The first time I saw and heard a Ferrari racing in anger was on March 17th, 1974, in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. The day started out extremely wet and grey by the time a school friend, his parents and I had made it from the car park to the spectator enclosure we were all soaked through to the skin, with in minuets the cars filtered out of the pit lane opposite and there they were, two bright red Ferrari’s almost luminescent in the rain drenched gloom with a delightful throaty musical noise emanating from their 3 litre / 183 cui 312 flat 12 motors.
A couple of weeks ago when I found myself in front of one of those very same Ferrari 312 B3’s, at Goodwood, the contrast in the weather could not have been greater, but my absolute joy at the sight of it was not in the least diminished, even though this time the car made no sound as it was pushed into it’s allotted spot in the Goodwood paddock.
The Ferrari 312 B3 was never going to win any awards for beauty if it looks like it was designed by committee, that is because it was.
In 1972 designer Mauro ‘Fury’ Forghieri built an experimental Grand Prix car in which he had tried to arrange all the cars ancillary components, oil tanks and coolers, as close to the centre of gravity of his new design as possible. The vehicle known as the ‘Snow Plough‘ was extensively tested but the handling proved to be too nervous to ever be entered in a race.
Mid way through 1972 Mr Ferrari was not well and took some time off from the day to day running of his company and Mauro Forghieri, under pressure from FIAT executives in Turin found himself dropped from the team designing the 1973 Ferrari Grand Prix challenger which was eventually designed by Franco Rocchi Giacomo Caliri under the direction of FIAT’s Stefano Colombo.
The 1973 Ferrari 312 B3 featured Ferrari’s first ever aluminium monocoque chassis which, in another Ferrari first, was manufactured by Thompson in England. The engine was used as a stressed member of the chassis following a lead set by Colin Chapman in 1967 with the Lotus 49 which used the Ford Cosworth DFV as a stressed member of the chassis, thus saving the considerable weight otherwise necessitated by an engine subframe.
The long wide and low 1973 312 B3 including chassis #010 seen here were not a great success and upon his return to work in the summer of 1973 Mr Ferrari withdrew his cars from Grand Prix racing for several races and recalled Mauro Forghieri from his duties at the Fiorano test track and tasked him with making the 1973 car more competitive.
‘Fury’ as Forghieri was allegedly nick named applied all of the lessons learned from the ‘snow plough’ project to the large 1973 B3 chassis mounting long thin inclined radiators behind the front wheels and oil tank ahead of the rear wheel to reduce the polar moment of inertia in an effort to improve the cars handling.
Upon their return to the track the reconfigured cars were not any more competitive but over the winter of 1973/74 with the arrival of Niki Lauda the cars were extensively tested and refined into a much more competitive proposition for the 1974 season.
For 1974 the 312 B3’s appeared with completely reworked interim bodies that featured tall air boxes as pioneered by future Ferrari designer Dr Harvey Postlethwaite on James Hunt’s #27 Hesketh March 731.
With future Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo now heading the racing team management the revamped cars showed an immediate and consistent improvement in qualifying and in the races.
Chassis #010 shown here was qualified 3rd in the hands of Niki Lauda at Brands Hatch for the non championship Race of Champions. Niki led during the early stages of the race but in a twist of irony he was over taken in a breath taking move on the outside of Paddock Bend by this chassis former incumbent Jacky Ickx who drove a Lotus 72 during the 1974 season.
A couple of races later in Spain Niki Lauda won his first Grand Prix in a newer 312 B3 chassis with the definitive bodywork of the type worn by chassis #010 at Goodwood.
Lauda finished 4th in the 1974 season World Drivers Championship while more experienced team mate Clay Regazzoni was in contention for the championship right until the last race of the season when he was piped to the post by Emerson Fittipaldi in a McLaren.
My thanks to Aardy at Ferrari Chat for confirming the chassis number.
Thanks for joining me on this Fury edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil psycho on tyres’, I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Super Hugger. Don’t forget to come back now !