We are in the rudimentary pits at the Modena Aerautodromo in June 1966. The Aerautodromo was a small airport right next to the city, used primarily by a local flying club, but also used for testing racing cars on its perimeter roads. Occasional races, such as the non-championship Modena Grand Prix, were also held on the circuit. Before Ferrari built its private test circuit at Fiorano, one could often find cars from the Scuderia Ferrari on test here, as well as those from Maserati, smaller Modenese constructors and various private teams.
The rather large white car sitting in front of the pit counter is a year-old Ferrari 365P2 which had been sold when new to Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team. Chinetti is standing next to the car in an open-neck white shirt and suspenders. The Ferrari P2 began with a 330P2 at Daytona in January 1965 with a four liter, four-camshaft motor and became the mainstay for Scuderia Ferrari’s sports car championship challenge that year. Subsequently, several of the P2’s were re-engined with a 4.4 liter two-cam motor, easier to maintain, and were sold off to the various national importers, sometimes with a new body along the lines of the 1966 330P3.
The NART P2 had been delivered for the 1965 Le Mans race with a 4.4 liter motor and had a full season in 1965, commencing with a seventh place at Le Mans and a win at the 12 Hours of Reims. However, it had been damaged in an accident at Sebring in March 1966 while being driven by Mario Andretti due to sudden transaxle failure. The other car involved, a Porsche, then went off into a no-spectator area where some local residents were standing, striking and killing four of them.
After the damage sustained in the Sebring debacle, Chinetti decided to ship his P2 back to Modena for a more streamlined new body. Here it is on test before the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours where it would be driven by Americans Bob Bondurant and Masten Gregory, the latter having won the 24 Hours with a NART Ferrari 250LM the year before, co-driving with Jochen Rindt.
As soon as this 365P2 was seen at Le Mans it gained the nickname of The White Whale due to its long Drogo-built berlinetta body which, being painted white, looked even larger than it already was. It’s second trip to Le Mans would end at quarter distance when the multi-plate clutch, mounted off the back of the transaxle and always a weak point in these cars, had had enough. This well-used race car would return to Le Mans in 1967, but again retired when its driver got it stuck in a sandbank at the Mulsanne corner. Rebodied once again by Drogo, NART then sold its now old P2 to an American who raced it once or twice in the USA. Later, again rebodied back to its 1965 Le Mans shape, this time by Fantuzzi who had made its original body, this Ferrari 365P2 spent many years in an important French collection.
Photo by Peter Coltrin ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com