Ferrari 512 BB LM

Ferrari 512 BB LM
© Ferrari S.p.A.
The Ferrari 512 BB LM proved that a great road car does not a winning racer make.
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No sooner had Daytona production ended than Ferrari’s energetic U.S. distributor Luigi Chinetti began eyeing the company’s first midengine 12-cylinder road car, the Ferrari 365 GT4/BB, as a potential endurance-racer.

With minimal to no factory input, one was modified for use by his North American Racing Team. Rear body work was widened, larger wheels and tires were fitted, and weight-adding luxury amenities were removed. These race-prepped 365s were good performers, but not good enough. The car’s highest finish in several seasons of competition by NART and others was a sixth overall at Sebring in 1975.

Its flat-12 enlarged from 4.4-liters to 5.0, the 365 GT4/BB became the Ferrari 512 BB in 1976, and it was only a matter of time before it was seen at Le Mans and elsewhere. This go-round, the factory was slightly more involved in preparing cars that would be campaigned by privateers. Some were heavily modified, with wings and spoilers; others looked relatively stock. Four lined up at Le Mans in ’78. They were joined by a Ferrari 365 GT4/BB fitted with the 5.0-liter engine; it was the only Boxer to complete the 24 Hours, finishing 16th overall.

For 1979, a more thoroughly prepared set of competition 512 BBs was made available. Known as the Ferrari 512 BB LM, these factory-developed machines had new bodies shaped in the Pininfarina wind tunnel. The nose was extended, a new roofline ran to the back of the extended tail, and a wing for additional downforce was placed at the rear. They were almost 18 inches longer than the roadgoing 512 Boxer, and weighed some 1,235 pounds less. Flared fenders covered 10-inch wheels up front, 13s in back. The fuel-injected 5.0-liter flat-12 pumped out 480 horsepower, 120 above the stock motor.

They raced first at Daytona, in the form of two entries for the team of Ferrari’s French importer, Charles Pozzi, and one for NART. The results were a harbinger of things to come. Two cars were withdrawn. The last ran for six hours before being sidelined in an accident. Four BB LMs lined up for Le Mans that year, with similar results. One finished 12th overall, the other three retired.

In 1980, six Ferrari 512 BB LMs ran at Le Mans. One finished 23rd overall, with the Pozzi entry coming in 10th for the best finish for a BB LM in any 24-hour race.

All this was more evidence of how difficult it had become for a production-based car to compete at the highest levels of endurance racing, especially without full factory participation.

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