainly more successful in 1972 than the Gulf-Fords or Porsches had ever been. The opposition might not have been as fierce, but Ferrari’s preparation and direction gave its truly formidable driver team just the tools they wanted to do the job.
Schetty himself was a 30-year-old doctor of economics and social sciences, born in Basle. He was fluent in four languages and his final race for Ferrari had been at Watkins Glen in 1970 where he finished fifth with Jacky Ickx, whereupon Mr Ferrari offered him the post of team manager. Peter told me: “At that time I wasn’t ready to retire, but I thought about it and accepted. I didn’t have the right character to be one of the best drivers. While the stars would be braking at the 100-metre board, I’d be braking two metres before it, to give myself a margin of safety. That way I was never going to be one of the best…”
His sports car team direction paid off with a record 12 wins from 12 races. The 312PBs’ season began at Buenos Aires — where the prototype car had been destroyed in Ignazio Giunti’s fatal accident the year before. This time Ferrari finished 1-2, with Ronnie Peterson/Tim Schenken heading Clay Regazzoni/Brian Redman. At Daytona, Mario Andretti and Ickx drove the winning car — and again at Sebring, Brands Hatch and Watkins Glen. Jacky codrove with Regga to win at Monza — in pouring rain — and with Brian at the Osterreichring. The Lancastrian won at Spa with Merzario, and ‘Little Art’ won the Targa Florio with rally star Sandro Munari, then took both the nonchampionship races at Imola and — with Regazzoni — the Kyalami 9 Hours.
Peterson was challenging Jackie Stewart as being the standard-setter of the period, and he really enjoyed racing the Ferrari sportsprototypes. He had won the previous year’s Watkins Glen Six Hours co-driving an Autodelta Alfa Romeo T33 with Andrea de Adamich. He thought that was a nice car — “good and strong” he said — but he rejected an Alfa offer for 1972 in favour of Ferrari simply because, “I looked at what Ickx and Regazzoni had been doing with their 312 against the 5-litre Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s and thought that looked great. I never expected the Ferrari to be as reliable as the Alfa Romeo — just a helluva lot more fun!”
Which tells you all you need to know about the late, great Super Swede.
Setting the record straight for Revson
There’s been some fuss going on in the American world of ‘vintage’ Can-Am cars. Jennifer Revson deeply concerned and very protective sister of the late Peter Revson has been genuinely offended by one Scoff Hughes claiming that his McLaren M8F is the actual car in which Peter won the 1971 CanAm Championship which it is not. Numerous old hands who know a bit about the big championshipdominating McLarens of 1967-71 including a bunch of veteran mechanics (and yours truly) have rather got out of our prams to dismiss these claims.
In fact, Peter’s title-winning car passed through various hands, and vicissitudes, before being acquired by car wash magnate Dan Hanna. He narrowly survived a huge accident in the car which virtually demolished it. St Louis dealer Chuck Haines bought the wreck and rebuilt it in keeping with works Team McLaren practise which differed in important detail from the Trojan-built customer Can-Am McLarens. The rebuilt car then passed to Peter Kaus’s lamented Rosso Bianco Collection in Germany, and is now in Evert Louwman’s fabulous Dutch motor museum, in The Hague. Importantly, it lives there alongside all that remains of Revvie’s original 1971 chassis that was left unusable after Hanna’s crash.
Seffing the record straight has involved wide discussion of such arcane details as works rivet type and spacing where it differed from Trojan customertub production, differences in suspension pick-up materials, gearchange bracket design, squaredoff or tapered sill tank bays, even monocoque skin thicknesses. Problem is that once those who know have declared their hand, then every darned faker in the business discovers how ‘a works car’ should be replicated.
So for some of us, divulging such minutiae becomes a real dilemma. Do you publish and be damned, as I guess I am conditioned to do, or keep schtum and act superior while delivering judgement from among this ‘brotherhood’ of the well-informed?
In an old-car world in which FIA Technical Passport rules actually seem to encourage owners of iffy ‘old’ cars to adopt the finest go-faster mods which in period only ever appeared on very few individual chassis, many problems lie ahead.
Real racing cars have always been individuals, with their own characteristic features and peculiarities. Now, quite apart from optimistic owners sometimes juiced-up by the ambitious claims of less-than-scrupulous sellers bureaucracy is actually encouraging falsification. I don’t see why we should either like it or let the miscreants get away with it. And most of them know who they are…
Fangio licenced to drive in the Falkland Islands
Thanks to an unusual chain of circumstances I found myself spending 20 hours on a Ministry of Defence flight recently, via Ascension Island, to the Falklands. If the Falkland Islands as recovered from occupation in the conflict of 1982 is not an unusual place for a motor racing scribbler to find himself, then Ascension Island certainly is. Today’s MoD air bridge is operated in an effective and friendly manner by Air Seychelles because we were told it is particularly good at finding remote islands. Ascension, with nothing but a thousand miles or so of clear blue ocean in every direction, certainly ticks the ‘remote’ box.
Flights touch down there on an uphill runway which humpbacks between two abrupt volcanic hills. As the Boeing 767 decelerated over the brow it’s quite a startling sight to see the russet rock faces of a virtual railway cuffing zipping past each wingtip. Then it’s turn around and backtrack to what passes for a terminal, with three crash wagons in affendance representing the UK, US and local island authorities. We’re ushered out into ‘The Cage’ open-air compound while the big silver bird is replenished, then we’re off for another sausage-and-bacon panini leg to Mount Pleasant, East Falkland. Over the next few days we’re doing military/naturalist/specialist things over hill and dale, larking about in 110-inch Land Rovers and naffering to people on ships and sharp, pointy liffle aeroplanes.
In the midst of all this I regale my travelling companion with the strange tale of Juan Manuel Fangio, five-times World Champion, and his driving licence. Because, you see, he began driving in his native Argentina before a licence was necessary. He used to tell how he only got a licence for public road driving in 1961, when it was required for a trip to Brazil. Otherwise, throughout all his globetroffing, he only ever used his Automobile Club Argentino sporting licence. It seemed to be accepted everywhere.
But in April 1980, travelling with the then-chairman of the ACA, Dr Cesar C Carman, and his long-time protégé and ex-racing driver Juan Manuel Bordeu, The Old Man visited Port Stanley in the Falklands. He was well received at a time of relative rapprochement between Argentina and the UK and he was issued with a Falkland Islands driving licence, No 1644. I wanted to check the local records to see if I could confirm the great man’s story, and we hesitated outside the Stanley police station (trim and smartly painted today after taking a missile strike in ’82…) but I wasn’t allowed to. “I don’t think that’s making great use of our time,” I was firmly told. So I didn’t. But Fangio had a Falklands driving licence. Yet again, more detail than you ever wished to know?