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  Ferrari 712 Can-Am

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Click here to open the Ferrari 712 Can-Am gallery   
Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1970 - 1972
Numbers built:1
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 25, 2005
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Click here to download printer friendly versionTransformation is a key word in the racing history of Ferrari s/n 1010, which started life as a 512 S in 1970.It began as a factory car and made appearances on various tracks, but did not race at Le Mans. In the summer of 1970 the first transformation was executed and the 1010 returned to the track as the first Ferrari 512 M, which featured a more powerful engine and completely revised bodywork. At its debut in the Zeltweg 1000km race it proved to be in a league of its own, easily outpacing the Porsche 917s, but was forced to retire with a broken alternator, giving up a two lap lead. A month later the disappointing result was rectified and 1010 scored the second of only two major victories for the 512 S/M model.

Ferrari abandoned the 512 program to concentrate on the new 312 P(B), but the successful 512 M 1010 was not sold off to a customer. Over the winter most of the 512 S customer cars received the modifications first seen in Zeltweg. Somewhere in the 1971 season, 1010 received a much larger engine, but there is uncertainty if this happened before or after the Interseries races in May at Monza, which it dominated. Two months later the 7 litre engine was definitely installed, as part of the cars second transformation. In that process of change, the coupe bodywork was completely removed and replaced by a 312 PB style barchetta body. The complete driveline and suspension were beefed up to handle the extra power of the 7 litre engine.

Why were these substantial modifications carried through? Well, Ferrari wanted a piece of the very lucrative Can-Am pie; the no limits racing series, which was highly popular in North America. For Ferrari this always was an elusive championship, because they simply had no engine large enough to take on the Chevrolet big blocks dominating the series. A number of half hearted attempts were made to take on the dominating McLarens, of which the 612 of 1969 had the most potential, but lack of proper development and funding let down the project. In its 512 S guise, 1010 had already made an appearance in the Watkins Glen round of the 1970 Championship. It returned a year later, but now as the Ferrari 712 Can-Am.

One of the main reasons the Can-Am program had little priority was Enzo Ferrari's policy of carrying over racing technology to his road cars; there was no road going Ferrari requiring a behemoth engine. This was also the reason why Ferrari stuck with the four litre engine in the 330 P4, despite the considerable disadvantage against the big block Ford GT40s. The exact reasons why Ferrari gave Can-Am another shot are uncertain, but it is safe to say that long Ferrari importer for North America and privateer Luigi Chinetti Sr. had something to do with it. The organizers of the Can-Am challenge were also happy so see more serious competitors from mainland Europe, which could perhaps challenge the ever dominant McLarens.

Can-Am veteran Mario Andretti was entrusted to drive the 712 on its debut. It's roadholding clearly reflected the 712's limited development, but the engine proved to be very potent. With a few aerodynamic modifications, Andretti managed to qualify fifth, just ahead of another European new comer; the Porsche 917/10. In an eventful race Andretti lost his rear wing, spun once, but still managed to finish fourth. Despite this promising debut, Ferrari once again retired 1010, which would have required a lot of resources to fully develop. Almost a year later Ferrari finally sold the barely used 712, unsurprisingly to Luigi Chinetti, who prepared the car for its third attempt at Watkins Glen.

Driven by the young French driver Jean Pierre Jarier, the 712 made two appearances in 1972 for Chinetti's NART (North American Racing Team) team. A development driver for March, Jarier suggested various changes to the aerodynamics to improve the handling. Despite these changes there was no stopping the Porsches, which had been continuously developed since their 1971 Watkins Glen debut. Jarier finished tenth at 'The Glen' and fourth at Road America a month later. The huge twelve cylinder engine again lay dormant for a considerable time, before it made its final competitive appearance in 1974, again at Watkins Glen. Despite never having driven the 712 Brian Redman raced it from the back of the grid to a second place, before he retired with a failed suspension arm.

After a dozen of races stretching over five seasons, Ferrari s/n 1010 was finally retired. The success of the 312PB in the World Sportscar Championship proved Ferrari was right in abandoning the expensive Can-Am project, but cars like the 712 often makes one wonder 'what if?' Today, 1010 is restored to its works Can-Am configuration of 1971 and was raced for a brief period by David Franklin the European Ferrari Historic Challenge. It fittingly remains as the most successful of the 25 512 racers and also the largest engined Ferrari ever constructed.

Ferrari s/n 1010 is pictured in the first 12 shots at the 2004 Monterey RM Auction, where an offer of $1.4 million failed to meet the reserve set. Late in that same year it did find a new owner, who also is an active historic racer. He wasted no time and entered the unique Ferrari in various events throughout Europe in 2005. It is seen in the second set of pictures at the Monza track, where s/n 1010 dominated the Classic Endurance Racing round, which was part of the Monza 1000 km support program.

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  Article Image gallery (41) Specifications User Comments (1)