|Ferrari Dino 246 Tasman|
By raising the Formula 1 displacement limit from 1.5 to 3 litre in 1966 space was created to revive the once popular Formula 2 class. With many of the contemporary Grand Prix manufacturers and drivers interested in entering the new for 1967 European Championship, F2 looked like such a promising prospect that even Ferrari considered making a comeback. The Italian manufacturer had been quite successful in the early 1950s. They eventually lost the edge to the mid-engined Coopers and concentrated solely on F1. Problem was that Ferrari did not have an engine that would meet the F2 homologation requirements, which dictated a production figure of 5000 units in one year. They did have an engine that met all other requirements like a maximum of six cylinders and displacement limit of 1.6 litre; the Dino V6 that had been so successful in Grand Prix and sports car racing.
Ferrari solved the problem by teaming up with Fiat, who were more than happy to build a new coupe and convertible sports car for the Ferrari engine. The fruits of the collaboration were presented at the 1966 Turin Show in the shape of the Bertone styled Fiat Dino Coupe and Pininfarina penned Fiat Dino Spider. These were the most exotic Fiats in decades and used a two litre version of the quad-cam Dino V6 engine. Detuned for street use the all-alloy unit was still good for a hefty 160 bhp. Powered by an engine that could trace its roots back to the 1958 and 1961 F1 World Championship winners and bodied by the two greatest 'carrozzerias', the Fiat Dino was not surprisingly a big hit with the press and public alike. Ferrari had succeeded in homologating the Dino engine and quickly started work on constructing the new Formula 2 car.
While the regulations were very strict on the homologation of the engine block, they set very few limitations to the heads used. So after bringing the displacement back down to the 1600 cc limit, Ferrari's engineers fitted heads with three valves per cylinder, which were also used on the company's latest sports car and F1 engines. At an ear-splitting 10,000 rpm, the Formula 2 spec Dino engine was good for around 200 bhp. The V6 engine was fitted in the 'Aero' type chassis used in the final years of the 1.5-litre F1 era. This featured a semi-monocoque constructed of a tubular spaceframe reinforced by alloy sheets. Like the chassis, the suspension was also very familiar, clearly sourced from the Ferrari parts bin.
Although first shown during the February 1967 Turin racing show, the Dino 166 F2 did not make its racing debut until July of that year. Ferrari's new signing Jonathan Williams faced stiff competition. Both Lotus and Brabham had developed new machines around the new Cosworth FVA engine, which like the Dino V6 was basically half of the company's Formula 1 engine. Lining up to race these machines were some of the most accomplished drivers including Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jack Brabham, who were all world champions. Pole at the Rouen race was set by a very young Jochen Rindt in a Brabham. Williams could do no better than 13th, nearly five seconds behind the Austrian. After only a few laps, engine problems put Williams out of the race.
The high speed Rouen track had revealed the Dino's weakness, which surprisingly was its engine. Compared to the four cylinder Cosworth it was considerably down on power. Ferrari did not enter another Formula 2 race in 1967 and instead spent much time developing and testing the car. Needless to say much of the work was focused on the engine. The single biggest improvement was a new 4-valve per cylinder head. At the start of the 1968 the diminutive engine's output was up to 225 bhp. Alongside the Formula 2 Dino, Ferrari also developed a closely related 'Tasman' version. Built for Works racer Chris Amon to race in the popular off-season series in Australia and his native New Zealand, the car featured a 285 bhp 2.4 litre version of the Dino engine.
Down Under the Tasman Dino faced much of the same opposition. Amon's fiercest challenger was Jim Clark in a Lotus 49T, equipped with a downsized version of the Cosworth DFV engine. At the first of eight rounds, Amon clinched the pole and went on to score the Tasman's maiden victory. He took another victory and two further podiums and finished runner-up. Encouraged by the success of the previous year, Ferrari sent a two car team for the 1969 Tasman Series. Amon was the lead driver, backed up by Derek Bell in the second car. This time round Amon won four races and was crowned champion. The winning machine was sold to local racer Graeme Lawrence, who raced the car to its second Tasman title in 1970 even though he won only one race.
Ferrari's extensive development and testing work had almost bridged the gap with the other Formula 2 manufacturers. For the 1968 season Williams was replaced by the team's Formula 1 drivers Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx. Most meetings consisted of two races with the final result decided on aggregate. Ferrari came close on winning their first round of the European Championship on the Belgian track of Zolder. Rindt had won the first heat ahead of Amon. In the second heat the Austrian made a mistake and dropped down to third behind race leader Ickx and Amon. The team signaled Ickx to let Amon by, but the local driver refused. He won the heat, but Rindt's first and third place finishes were rated higher than Amon's two second places. Later in the season Derek Bell claimed a pole position at Zandvoort and won a heat, but the Ferraris struggled to run a faultless weekend.
The last major Formula 2 race of the season was the Rome Grand Prix held on the Vallelunga track. In their 'home race' Ferrari fielded three machines, for rising stars Tino Brambilla and Andrea de Adamich and the more experienced Derek Bell. Making the most of their local experience and the finally reliable Ferrari, the two Italians finished first and second in both heats. Brambilla had finally scored that elusive first victory for the Formula 2 Dino. Next up for the Dinos and two Italian drivers was the Temporada Formula 2 championship disputed in Argentina in December of 1968. The good form displayed at Vallelunga was carried over and Ferrari won all four rounds. Taking three victories De Adamich was crowned champion. Some (British) media suggested that Ferrari ran larger engines in Argentina, but a quick look at the qualifying results as well as the fastest laps of the races provide little proof for that.
Ferrari's racing successes in the Temporada and Tasman series did not make up for the poor results achieved by the company's sports racers and F1 machines. In 1969 the motorsport department was exceptionally busy developing the brand new 512 S Le Mans racer as well as the flat-12 engined 312 B Formula 1 car. Somewhere near the bottom of the list of priorities was the Formula 2 effort. The cars were not further developed and failed to make an impression in the four races the Works team competed that year. Not surprisingly the end of the Formula 2 program was announced not much later. One car was loaned to Brambilla for the 1970 season, but the support was withdrawn within a few races because of disappointing results.
Ferrari's return to Formula 2 was brief and not particularly successful. Nevertheless the effort yielded some success both Down Under and in Argentina, so it was not a complete failure. In the mid-1970s Ferrari made a brief return as an engine supplier with a two litre version of the V6. Results were again not convincing and the program was ended shortly after. Ferrari's absolute focus on Formula 1 mean that the Formula 2 and Tasman Dinos remained as the very last Ferrari single seaters built for a purpose other than F1. All that changed in 2008 as Ferrari developed the second generation car for the A1GP series.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on October 20, 2008
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