Enzo Ferrari and his company were in the midst of a maelstrom in 1969. He successfully negotiated the sale of his firm to Fiat, competed in Formula 1, Formula 2, the mountain championship, and Can Am, all while building road cars and battling the unions.
The Ferrari 512 S was replaced by the more durable Ferrari 512 M (Modificato).
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That makes Ferrari’s return to the endurance-racing campaign in 1970 with the Ferrari 512 S all the more remarkable. Porsche was already competing with its 917 when Mauro Forghieri and his men designed and developed the 512. “As usual,” Forghieri remembered, “Ferrari gave me no technical directive. Instead, there was the imposition to use existing tools for the engine, gearbox, and suspension.”
Forghieri explained that “the 512 had the same chassis as the 612 P Can Am car, but with a different body,” and the Ferrari 512 S's 5.0-liter V-12 was developed much the same way. Bore and stroke were reduced, and once the engine was completed, a five-speed gearbox developed in-house was bolted to its rear. The body was developed by Giacomo Caliri in both coupe and spyder form.
It was a valiant effort by Ferrari, but 1970 proved to be a long season. A Ferrari 512 S finished third to two 917s at Daytona, then scored a victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring driven by the works team of Ignazio Giunti, Nino Vaccarella, and Mario Andretti. That was the car’s only win, though other highlights included a second at Francorchamps and a 2-3-4 finish at Monza.
Early in the season, Forghieri said, he and his crew realized the Ferrari 512 S “was not competitive on high-speed circuits” so they began developing a new model. The result was the 512 M (Modificato). “It was essentially a 512 S with a new body done by Caliri,” Forghieri said.
As was typical Ferrari, engine development continued and the Ferrari 512 M went into action with 600 horsepower, some 25 more than the Ferrari 512 S. The car retired in its first outing, then Giunti and Jacky Ickx easily beat the 917s at the season’s final race at Kyalami in South Africa.
That victory proved the swan song for the Ferrari 512 S. New regulations for 1972 made 5.0-liter cars ineligible for the championship, so Ferrari instructed Forghieri to concentrate on further developing the company’s 3.0-liter V-12.
The Ferrari 512 S brought Ferrari back into endurance racing, though only briefly.
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