limits that outlawed 5.0-liter sports-racing prototypes caused Ferrari to skip
1968’s endurance-racing season; but, Maranello was back for the 1969 campaign
with the Ferrari 312 P.
The Ferrari 312 PB dominated the Sports World Championship for Makes.
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The Ferrari 312 P's chassis and underpinnings were derived from those of the V-12 612 Can Am. For power, it used a 3.0-liter V-12 similar to the twincam unit found in 1969’s Ferrari 312 F1 car, though the prototype had different heads and single overhead cams. Both the F1 and prototype cars had a quoted output of approximately 430 horsepower, though the Ferrari 312 P peaked at lower rpm in the interest of longevity.
Initially, the bodywork was a stark-but-curvy spyder shell that resembled the Ferrari 612 P. This edition made its racing debut at Sebring, where Chris Amon put it on the pole, only to finish second because of a minor accident. This Ferrari 312 P also finished second at Spa and fourth at Brands Hatch.
For Le Mans 1969, Ferrari entered a pair 312s, each fitted with a roof to create strikingly low-slung coupes. Neither finished; one crashed, the other had gearbox problems. The Ferrari 312 Ps then went to America, where Ferrari’s U.S. rep Luigi Chinetti refitted them with new open bodies; one finished fourth overall at Daytona in 1970.
Ferrari’s plan for 1971 was to use the season for testing, then make an all-out assault on the endurance crown in ’72. His sports-prototype “test bed” was the Ferrari 312 PB.
This was another stark spyder, in many ways an F1 car with a body. In fact, its flat-12 engine, gearbox, and suspension came directly from Ferrari’s 312 B single-seater. Its body was efficient, but not as dramatic in appearance as the Ferrari 312 P coupes. It didn’t matter.
In the first year of Ferrari’s test-then-assault plan, 312 PBs counted among their moderate successes the Clay Regazzoni/Brian Redman win at Kyalami. But in 1972, PBs dominated what was now called the Sports World Championship for Makes. Every race they entered, they won.
It started with a first by Ronnie Peterson and Tim Schenken at Buenos Aires. Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti then went on a tear, winning the Daytona 6 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, and the 1,000 km at Brands Hatch. Regazzoni and Ickx were first at Monza. Redman and Arturo Merzario won at Spa-Francorchamps. Merzario and Sandro Munari finished first in the Targa Florio. It was Peterson and Schenken again at the Nurburgring, and Ickx and Andretti at Watkins Glen. Other PB victories included Imola and Kyalami.
The Ferrari 312 PBs returned pretty much unchanged for 1973. Ickx and Redman were victorious at Monza and at Nurburgring, and while the car consistently dotted the top-10 finishers, Ferrari narrowly missed the championship. And that spelled the end of its full-works participation in sports-prototype racing.
The Ferrari 312s, especially in PB form, sent Maranello out of an endurance-racing era with its head held high. Now the factory turned its concentration to Formula 1.
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