Sunday, December 7, 2014

1967: Chris Amon, Scuderia Ferrari, And A Year Of Living Dangerously (Book Review)

This book was a gift; I wouldn't necessarily buy a book so narrowly focused for myself.  But author John Julian's approach has merits.  It looks at a cross-section of time, as opposed to taking the long view of a team or marque or driver's career.

The quality and aesthetics of "coffee table books" published by David Bull can be taken for granted, and this one is no exception.  The same can be said of the photos.  For some (certainly me), Julian's narrative style will suffer from purple prose.  And modifying clauses that wander away from their subjects.  His early chapters use foreshadowing and flashbacks that, to my mind are more appropriate to a novel than straightforward narrative history.

But his research is solid and his selection of quotes from "those were there" is first-rate.  They include (among others and besides Chris Amon himself) John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Howden Ganley, and Annabel Parkes Campigotto (sister of Mike Parkes).  Some of them provide superb illustrative color about "what it was really like."  Others provide a thoughtful look back from decades of perspective.  My favorite was Johnathan Williams (another Ferrari driver) regretfully telling Mauro Forghieri that he was unable to translate Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale into Italian.  Apparently all three of us love that song, and I'm still not confident of its meaning in English.

Appendix One is the results of the events contested by Scuderia Ferrari in 1967.  It was an enjoyable stroll through the past for me: "Oh, yeah--I remember that driver or this car..."

Julian provides perspectives and correctives to my own recollections of this most dangerous of motorsports eras.  Notably the appalling crash and death of Lorenzo Bandini (Amon's teammate) at Monaco in 1967, and how it advanced the cause of passive safety when Jackie Stewart's advocacy was stalled and Jim Clark's death was yet to come.

At the granular level, Julian provides some interesting figures.  The 1967 Ferrari 312 Formula 1 car weighed 1208 lbs. dry.  The V-12 engine weighed 419 lbs. or 35% of the total weight of the car.  So the chassis and running gear weighed only 789 lbs.  Assuming 7 miles per gallon and a race distance of 250 miles (most were shorter), 36 gallons of fuel would be required to complete a Grand Prix-- 225 lbs. Further assuming a driver weight of 170 lbs., the Ferrari 312 weighed less than 1600 lbs., sitting on the starting grid, ready to race.  It had 390 horsepower, for a weight-to-power ratio of 4.1 lbs. per h.p.

The Lotus 49-Cosworth doubtless weighed less and had over 400 horsepower, which is one reason the 312 was not a very successful car for Ferrari.  And while none of the early 3 liter Formula 1 cars were as fast as their 5 and 7 liter sports car counterparts on fast circuits, they were faster on tight ones or the most challenging ones.  And, as recently posted, the most beautiful racing cars of all time, to my eye.

Above and below: the 1967 Ferrari 312 Formula 1 car.  The engine went through various iterations of number of valves
per cylinder and porting (exhausts in center, or not; crossflow heads, or not).  The version seen here is the original one,
with three valves per cylinder and central exhausts in a non-crossflow head.  The picture below reminds me of the old
Texas saying "All hat, no cattle."  With a power unit at 35% of the total (dry) weight, the 312 was "all engine, no car."

No comments:

Post a Comment