Great racing cars: 1971-73 Ferrari 312PB



A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Carswhich is available to buy here.

To buy the lead image click here.

From the editor Damien Smith

How would you define a ‘great’ racing car? Race wins and championship titles are an obvious place to start – and admittedly, when we began the process of rounding up the ‘voices’ to fill this special magazine, published by the team behind Motor Sport, we had in mind the likes of the Lotus 72, Ferrari F2004, Porsche 917, Audi R10 and so on.

But as the interviews of familiar racing figures began, we realised greatness is often a very personal thing. Naturally, most – but not all – would pick cars they had experienced first-hand, as a driver, designer, engineer or team boss. And on occasion the cars that stood out in their minds as ‘great’ weren’t necessarily so in the grand scheme of history. That’s why you’ll find a Minardi here among Formula 1 cars from Lotus, Williams and McLaren.

Unexpected? Certainly. Wrong? Not to the man who chose it.

As the interviews accumulated, our magazine took on a life of its own, full of personal anecdotes about the myriad cars that made careers. Some of those we spoke to, such as Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, couldn’t be tied to a single choice from multi-faceted lives at the wheel. Such heroes have earned the right to choose an F1, sports and Indycar, so we allowed them more than one bite.

Others refused to be confined by category. Hence the short ‘Odd ’n Sods’ chapter on cars that, by and large, are mere footnotes in lower divisions of racing lore.

Thus there is nothing definitive about the selection listed herein. Then again, there’s no claim that this compilation offers the ‘Greatest Racing Cars’ of history. It’s much more personal than that, much more quirky – and all the better for it.

1971-73 Ferrari 312PB

Brian Redman
All-round ace in sports cars and single-seaters

Of course, the 312PB Ferrari sports car was stunning. We won every race we ran in 1972 with that car, except Le Mans where we didn’t go. That was a Grand Prix car with bodywork and it was superb. It handled beautifully and the gearbox was the best you could ever find. You just couldn’t make a mistake with it. You’d push the lever
as fast as you could and it went into gear straight away.

Mario Andretti
1978 F1 world champion, 1969 Indy 500 winner… one of racing’s great all-rounders

I loved the 312PB I raced with Jacky Ickx in 1971 and ’72. You could throw it around like a Formula 1 car. It was small and nimble and we won a bunch of races in that car.

I have great memories of driving it.

We finished second in a nine-hour race at Kyalami in 1971 after losing lots of time. I was on pole and led the first hour, but then the fuel pump broke. By the time we got the car back to the pits and had it fixed we were 23 laps down but still we came back to finish second. We made up I don’t know how many laps. Jacky and I were going ten-tenths all the way.

We had more fun than if we had led all the way. There were a few hours of rain, which really helped us, and after the race every corner on the car was bent because we leaned on so many cars as we lapped them…

A boxer with plenty of punch
Profile of the beautiful Ferrari 312PB

The compact, pretty and punchy 312PB, the twinkle in designer Mauro Forghieri’s eye, had begun its birth pangs. An increase in minimum weight for prototypes to 650kg made Porsche’s 908 an uncompetitive prospect for the 3-litre era, as it relied on light weight rather than high power for its speed, and rather than develop a new engine, Porsche announced it would withdraw from prototype racing after 1971. That confirmed Ferrari’s resolve, and Forghieri took the bold decision to develop the new car by running it throughout 1971 against the 917; meanwhile the brutal 512 would receive no more works development, but in its last valid year would be left to the privateers.

Essential info: Ferrari 312PB

Entrant: Scuderia Ferrari
Notable drivers: Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti, Clay Regazzoni, Arturo Merzario, Ronnie Peterson, Sandro Munari, Brian Redman, Tim Schenken, Carlos Reutemann, Carlos Pace, Ignazio Giunti
Debut: 1971 Buenos Aires 1000kms
Achievements: 12 wins, 14 poles
Constructors’ Championships: 1 (1972)

Unlike Porsche, Forghieri already had a strong 3-litre engine, the new flat-12, introduced in F1 in 1970. Theoretically you can’t run an F1 engine in a sports car, at least not without detuning it substantially. But Ferrari’s unique set-up, the recent injection of cash from Fiat’s partial buyout and the Old Man’s drive for success in all spheres allowed it to spend whatever time and money were necessary to turn its F1 engine into an enduro unit. Forghieri’s central aim in flattening the iconic vee to a boxer flat-12 was to lower the centre of gravity and offer clean airflow to the F1 car’s rear wing. With its four chain-driven overhead camshafts, the 48-valve unit was relatively wide but short, aided by using only four main bearings, which also reduced friction. By the time it went into the sports car the engine had upgraded to a bigger bore, shorter stroke spec.

Ferrari’s 312PB fought the sports car championship for three seasons, and dominated it for one glorious year before Matra stole its crown.

Taken from the November 2006 issue of Motor Sport. To read more click here.

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