Ferrari’s F1 Sports Racer

Ferrari, 312P, Nurburgring, Chris Amon

This is New Zealander Chris Amon braking his Ferrari 312P (0870) for the SüdKehre (South Curve) complex at the end of the pit straight on the original Nürburgring Nordschleife during the 1000 Km. race there on June 1, 1969. The chassis and motor of the 312P were designed at Ferrari by Mauro Forghieri to compete with Porsche’s 908, using some components from Ferrari’s F1 cars and a similar suspension. The 312P used a 3 liter engine similar to that of Ferrari’s 312F1 but had the exhausts exiting outside and below the heads rather than up in the “V” as on the F1 cars. The large air intake just behind Amon’s head fed a plenum for the intake trumpets and the two air inlets inside the front fenders passed through the doors to the oil coolers which were mounted at the outer sides of the firewall. The water radiator, fed by an opening under the nose, had its exit air fed into the front wheel wells which led to front end lift, hence the large front fender spoilers which marred the inherent beauty of Ingenere Giacomo Caliri’s outstanding body design.

Due to the financial and manpower constraints at Ferrari, only three 312Ps were built. One spider (0868), the original 312P, was written off after a crash in April at the Monza 1000 Km. race and the third was still under construction so only the one remaining spider was available for the Nürburgring. Porsche arrived with six 908/2 spiders and a single 917. Nevertheless, the Chris Amon/Pedro Rodriguez 312P qualified second, just one-tenth of a second slower than the eventual winners, the Jo Siffert/Brian Redman 908/2. In the race Amon set fastest lap before electrical problems caused retirement.

Ferrari rarely threw things away. The front of the chassis of the crashed 312P was used for Pininfarina’s 512S design study. The above 312P and the third example (0872, renumbered as 0868 for the race) were entered in berlinetta configuration for Le Mans where 0872 became involved in the first lap fatal crash of John Woolfe’s Porsche 917 and the other, Amon’s car here, retired late in the race. Both 312Ps were thereafter sold to Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team, having interesting and varied histories thereafter.

Photo by Yves Debraine. ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

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