The Ferrari 312P

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The Ferrari 312P, introduced in late 1968 for the 1969 world sports car championship season, was a kind of sports car version of Ferrari’s then 312 Formula 1 car. It was a lovely design, but down on power relative to its primary competition from Porsche.  The Ferrari nomenclature indicates a three-liter motor with 12 cylinders and mounted in a prototype sports car.

This is a Ferrari 312P in the rain at the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours. This Ferrari is running in its second Le Mans. Its first appearance there in June 1969 lasted less than one lap when driver Chris Amon hit debris from John Woolf’s fatal crash in a Porsche 917 at White House corner. And just to make it more complicated for Ferrari historians, the factory had changed the chassis number of this 312P from 0872 to 0868 for its brief 1969 Le Mans appearance. That was not at all unusual – it was much easier to change a car’s chassis number to make it match the entry form than to amend the entry form itself!

After Le Mans, the two remaining Ferrari 312Ps were sold to Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team, the third having been written off after a crash at the Monza 1000km race in late April, with its chassis probably being used for part of a subsequent Pininfarina design study. One NART 312P ran in the 1969 Bridgehampton CanAm, finishing fifth with Pedro Rodriguez driving.

By 1970, the two NART 312Ps were a year older and there’s that old racing saying that nothing is as old as last year’s race car. The NART had run both of their 312Ps at Daytona in January, finishing an excellent fourth and fifth overall. At Sebring 0872 finished sixth for Chuck Parsons and Mike Parkes (Parkes was quite tall and Chinetti’s bodyman Wayne Sparling had modified the car’s roof, as seen above, so Parkes could fit in the car).  The sister car retired at Sebring and thereafter was sold to a French collector.

The remaining NART 312P was driven at Le Mans by Americans Chuck Parsons and Tony Adamowicz. They finished 10th overall on the road but were not classified as a finisher because they did not cover the required distance. In practice they were over 20 seconds per lap slower than the Porsche 917s which would finish first and second and the Ferrari 512S which finished fourth. What a difference a year made…

Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection

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