Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seeing Isn't Necessarily Believing (1973 Targa Florio Pix)

Above and below: Ferrari 312 PB's in the 1973 Targa Florio.  Above is Brian Redman who co-drove
with Jacky Ickx.  Below is the car driven by Arturo Merzario and Nino Vaccarella, a lawyer who
lived in Sicily and was "a Targa Florio specialist" (and repeat winner).  Both cars were DNF
after 2 of 11 laps (90 of 495 miles).

I missed the Ferrari 312 PB the first time around.  In the early '70's I was busy with a new career and babies.  To the extent that I was following racing at all, it was the small-bore class in the Trans Am series here in the States.  (I'd just bought a Datsun 510 and tricked it out in faux BRE livery.)

I caught up with the 312 PB in the 1990's, in Alain de Cadenet's excellent video series Victory By Design.  Here's a link: 

The PB was Enzo Ferrari's revenge on Porsche for domination of FIA sports car racing from 1969 to 1971, with the added grin of blowing away Alfa Romeo's Type 33 too.  The PB was essentially the power train, running gear, and suspension of the current Grand Prix car mounted in a chassis wide enough to accommodate a "passenger seat" and a full-width rear wing.  It was so high-strung, sensitive to set-up, and complex to maintain, that Ferrari refused to make or sell "customer cars."  In 1972, the PB won the championship with 208 points to Alfa's second-place 85.  Ten wins in 10 races: an a**-whuppin' for other legendary marques.

Only 1 PB was entered in the 1972 Targa Florio.  Ferrari may have considered it too delicate to take the Targa's pounding.  It won (Arturo Merzario/Sandro Munari).  By this time, sports cars were running on full slicks (weather permitting) just like Grand Prix cars.  Fans of late '60's-early '70's era of sports car racing will recall that as late as 1969, they were designed to run on treaded tires, with adequate ground clearance for bumpy circuits like Sebring, the Nurburgring, and the Targa.  Aerodynamics amounted to streamlining.  Only 3 years later, Ferrari led the way to thinly disguised GP cars, designed to run on smooth, short, circuits, with the beginnings of scientific aero.

The last Targa Florio was in 1973.  Forty-five miles per lap, over poorly surfaced country roads lined with crowds of uncontrolled spectators, was an unsustainable anachronism.  It's amazing to me that a car like the 312 PB ran in the Targa, much less won it.  The PB was also Ferrari's last racing sports car for decades, until long after Enzo had died.  After the PB, he focused exclusively on Grand Prix racing.

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