If the future for front-engined cars in Grand Prix racing was bleak at the beginning of the 1960s, then the writing was firmly on the wall for sportscars as well. Undoubtedly the dominant force in the Sportscar World Championship for an entire decade, Enzo Ferrari had ensured his competitiveness by constant development and evolution and, every now and then, a rather liberal interpretation of the rules.
Throughout the late 1950s the marque had enjoyed considerable success with its sleek and swift Testa Rossas and, although the pace of change soon brought cars such as the 250 GTO and mid-engined 246SP to the fore, in 1961 the big V12 ‘redheads’ enjoyed an illustrious swansong.
While Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Giancarlo Baghetti were dominating the Grand Prix season with the new petite Sharknose, Ferrari’s stable of drivers – also boasting the likes of Olivier Gendebien, Willy Mairesse, Richie Ginther and the Rodriguez brothers – brought a sixth world championship back to Maranello by winning three of that year’s five rounds including the Testa Rossa’s third Le Man victory in four seasons.
For 1961 the 3-litre cars were reskinned with new bodies after coachbuilder Fantuzzi had given further consideration to the original car’s lithe but far from aerodynamic shape. The result was arguably a less pleasing form but the manner in which the works cars dominated the 24 Hour race at La Sarthe – setting new distance and speed records – indicates Ferrari’s newfound willingness to adopt more modern technologies.
The car pictured below, like the Type 156 in the main story, was built for the purposes of Chris Rea’s film set in that 1961 season. Unlike the Sharknose however the 250TR was not created from scratch; rather it was rebuilt from the 330GT which the singer used to race.
Gloriously rebodied and upholstered, the car’s ‘oversized’ four-litre engine growls with serious intent as it sits moodily in the paddock.After driving the tiny GP car, the 250TR’s vast cabin area could be no greater constrast; the leg room expansive and the distance from hand to gearshift almost too far.
Select a rather grabby first gear and the first hint of a problem becomes apparent. A slipping clutch that becomes progressively worse means that out on the track the Ferrari is simply unable to use its throttle to the full; and yet even with that handicap the qualities of this rather benign tourer are obvious. Heavy but far from laborious, its abilities as an endurance racer would have been greatly appreciated by those who had to race it. Three Le Mans wins are testament to that.