Ferrari 246 Dino: Front runner

The final front-engined Ferrari won one world championship for Mike Hawthorn and nearly another for Tony Brooks. Mark Hughes reflects on that near miss

Tony Brooks in Ferrari 246 Dino

GP Photo

Ferrari’s F1 Finest

5th, 246 Dino

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The Dino was defiantly front-engined: carburettors gasping for breath from a hole within a long, mean bonnet, fronted by an ostentatiously yawning mouth, a car bored by talk of mid-engined superiority. Short, snub tail. Engine explicitly and implicitly up front, pulling the cart as Enzo had put it, most definitely not pushing. As such, the car that had taken Mike Hawthorn to the previous year’s title went into 1959 very much against the odds, a proud warrior of a previous generation. In Tony Brooks’ sensitive hands it damn near won it again.

“Ferrari didn’t attend the British Grand Prix because of a strike and we had finished 1-2 at Aintree [in the 200-mile non-points event] just a few weeks earlier,” says Brooks. No matter, with 60bhp in hand over the Coopers, the Dino was still going to be top dog at Avus, Spa and Monza. “Then, shock horror, they cancelled Spa. As well as being a Ferrari circuit, it was one at which I had won three times in my previous three races there. I loved the place.”

Brooks duly won at Avus, just as he’d done at Reims. He’d had to concede defeat on the tighter confines of Monaco – where he was a heroic second, his hands raw because of clutchless gearchanges – Zandvoort and Monsanto Park. But now came Monza. “That lasted just a few hundred yards because they hadn’t bedded in the clutch.”

Even without being rammed by a teammate at the start of the finale in Sebring, forcing a time-costing pitstop for damage inspection, it was going to be a long shot. “We’d lost it before then,” he says, still rueful 43 years on.

“I first drove the Dino at Modena,” recalls Brooks. “It was a tight little circuit but I could feel immediately that the car was very well balanced and I was going to enjoy my year. It was so much easier to drive than the Vanwall [Brooks’ mount in 1957-58], which did not like being put into a drift. The Dino you could really drift; it had a hot-knife through-butter gearshift and that V6 engine would rev and rev. It gave me more pleasure and satisfaction than any other car I drove before or after. The only problem was that it was a year too late; the Cooper was a smaller, nimbler and easier car.”

Ferrari 246 Dino illustration

Brooks – who’d only joined Ferrari because there was no alternative British drive following Vanwall’s late-notice withdrawal – stayed just one year at Maranello. Had circumstances been kinder, he’d have been the obvious shoo-in for the 1961 title there. “There was a temptation to stay, because even in ’59, the Ferrari 1.5-litre F2 cars were winning on a regular basis and the British constructors were arguing to retain the 2.5-litre formula. I was quite convinced a Ferrari driver would be world champion in 1961 after a difficult ’60. In racing terms I should’ve stayed put. But I’d just bought a filling station in Guildford and had to be there to run it.

“How would I rate it against the 2002 car? About 70%, maybe. It was very reliable, like today’s, but it wasn’t the best car. We were competing against a new generation.”


Ferrari 246 Dino statistics, 1958-60

• Grands prix entered 23
• Wins 5
• Additional podiums 23
• Pole positions 6
• Fastest laps 6
• Laps led 430

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