Reviews, October 1993

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Ferrari 512 S & M, by Christian Huet. Cavalliera, £40.00.

Few bluffs have ever been so comprehensively called as the CSI’s back in 1969. Back then the World Sports-Prototype Championship catered for one-off racing cars with a maximum capacity of three litres, under the Group 6 rules. Group 4 catered for ‘off the shelf’ machines with a maximum capacity of five litres and a production run of at least 50.

Thus did the governing body envisage Porsche, Ferran, Matra et al going to war with two-seat F1 cars, against the likes of ageing Ford GT4Os and Lola T70s powered by Chevrolet’s big V8. One suspects that not in a million years would they ever have embraced the notion that a company might be bold enough to exploit the well-concealed loophole. It took Porsche to jolt them from their com placency, with its outrageous 917, which was far and away faster than anything else although it taxed the bravery and commitment even of drivers of Frank Gardner’s calibre in its initial guise.

The writing on the wall may have been in German, but Ferrari quickly took heed, bolstered by the fact that the CSI had waived the 50-off requirement and reduced it to 25. By the end of the year it followed suit with its own glorious 512S. This splendid car which Roger Penske alone indicated was capable of tackling Porsche on an even basis is the subject of a new book Ferrari 512 S & M Christian Huet, with contemporary photography of chassis number 1014 by Pietro Carrieri and historical illustration courtesy of Motor Sport’s photographic library, LAT.

The result is a superb tome, printed on very high quality art paper. The main photography is in finely reproduced colour, but a neat touch is the double illustration of some key pages with the same shot in colour and monochrome. It exudes quality. Huet tells the story well of the 512S and the derivative 512M, in Italian, English and French text. After the CSI’s sudden and deeply suspicious decision to outlaw the last great sportscars such as the Ford MK1V, Ferrari P4 and Chaparral 2F in 1967, Ferrari ostensibly withdrew to concentrate on F1, yet the first signs of a change of mind were evident in the beautiful 612 CanAm car which appeared at the Stardust GP, the final round in Las Vegas.

Ever unlucky, Chris Amon was put out on the first lap when dust from a first corner accident was thrown into his throttle slides. The following year, the New Zealander and faithful wrench Roger Bailey campaigned a modified version on the CanAm trail, using 6.2- and 6.9-litre V12s. These were the largest displacement engines then built by Ferrari, and provided valuable information in the design of the 512’s powerplant. While Amon, Pedro Rodriguez, David Piper and Peter Schetty campaigned a threelitre V12 312P in the 1969 championship, Ferrari was busy persuading Fiat to back construction of sufficient 512S to satisfy the CSI’s homologation requirements, although to this day it has never fully been determined whether the full number were produced. More likely and appealing is the possibly apocryphal story that the same cars were presented and re-presented to the governing body’s inspectors. . .

Huet unravels the story of the 512S’s initial unhappy struggle for competitiveness against the fully developed 1970 Porsche 917, whose stability at speed had dramatically been enhanced by the substitution of a short, upswept tail. The 512M, which appeared later that year in Austria, was an altogether more pleasing machine, and as Mark Donohue and David Hobbs proved in their outings in the dark blue and yellow Roger Penske/Kirk F White car at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen it was a match for the best JW Gulf Automotive 917s. Sadly the book does not delve deeply into the 1971 season, concentrating more on the birth of the 512S and its first year of competition, but it is nevertheless something that no self-respecting Ferrari enthusiast indeed, sportscar racing enthusiast should feel comfortable without. The photography is outstanding, and evokes memories of halcyon days of sportscar racing and a glamorous machine rendered all the more famous by its starring role in Steve McQueen’s Le Mans film.

Ferrari 512 S & M is published by Cavalleria and costs £40 plus £4 postage and packing. It is available in the UK from Grenville Publishing Company, Standard House, Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4DA (tel 071 628 4741, fax 071 638 8497). D T