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  Ferrari 312 P Berlinetta
 

  Article Image gallery (50) 0872 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1969
Numbers built:3
Predecessor:Ferrari 330 P4
Successor:Ferrari 312 PB
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 08, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThroughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s Ferrari was extremely successful with evolutionary sports racing cars. The V12 for example in the 330 P4 Le Mans racer of 1967 was still closely related to very first Ferrari engine designed some two decades earlier. The gradual development had resulted in bullet-proof machines that dominated sports car racing for many seasons. In 1966 the small manufacturer finally lost their Le Mans stronghold to the might of the Ford Motor Company. Despite valiant efforts, the 1967 edition again was a prey for the American manufacturer. Shortly after the race the sport's governing body, the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale (CSI), announced drastic rule changes that rendered Ferrari's cars obsolete for the following season. Enzo Ferrari was furious at the sudden changes and announced that his cars would not compete in the 1968 World Championship. Building a brand new car would take up considerable resources and Ferrari felt it was better spent on the ailing Formula 1 effort. So the team sat out the championship in 1968 for the first time in many, many years.

Following the new CSI regulations, the championship was open for Group 4 and Group 6 racers. Group 4 was open to sports cars with a maximum displacement of five litres and a production minimum of 50 examples. The Group 6 prototype racers that Ferrari and Ford had fielded the previous seasons now had their engines restricted to three litre. Using a much enlarged version of the P4 engine, Ferrari did build a new sports racer in 1968 to campaign in the popular and lucrative Canadian-American Challenge (Can-Am), which was run under the very lenient Group 7 regulations. Dubbed the 612 P, the new Ferrari was not ready until the very last race of the season and the little tested machine failed to make an impression. To attract more teams and manufacturers back into sports car races, the rules were changed once more for 1969, although in detail only. The homologation limit for Group 4 cars was lowered to 25 cars, while the limitations on Group 6 cars like windscreen width and a mandatory spare tire and luggage compartment were all lifted. This opened new opportunities for Ferrari as they could use the 612 P type chassis in combination with the V12 engine and gearbox from the Formula 1 car to create a brand new Group 6 prototype racer.

In good Ferrari tradition, the three litre V12 engine was based on the highly successful sports car engine. Although with its cutting edge twin-cam, four-valves-per-cylinder heads, it was easy to mistake it for a brand new engine. Its sports car roots made the sturdy V12 a bit too heavy for Formula 1, but an ideal unit for endurance racing. Ferrari quoted a figure of 420 bhp for the fuel-injected engine in endurance trim. Mated to a five speed gearbox the engine was bolted to a downsized version of the 612 P semi-monocoque chassis. Used for both the company's sports racers and Formula 1 cars, the so called semi-monocoque used a spaceframe reinforced with aluminium sheets, while a full monocoque was constructed from sheets alone. Completed late in 1968 the first '312 P' was fitted with a cut down, high downforce Spyder bodywork. Although the off-set driving position gave the truth away, Ferrari's new sports racer could easily be mistaken for a Formula 1 car fitted with an all enveloping body. The first 312 P (chassis 0868) was shown to the public in December of 1968 at a press launch at Hotel Fini in Modena.

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  Article Image gallery (50) 0872 Specifications