1967 24 Hours of Daytona – The Revenge of “Il Commendatore”
By Louis Galanos | Photos as credited
The year 1966 was not a good year for Enzo Ferrari. Ford beat Ferrari with a humiliating 1-2-3 finish at both Daytona and Sebring and for the first time in six years they lost, again to Ford, at the Holy Grail of endurance racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With the 1966 World Sportscar Championship (WSC) trophy solidly in Ford hands many were predicting that the ten-year dominance of Ferrari cars in endurance racing had come to an end. Many believed the much talked about and much written about three-year-long Ford – Ferrari War was being won by Henry Ford II and his mega buck program would bring Ferrari to its knees.
Not everyone in the racing community was happy with this turn of events. Stirling Moss, at the time a retired world driving champion, commented: “…he’s (Enzo Ferrari) a true racing manufacturer… It’s sad to see a man like this beaten by a big company, especially when you realize their (Ford’s) decision to race is really just another marketing decision.”
Not long after the defeat at Le Mans the Ferrari engineers went to work to analyze what went wrong, to correct it and bring Ferrari back into the winner’s circle in 1967 and avenge their loss of honor at the hands of Ford.
This was no small task for unlike Ford the folks at Ferrari had a lot on their plate and, as one of the smallest auto manufacturers in the world, limited resources. Not only were they building prototype cars for the WSC but they were also building Formula 1 cars, developing a V6 Formula 2 racer, the Dino 206GT and turning out their vaunted V12 production cars. Added to these burdens were labor unrest and parts shortages. As a result they often would enter only one or two factory cars in endurance events to compete with six or more Ford prototypes.
To get back on the winning track for 1967, the 68-year-old Enzo Ferrari gave Mauro Forghieri, Technical Director at Ferrari’s Racing Department, a relatively free hand in developing what would become one of the great racing cars from this era.
Capitalizing on everything learned from racing the Ferrari P3 Forghieri eventually produced a 4-liter V12 engined car with Lucas fuel injection and 30 more horse power than the P3’s 420. In addition a 36-valve cylinder head came with the engine along with a higher compression ratio.
To address the problems they were having with the unreliable Tipo 593 ZF transmission an in-house 5-speed gearbox was created as a replacement. The new car also sported cast magnesium Campagnolo wheels and wider Firestone tires to replace the Dunlops. It would be christened the 330 P4.
Because of the afore mentioned limited resources, Ferrari was only able to produce two new Ferrari fuel-injected 330 P4’s to challenge Ford at Daytona in 1967 and one reconditioned 330 P3/4 running a normally aspirated engine. That car was also was known as the Ferrari 412P and would be entered by the North American Racing Team (NART) of Luigi Chinetti at the second annual Daytona 24 Hour race.
That was the limit of what the factory could bring to the table but there were also several private Ferraris entered at Daytona. The Belgian – Francorchamps P3 driven by Willy Mairesse and Jean Beurlys and the other a green P2 entered and driven by David Piper with his co-driver Richard Attwood. Other private Ferrari entries included two Dinos, a 275 GTB and a 250 LM driven by Peter Clarke and Edward Nelson.
The NART 330 P3/4 (412P) was just an upgraded older P3 with improved gearbox, Weber carburetors rather than fuel injection, better brakes, and other refinements. The body shell was also almost identical to the newer 330 P4 and this caused some confusion among sports writers in reporting the race.
In a reflection of his determination to return the WSC trophy to Maranello, Enzo Ferrari did something unprecedented. He allowed his Ferrari prototypes team to fly two of the new 330 P4’s to New York where they were then trailered to Daytona Beach, Florida for a private one week of testing (thanks to Firestone Tire Company) at the Daytona Speedway late in 1966. Racing division chief, Mauro Forghieri, and competition manager, Eugenio Dragoni, went along to supervise the testing. Dragoni was given strict orders from Ferrari not to break the track record set the previous year by Ken Miles driving an older model Ford GT40 Mk. II.
Mario Levetto lived in Daytona during those years and worked at Cape Kennedy as an aerospace engineer. His father (also called Mario) owned the San Remo Restaurant in South Daytona and this place was frequented by Bill France, Jr. and his family. France was known to recommend the restaurant to the Italian teams when they were in town.
On more than one occasion France had asked Mr. Levetto, Sr. to act as a translator for the Ferrari factory team and his son Mario was known among the Ferrari team members. Mario commented that when the Ferrari factory team arrived at Daytona for testing during the winter of 1966 they had not done any fittings for the car seats that the driver’s would use during the tests. Ferrari team manager Dragoni asked Mario to go to the nearest supermarket and buy a couple of auto seat covers (the thick ones used in Florida to reduce the sweat marks on shirts) so that the smaller drivers could find it easier to adapt to the cockpit of the new 330 P4.
For the testing session at Daytona Ferrari recruited Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini to drive the Spider 330 P4 and Michael Parkes and Ludovico Scarfioti to drive the other prototype which was the Berlinetta P4. Chris Amon’s presence surprised a few folks because he had been on Ford’s winning Le Mans team just six months earlier.
Amon finished sixth driving an earlier version of the Ford GT40 Mk. II at Daytona in 1966. During the testing session at Daytona in 1967 he was asked to compare the Ford to the Ferrari and he said, “It’s rather like driving a truck compared to a car.”
During one of the tests Mike Parkes was on the track alone. For some reason he kept ignoring signals from his crew and they became concerned. They were about to send out a driver in the other P4 when he finally entered the pits. He stayed in his car for some time in what was described as a daze. It is not known whether he had been affected by exhaust fumes or being alone on the track he developed a form of self-hypnotism. He soon recovered.
One goal of the test sessions was to recreate the demands of a 24-hour race with pit stops, driver changes and minor repairs. While the pit area was closed to the public during those test sessions, the grandstands were not and quite a few spectators were happy for the privilege of witnessing them at work.
Among those spectators were some engineers from Ford with stopwatches, binoculars and a long-lens camera. They and the other spectators witnessed just about every Ferrari driver break the track record set by Ford the previous year. Also, the Ferraris were turning regular lap times at speeds above what Ford was able to accomplish at Daytona the previous year. The Parkes – Scarfiotti P4 was averaging close to 110 m.p.h. after six hours of testing and this, no doubt, worried the Ford engineers.