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  Ferrari 312 T4
 

  Article Image gallery (22) Chassis (2) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1979
Numbers built:5
Predecessor:Ferrari 312 T3
Successor:Ferrari 312 T5
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 06, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBy 1973 Ferrari was no longer able to compete with the Cosworth DFV engined 'kit-cars' from the UK. Its flat 12 engine 312 B proved a winner when first introduced in 1970 with four victories, but in 1973 the Scuderia won not one F1-race. In order to become competitive again Enzo Ferrari made some major personnel changes and pulled the Scuderia out of sports car racing. Mauro Forghieri was reinstated as chief-engineer and set out to completely re-design the flat 12 engine. Appointed as team-manager was Luca de Montezemelo, who has been associated with Ferrari in various functions for over thirty years now. Finally a new driver pairing was signed for 1974; Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni.

Many modifications were carried through in the 312 B3 for 1974. Lauda proved the speed of the modified B3, securing nine pole positions. Poor reliability meant that only two out of the nine poles materialised in victories. Regazzoni scored another victory and was runner up in the championship behind McLaren's Emerson Fittipaldi. Three victories was a major improvement over the 1973 season, but there was more to come from the 'new team'.

At the end of the season, work was started on a new car, main focus was to construct a very compact racer. The new transverse gearbox helped to keep the weight between the front and rear axle and gave the new car its name; 312 T (transversale). Centering the weight makes cornering easier. The gearbox was directly bolted on a 485 bhp version of the flat 12 engine. Although slightly heavier than the DFV engine, the 12 cylinder unit out-powered its British counterpart by at least 20 bhp.

All the improvements made and the talented driver pairing gave Ferrari the best chance in years to win a championship again. However it wasn't until the third Grand Prix that Lauda got his hands on the 312 T, but when he did he proved the pace was there with a pole position, closely followed by his team-mate in the other 312 T. A crash in the first lap ended the hopes for the 312 T's maiden victory. All was well in the next couple of Grands Prix, with Lauda winning four out of the next five races. Regazzoni won the all important Italian Grand Prix at Monza and Lauda grabbed the victory in the final Grand Prix of the year. Lauda secured Ferrari's first driver's title since Surtees' title of 1964 and the Scuderia took the constructor's title as well.

New airbox regulations forced Ferrari to launch a first evolution of the 312 T halfway through the 1976 season. Dubbed the T2, it featured new air intakes on either side of the cockpit. Lauda was on his way to prolong his title in the T2, but a heavy crash on the Nürburgring left him badly burned. In a remarkable short time he returned to the cockpit of his Ferrari, but he could not prevent McLaren's James Hunt to take the title. Lauda and T2 proved to be the winning formula in 1977 winning both the driver's and constructor's championships.

A change to Michelin's new radial tires required the construction of a completely revised chassis for 1978, but because the complete drivetrain was retained it was named 312 T3. At a time where Ferrari focused on matching their chassis to the new tires, Lotus turned the sport upside down with their ground effects cars. Although the T3 could not match the pace of the Lotus 78, its unrelenting reliability record often put their drivers Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve in contention for a victory.

For 1979 Ferrari with help from Fiat and Pininfarina hastily adapted the successful 312 T chassis for ground effects use, even though the relatively wide flat 12 engine did not allow for Venturis as big as the competition's. The sport was now revolutionized at a very rapid pace with Renault entering Formula 1 with their Turbocharged V6 engines. Gilles Villeneuve was joined this year by Jody Scheckter to prolong the success of Forghieri's engine for more season.

Although not as fast on the straights as the Renaults or as fast through the corners as the purpose built ground effects racers, the rock solid reliability and grunt of the 312 T4 brought Ferrari yet another driver's and constructor's world championship. Scheckter beat Villeneuve by four points, but the latter stole the show that season; particularly at Dijon where he fought off Rene Arnoux in his Renault in some of the most epic and closely contested laps in the sport's history.

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  Article Image gallery (22) Chassis (2) Specifications