Ever since Renault turned up on the grid of the British Grand Prix in 1977 with a 1500cc / 91.5 CUI the stability and hegemony that had been born out of the 500hp 3 litre / 183 cui Ford sponsored Cosworth V8 as the dominant force in Grand Prix racing in 1966 had been under attack. By 1985 power output of the little turbocharged motors had risen from 525 hp in 1977 to 1200 hp in qualifying trim, expensive motors were being built simply to last a couple of qualifying laps a situation that could not last indefinitely.
To get a grip on the situation for 1987 the FIA the ruling body of Grand Prix racing mandated a limit of 4 bar / 58 psi on turbochargers which was reduced for 1988 to just 2.5 bar / 36 psi in 1988 when 3.5 litre / 213.5 cui normally aspirated motors would be allowed to take part in preparation for a completely normally aspirated formula 3.5 litre formula in 1989.
These normally aspirated motors were originally intended to be of a mandated V8 configuration, and this detail upset Enzo Ferrari, who wanted to build a V12 for the new regulations, so badly that he set in motion the design of the Ferrari 637 to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Consultation with Goodyear led to the leading Truesports team and their March 85C complete with driver Bobby Rahal conducting tests in Italy with Ferrari Grand Prix driver Michele Alboreto.
Photographer Unknown image will be credited or removed upon request.
After the tests Ferrari took the March apart and with the lessons learned Gustav Brunner designed this pretty Championship racing car seen here with Michele Alboreto at the wheel.
Unlike the still born Lotus 96 which was built entirely out of carbon fibre for Al Unser Jnr to drive for Winkleman racing in 1985, the Ferrari 637’s monocoque was manufactured from a carbon fibre lower half and a conventional aluminium top half.
Between the announcement of the Ferrari Indycar project and its first tests the FIA relented and removed the stipulated V8 configuration for the 1989 Formula One regulations.
In consequence Ferrari built a mildly successful V12 engine which was completely usurped by the V10 engines of first Honda, Renault and Ilmor Mercedes which won most of the drivers and constructors Championships from 1989 to 2000 interrupted ironically only by the Ford V8 which Michael Schumacher used in his Benetton to win his first World Drivers Championship in 1994.
In 1989 Alfa Romeo part of the same FIAT automotive empire as Ferrari announced it’s own still born Indy Car programme with an engine designed completely from scratch, unrelated to the Ferrari engine tested in 1986, which was fitted to a proprietary March chassis. At the press launch of the programme journalist Doug Nye spotted an all white vehicle that was clearly not a March chassis with an ALFA Romeo logo on it that nobody from ALFA Romeo was prepared to talk about, it turns out that ALFA may have considered using the chassis of the Ferrari 637 as a test hack for their new motor.
Thanks for joining me for this Ferrari Friday edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow for AJ Foyt Day tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !