Ferrari 512 S

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This article is about the 1969-1971 race car. For road cars designated 512 BB / 512 BBi and 512 TR / F512M see Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer and Ferrari Testarossa respectively.
Nino Vaccarella driving Ferrari 512 at Nürburgring 1970

The Ferrari 512 was a sports car, related to the Ferrari P series of sports prototypes. It was raced in 1970 and 1971, then withdrawn from competition following a change in the regulations.


Ferrari 512 is the name of several race and road cars built by Ferrari. The name might indicate that the displacement of the V12 engine would be roughly 5.0 L. This may not always be the case since Ferrari would sometimes use the rather odd system of designating individual cylinder displacement for their V12 engines. For example, in the case of the 365 Daytona, when times 12, will give a total displacement of 4380 cc. However, in the specific case of Le Mans racing cars, regulations in those days restricted maximum displacement to 5.0 L (the Ferrari 512 race cars displaced 4993 cc) so that the "512" designation should be interpreted as "5.0 L/12 cylinders". Modern Ferrari V12 powered road-cars also use this type of designation.

Ferrari 512 History

Ferrari used to race with Prototypes (see Ferrari P) until the rules were changed for 1968 limiting Group 6 Prototypes to a maximum engine capacity of 3.0 litres. For the 1970 season, Ferrari decided to do what Porsche had done earlier with the Porsche 917, that is, build 25 examples of a 5.0 L car to allow homologation into the FIA's Group 5 Sports Car category. With the financial help of Fiat, that risky investment was made, and surplus cars were intended to be sold to racing customers.

The motor of the 512S was a total new V12 with 560 PS (412 kW) output. Compared to Porsche's flat-12 monster, it had the disadvantage of not being air-cooled, so it needed a maze of cooling pipes and a heavy radiator. Since the chassis was of sturded steel, reinforced with aluminium sheet, weight was 100 kg more than that of the alloy-framed 917. Notwithstanding the weight difference, the Ferrari 512S and Porsche 917 were theoretically fairly even matched.

At the beginning of 1970 the Ferrari 512s were hampered by predictable teething problems, including a weak suspension and transmission bothers. But the fact that Porsche had already six months of equally mixed experience with its 917 in 1969 should be decisive for the rest of the season.

Contrary to Porsche, Ferrari did not organise an intramural competition. Besides the factory cars, there were the private cars of Scuderia Filipinetti, NART, Écurie Francorchamps, Scuderia Picchio Rosso, GeLo Racing Team and Escuderia Montjuich. Those private cars never received the same support from the factory. They were considered as field fillers, never as candidate for a win. At Porsche, however, JWA Gulf, KG Salzburg and Martini Racing, received all direct factory support. All those cars were real works cars. And even the privateers like AAW Shell Racing and David Piper Racing received a much better support than Ferrari's clients.

25 Ferrari 512S built

Within nine months, Ferrari manufactured 25 512S cars, with even chassis numbers from 1002 to 1050. Of those cars, 19 were raced in 1970, 5 of them being spyders. Of the cars manufactured for the 1970 season, but not raced that year, the 1020 was converted at the end of the season as a 512M and sold to NART, which entered it in competition in 1971. The 1024 remained unsold in 1970, was transformed into a 512M and sold one year later to the Scuderia Brescia Corse. The 1036 was used as test car by the racing division of Ferrari. Later it was sold to Solar Productions for Steve McQueen's Le Mans, also known as French Kiss with Death.

The 1040, sold to Chris Cord and Steve Earle was never raced in Europe but only at the CanAm races. Immediately after the homologation of the 25 cars, the 1046 was disassembled for parts, having been used for the construction of the Pininfarina show car. The 1048 was sold as test car to Filipinetti but not raced in 1970. The 1050 was sold to Corrado Manfredini (but only as chassis plus body). It was later transformed into a 512M and raced in 1971.

Eventually the factory team used nine cars for international endurance racing. The Scuderia Filipinetti and NART raced two cars each. Écurie Francorchamps (Belgian importer of Ferrari), Escuderia Montjuich, Gelo Racing Team and Picchio Rosso raced one car each. After the 1022, bought by the last team, was destroyed at the 24 Hours of Daytona, they would use the 1032.

During the 1970 race season several other Ferraris 512S were destroyed. That was the case with the 1012 spyder after its crash at practice for the ADAC 1000km Nürburgring. The 1026, having been raced as factory car #7 by Derek Bell and Ronnie Peterson at the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours, was destroyed during the Le Mans film by Derek Bell. The 1032 was source of an unbelievable swindle Template:Fact - where even the famous Christies was guilty over the whole line - in the late 1980s. Indeed on the reconversion of the 1032 into a 512M parts were used to rebuild it on the 1050 chassis. Up from November 1970 there was no longer a 1032. Nevertheless Christies let believe in 1989 that a replica, built by England's Michael Cane, was the rebuilt 1032. Anthony Leadbeater won the first race in a Ferrari 512

The drivers of the 512S factory cars

Mike Parkes with Ferrari 512 at Nürburgring 1970

Compared to Porsche which aligned the top sports car drivers of that era, Ferrari's Mauro Forghieri could not count exclusively on top racers in their quest to win the 1970 International Championship for Makes. Starting the season it lost the extremely fast Mexican Pedro Rodríguez - a former Ferrari work's driver - to JWA Gulf Racing of John Wyer. It was scheduled that Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Ignazio Giunti, Peter Schetty, Nino Vaccarella and Arturo Merzario should race as many rounds as possible. Unfortunately, Andretti was involved in F1 with March, whilst Ickx and Giunti drove F1 for Ferrari. So they were to be replaced at several occasions by former Ferrari works racers. One of them was John Surtees who quit Ferrari in 1966 after a violent argument with Eugenio Dragoni, Ferrari's race director in that days. He raced in F1 on his own Surtees chassis.

Another former work's racer, Chris Amon drove F1 for March. Derek Bell and Jackie Oliver were also unavailable at most endurance races, since they drove F1 for Brabham and BRM. Clay Regazzoni was, like Jacky Ickx, Ferrari's F1 man for 1970. Only Vaccarella and Schetty were free from F1 obligations. Although there were fast, it were not such typical all-rounders as Jo Siffert, Brian Redman and Pedro Rodriguez were for Porsche (of them Rodriguez raced F1 for BRM, but had not the same heavy testing duties as most other F1 racers). Vaccarella was "the man of the rocky mountains" at the Targa Florio and Schetty was the specialist of hillclimbing racing were Porsche was also a dominant factor.

Whilst JWA Gulf, KG Salzburg and Martini Racing could count on stable pairings for the whole season, Ferrari's race director Mauro Forghieri had to change his pairings over and over. Eventually his top racer Mario Andretti could only be present for the three American rounds (Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen), whilst Surtees was only available for Monza, Spa and the Nürburgring.

In total 12 different drivers were seen in 1970 at the wheel of a factory 512S. Of them the promising Ignazio Giunti did nine of the ten rounds, being only absent at the BOAC 1000 km. Merzario and Vaccarella made seven entries, Ickx and Schetty six of the ten.

Only Vaccarella and Surtees were 35 years old or older. Except for Clay Regazzoni (31), all others were younger than 30 years. The youngest factory racers were Ickx (25), Peterson (26), Merzario (27) and Bell (28). Of them Peterson was only hired for Le Mans, a serious mistake by Forghieri who should have offered him a full year contract.

Another handicap for Ferrari was its full season commitment to F1 racing, so that the 512S cars did not received full technical help at all times. Ickx finished second in the F1 World Championship and won three races. Regazzoni finished third and won once. Both failed to beat the Lotus 72 of late Jochen Rindt, who had a fatal accident on September 5, 1970 during practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Of the 12 work's racers on Ferrari 512S in 1970, ten are still alive. Ignazio Giunti was killed in Buenos Aires on January 10, 1971. Driving the brand new Ferrari 312PB, he was leading the 1971 1000 km Buenos Aires race when he collided with the Matra which Jean-Pierre Beltoise was attempting to push back to the pits after running out of fuel on the circuit. Giunti sustained injuries from which he would not survive.

Ronnie Peterson, who started his F1 career in 1971, died on September 11, 1978 from injuries that occurred during the Italian Grand Prix. He survived the burning hell of plastic bodywork of the starting lap crash of Monza, but not the following operation of his legs, where doctors brought him under full anaesthetic and unfortunately, during the night, bone marrow from the fractures had got into Peterson's bloodstream forming fat globules on his major organs including lungs, liver, and brain. By daybreak he was in full renal failure and was declared dead a few hours later. The cause of death was given as fat embolism.

See also