The late 1960s and early 1970s formed a significant epoch in the world of international sports car racing. As the motor racing rule-making body moved back and forth between cars that less and less resembled road-going vehicles, prototype sports car racing captured the imagination of manufacturers, teams and fans alike. Porsche vs Ferrari vs Alfa Romeo vs Matra provided some of the best ever racing for sports cars. At first the 5-litre Porsches and Ferraris battled through 1970 and 1971, but the 3-litre prototypes that previously had run in another class rapidly became more and more competitive.
By 1973, the Ferrari 312PB, little more than a Grand Prix car with full bodywork, was dominating the scene. This has always been viewed as one of the great eras in sports car racing, when all the Grand Prix drivers were fully active in sports cars as well as F1 machines. With 100 contemporary pictures, this is the story of a great time in motor sport history.
Book Review: Ferrari 312P & 312PB
Author: Ed McDonough & Peter Collins
Publisher: Veloce Publishing (August 2009)
Format: Softcover, 7 5/8” x 8 1/4, 128 pages
Photographs: 84 color, 16 black and white
Review by Lee Robie
I didn’t know what to expect when Ed McDonough and Peter Collin’s sports car history Ferrari 312P & 312PB crossed my desk. I was a 13 year-old racing fanatic in 1969, and have only a vague memory of these cars running in the International Championship of Makes. So I wondered if a book focused solely on the Ferrari 3-litre sports cars that raced during the 4 years from 1969 to 1973 would hold my interest.
Turns out it did. Whereas many racing histories tell the story of a particular driver, this book follows each numbered 312P chassis as it is raced, rebuilt, and developed. Each year is described in a chapter that begins with an overview of rules changes and competitive developments. The narrative then quickly moves on to race reports of every worldwide event where the 312’s raced.
You might not think that 40 year-old race reports would be interesting, but they are. It’s all in the telling, and the authors mix the drama of each event with numerous details and anecdotes to draw you right in. For example, do you remember that Ferrari had a reputation for bungled pit work at the time? During the 1972 Buenos Aires race, the Ickx/Andretti car pitted with a flat, only to have the crew change the wrong tire! Mario co-drove the 312PB whenever his schedule allowed, but his exclusive Firestone contract forced him to leave the team later that year when Ferrari switched to Goodyear tires.
The book is illustrated throughout with numerous photographs, many showing the cars as raced at each event. Interspersed with the text are nineteen sidebars that highlight the careers of every driver who raced the 312. And, detailed appendices list the complete competition history of each chassis, along with its current location and owner.
Additional detail on the engineering and development of these cars would have helped balance out the emphasis on race-by-race dramatics. What specific problems cropped up, and how were they fixed? What were the technical breakthroughs during this period? It’s hard to remember what they were working with in the days before ground effects, carbon fiber, and computers.
Authors McDonough and Collins actually attended some of these races, spoke to the drivers, and supply many of the images in the book. Their firsthand knowledge is felt throughout, but it really shines in Ed McDonough’s driving impression of a restored 1971 312P. The book doesn’t say when or where this test took place, but lap time comparisons with a modern sports racer would provide an interesting measure of just how much things have evolved in 40 years.
McDonough and Collins succeed in giving us the last word on these classic Ferraris. Ferrari 312P & 312PB is a smallish book at only 125 pages long, but it proves that good things come in small packages.
4 gated Ferrari shifters out of 5.
[Source: photo credit, Ed McDonough]