The Hotel des Hunaudières stood right alongside the Mulsanne Straight, Ligne Droit des Hunaudières being the French name for that famous long straight section of the Le Mans circuit. Here is a Ferrari 512BBLM passing the hotel and its Restaurant des 24 Heures during the 1981 edition of the Le Mans race.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Ferrari produced about 30 of these 512BBLMs, specially modified 512 Berlinetta Boxers designed for private entrants to run at the Le Mans 24 Hours and other races. The earliest few examples looked similar to the production car but the majority had a special much more streamlined body as seen here.
Nevertheless, being a modified street car, the BBLM suffered from a number of compromises which would never make it truly competitive. It was rather heavy and its engine sat on top of the transaxle which resulted in a higher than desirable center of gravity. Then, as more power was added to the engine, the transaxle was subject to more strain and this led to reliability issues.
However, these BBLMs appeared at Le Mans for a number of years, commencing in 1978 and continuing through 1984. Most retired with mechanical ills but there were occasional finishes in the top ten. One of the best results was in 1981 when the car shown above, a BBLM entered by Chas. Pozzi SA, the French Ferrari importer, finished an excellent fifth overall and winning the IMSA GTX class. This car was driven by Jean-Claude Andruet and Claude Ballot-Léna.
Another entrant, the well-know historic racer from Rome Fabrizio Violati who ran his cars under Scuderia Bellancauto, tried to gain an aerodynamic advantage by further modifying the BBLM bodywork as shown here. However, his experiment never proved particularly successful, its three Le Mans appearances all ending in retirement.
Today, you may still see an occasional 512BBLM appearing from time to time in Ferrari historic races.
Photos by Nigel Snowdon ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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