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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1961 - 1963
Numbers built:6 (all engine variants)
Designed by:Gestione Sportiva
Predecessor:Ferrari 196 S Dino Fantuzzi Spyder
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 27, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionCooper's tremendous success in Formula 1 with their mid-engined racer started one of motorsport's biggest and quickest revolutions. It was long accepted that an engine, like a horse, pulled a car and not pushed it, but common sense finally prevailed and from the late 1950s the mid-engine layout was adopted for most single seater and sports prototype racers. Although Enzo Ferrari preferred evolution over revolution for his company's designs, 'the old man' also jumped on the band wagon and constructed two completely new racers. Both of them were equipped with a six cylinder engine mounted between the driver and the rear axle.

Ferrari had already experimented with a mid-engined single seater in 1960, but the 246 SP of 1961 was the very first mid-engined sports racer constructed by the Italian manufacturer. The compact V6 was a logical choice, because more space was needed to fit the engine. With the engine mounted in front of the driver could sit somewhat alongside the engine and the gearbox, which was impossible with the mid-engine setup. The first mid-engined road car, the Lamborghini Miura, used a transverse engine for this exact same reason. The superior weight balance and handling characteristics more than made up for the problems caused by fitting the engine between the driver and the rear axle.

Although the 246 SP was an obvious departure from the previous designs, it was much more a reshuffle of parts than an all new car. The V6 was the similar to unit found in the front engined Formula 1 racers and sports cars. It was equipped in a traditional tubular frame, which was suspended all round by wishbones. Ferrari was also responsible for the elegant spyder bodywork, which featured the now legendary shark nose radiator intake. All in all a very simple design, which proved to be quick straight out of the box with overall victories in the Targa Florio and the Nürburgring 1000 km.

In the following years a number of engine variants were fitted in existing and new cars. Of the two original 246 SPs, the first survived with a 2 litre engine and is now known as a 196 SP, the other served as a test mule for the V12 engined 250 P and has been completely destroyed in an accident. Another four cars were constructed in 1962 and 1963, equipped with a selection of six and eight cylinder engines. Ferrari scored the first ever mid-engined win at Le Mans in 1963 with a 250 P, which was a direct descendent of the 246 SP, further underlining the historical importance of the six cylinder racer.

Although these six mid-engined racers are not as well known as the contemporary V12 engined Ferraris, their development was quintessential to continue Ferrari's stronghold at Le Mans.

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  Article Image gallery (35) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (1)