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  Article Image gallery (27) 127 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1991
Numbers built:4
Internal name:643
Designed by:Steve Nichols
Successor:Ferrari F92 A
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 27, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDuring the 1988 season McLaren's dominance was absolute; the British team could have easily won all sixteen races had Ayrton Senna handled a back-marker a little better during the Italian Grand Prix. Understandably all other teams welcomed the drastic rule changes planned for 1989. Forced induction was banned altogether and naturally aspirated engines had a displacement limit of 3.5 litre.

Realising defeat early in the season, Ferrari set all sights on the new season long before 1988 was over. This was not easy as many key figures had left the team during the year. Among the replacements was designer John Barnard, who had introduced the carbon-fibre to Formula 1 during his stint at McLaren. Engine wizard Jean-Jacques His' place was taken by Claudio Lombardi. He had the important task of designing a brand new engine.

The 3.5 litre displacement gave Ferrari the perfect opportunity to return to the manufacturer's favoured engine configuration; the V12. Lombardi did not take the easy route and created a lightweight 12 cylinder unit with four camshafts and five valves per cylinder. Three valves were used on the intake side. Ferrari officially rated the engine at 600 bhp at a startling 12,500 rpm.

Barnard was far from certain that the new Ferrari engine would be powerful enough to take on the Renault and Honda V10s. To get the edge he had thought of a more efficient way to transfer the power to the wheels that would have a lasting effect. He had created a seven-speed gearbox with an automatic clutch. Paddles behind the steering wheel operated the gearbox and the driver only needed to use the clutch during take-off. The ingenious system drastically reduced shift-times.

The sophisticated drivetrain was bolted to a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis as a fully stressed member. The new Ferrari received a distinct aero package with a narrow nose and full-length side-pods with tall and narrow intakes right behind the front suspension. That there was considerably less power available than in the 'turbo years' was well illustrated by the more delicate front and rear wings. Fresh air was fed to the engine by two slats on either side of the head-rest.

Late in 1988 Ferrari built two prototypes under the '639 F1' moniker. They were used for testing only. For the first race of the season, Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger lined up with the new 640 F1 or F1-89. Although barely tested, the revolutionary machine had a dream-start as Nigel Mansell took a debut victory in his first race for Ferrari. The 640 F1 remained competitive throughout the season but could only rarely convert the raw pace in results. Mansell and Berger would only win one more race each.

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  Article Image gallery (27) 127 Specifications