Ferrari 312T

Ferrari 312T

Car: Ferrari 312T / Engine: 1800 12-Cylinder Boxer / Maker: Ferrari / Bore X Stroke: 80 mm X 49.6 mm / Year: 1975 / Capacity: 2,991.80 cc / Class: Formula 1 / Power: 500 bhp at 12,200 rpm / Wheelbase: 2518 mm / Track: Front: 1510 mm Rear: 1530 mm / Weight: 575 kilo

The low point for Ferrari came at the end of the 1972 with their cars being clearly out paced by the British Ford-Cosworth powered teams, the Garagistas as Enzo Ferrari dismissively called them. This and labor problems forced the proud team to purchase monocoques from England. The Tipo 312B3 proved unreliable with over-heating and engine problems and had one win to show for that year and none the next. To reverse this downward trend Ferrari hired a young lawyer, Luca de Montezemolo as team manager who’s first major decision was in re-instating Mauro Forghieri as chief engineer. A more painful decision involved dropping their iconic endurance sports car program. Montezemolo also convinced Ferrari to retain the Austrian Niki Lauda as one of their drivers.

Ferrari’s flat-12 engine was undergoing an extensive redesign with the objective of improving its power band. Horsepower was now up to 480 bhp at 12,200 rpm and to fully focus the team on Formula 1 Ferrari withdrew from sports car racing. With Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni as their drivers Ferrari won three races in 1974. For next year’s car Ferrari added a de Dion-type rear axle. A new transverse five-speed gearbox was fitted between the engine and final drive hence the Tipo 312T for transversal designation. This meant that the Ferrari now not only had most of its weight mounted low in the car, due to the flat-12 engine but also between the front and rear axle.

The near perfect weight distribution greatly improved the car’s handling. The aluminum monocoque chassis featured in-board mounted front suspension actuated by rockers. With the willing contribution of their Austrian driver, Lauda, the team put in countless miles of testing.

At its debut in South Africa debut the 312T Regazzoni’s Ferrari stopped with a broken throttle linkage seven laps from the end which enabled Lauda to take an uninspired fifth ahead of Jochen Mass and Rolf Stommelen. Things looked up at the Spanish Grand Prix where Lauda and his teammate Clay Regazzoni qualified 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately an opening lap crash ended Lauda’s race while Regazzoni was delayed by teething issues and finished 4th. Lauda would win four out of the next five races. At the Italian Grand Prix the popular Regazzoni took the flag while Lauda finished 3rd and claimed the title for himself and Ferrari in front of their home crowd. Lauda capped the season by winning at Watkins Glen, United States.

In 1976 Lauda lost a hard fought battle for the championship to James Hunt after returning late in the season from a near-tragic crash at the Nurburgring. Lauda’s five wins as well as Regazzoni’s win at Long Beach secured a second straight Constructors’ Championship for Ferrari.