The flat 12 engine that powered Ferrari to '70s F1 triumph

In the mid to late 1970s Ferrari painted the town red, with world titles for Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter and an incredible 1-2 in ’79. But as Mark Hughes reveals, a major part of that success was the f lat-12 engine, which powered the Scuderia’s 37 wins over 10 seasons

Gilles Villeneuve in 1979 Dutch Grand Prix

Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images

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The best, most successful V12 in F1 history was actually a flat one, Mauro Forghieri’s 180- degree masterpiece for Ferrari, which served the team from the beginning of 1970 to the end of 1980. It was the foundation of the team’s glorious period of success in the mid to late ’70s, powering the Scuderia to Constructors’ titles in 1975, ’76, ’77 and ’79 and making world champions out of Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter. Other legends to have won grands prix with it comprise Jacky Ickx, Clay Regazzoni, Mario Andretti, Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve. Quite a roll call.

Its distinctive blare trailed the triumphant Ickx-Regazzoni 1-2 on its first win in Austria 1970 just as it did its last one, Villeneuve’s wet weather demonstration at Watkins Glen ’79. They bookended 35 other victories. Good power, beautiful torque delivery, eventual rocksolid reliability – and a layout that conferred both a lower centre of gravity and a better airflow to the rear wing than the rival Cosworth DFV V8 cars. This and a weight penalty of just 15kg over the DFV despite four more cylinders, pistons, conrods, greater length, etc, made it a minor miracle of engineering for its time.

“Good power, beautiful torque delivery, eventual reliability”