Which racing car stands out as Ferrari’s most triumphant? Those who immediately associate Formula 1 with this query are mistaken. The sought-after record holder we refer to is none other than the 312 PB, Ferrari’s final official sports car before the introduction of the present-day 499P hypercar. During the 1972 season, the Scuderia achieved victory in every race in which this open-top, two-seater model was employed.
Estimated price: 14 to 18 million euros
The design of the Ferrari car by Mauro Forghieri and his team incorporated various elements from Formula 1. They utilized a 450 horsepower V12 engine, as well as transmission and chassis parts sourced from the 1971 season’s 312 B model. Consequently, Enzo Ferrari dubbed this two-seater racing car as the “System 1 for enthusiasts.”
One of the highly successful Ferrari 312 PBs, which achieved two overall wins, is currently being offered for auction. Its chassis is identified by the number 0886. This particular car was exclusively utilized during the 1972 season and represents one of the seven examples utilized throughout the world championship season. RM Sotheby’s has estimated its value to be between 14 and 18 million euros.
On May 19, the venue for the event is Villa Erba, located on the western shore of Lake Como near Cernobbio. Noteworthy Ferrari models will be on display, including the 1960 250 GT SWB and the 1949 Tipo 166 racing sports car. However, none of them can match the 312 PB in terms of value, as it played a significant role in securing Ferrari’s last world championship title in this category.
The most successful sports model
The 312 PB stands out as one of the most successful and finest sports models. Designer Mauro Forghieri described its concept as a car with a remarkably low center of gravity and a design resembling a Formula 1 car rather than a traditional closed-body race car. Former factory driver Brian Redman confirms this, stating that it performed like a Grand Prix car with a body, offering excellent driving dynamics and a superior gearbox. Mario Andretti, who drove for Ferrari in 1971 and 1972, adds that it handled like a Formula 1 car due to its compact and uncomplicated nature.
During its debut season in 1971, Ferrari initially entered the competition with the 312 P and continued to refine it. Mauro Forghieri reflects in his memoirs that the 1971 312 P is one of the three cars that brought him the most satisfaction. This model was the first open sports car featuring a flat V12 engine. In the subsequent season, Ferrari consistently fielded a three-car team in nearly all rounds of the World Championship. Led by Peter Schetty, the team only participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
The first effort, first chance
Chassis 0886 is also one of the participating vehicles. At the beginning of the brand’s world championship in Buenos Aires, the sports car now referred to as the 312 PB secured two victories, marking the first world championship win for two open teams. In the first race of the World Championship following the prohibition of five-liter sports cars like the Ferrari 512 or Porsche 917, newcomers Ronnie Peterson and Tim Schenken emerged victorious in the opening round, surpassing Clay Regazzoni and Brian Redman. The winning car in Argentina bears the chassis number 0886. Throughout 1972, the Swedish and Australian drivers achieved their second World Championship victory in a total of four races. Peterson and Schenken claimed victory in the 1000 km race at the Nürburgring.
© Arturo Rivas
The car has an impressive track record, securing second place at Sebring and third place at Monza. It has achieved podium finishes in all four races it participated in. Ferrari’s dominance in the 1972 season was effortless due to their exceptional car. However, they faced minimal competition.
Matra-Simca primarily focuses on Le Mans, while Alfa Romeo, Ferrari’s main rival in the world championship, does not yet possess a V12 engine. Porsche’s success now relies on private teams like Reinhold Joest. Lola Jo Bonnier and the Gulf-colored Mirage, equipped with the vibration-friendly Cosworth V8 engine, serve as representatives. However, the powerful Formula 1 engine proves to be ill-suited for long-distance races.
© Spyros Panopoulos
However, despite the various challenges they faced, Ferrari’s first world title in five years holds significant significance. In 1967, they achieved the ultimate victory with the 330 P4. Following that, their success dwindled, with only one race win in 1970 at Sebring with the 512 S, thanks to a mistake made by the defending world champion Porsche. Formula 1 was not faring well for them either, as their last Grand Prix victory occurred in July 1968 with Jacky Ickx in Rouen, and their last title in both drivers and designers was back in 1964. It was during this period that success in the sports car season came at just the right moment.
In 1973, Ferrari faced the challenge of defending their name. Matra-Simca emerged as a formidable opponent in the world championship that year. Ferrari, equipped with the 312 PB (featuring a short-stroke V12 engine, long wheelbase, and enhanced body) developed by a team of designers led by Giacomo Cairi, continued to openly compete for the title until the end of the season. However, the final race in Buenos Aires was canceled. With a limited number of races in the World Championship, only the best results from seven races were considered, and Ferrari fell just short of Matra-Simca, finishing nine points behind.
The career of the 312 PB came to an end when the factory team disbanded in 1973, as Enzo Ferrari shifted his focus to Formula 1. However, chassis 0886 remained in the esteemed premises of the Scuderia until July 1975. Subsequently, this highly successful racing car was sold to American buyer Harley Cluxton for a sum of $40,500. Over time, ownership of the 312 PB passed to various individuals, including S. Robson Walton, the long-time CEO of Wal-Mart, and Irvine Laidlaw, a wealthy Englishman and former Member of the House of Lords.
In 2010, the Ferrari found a new home with a collector and dealer located in the south of France. It has now resurfaced and is available once again, albeit at a significantly increased value. The auction house estimates its worth to be between 14 and 18 million euros (equivalent to approximately 15.5 to 20 million US dollars).
Included in this price is a comprehensive spare parts package, including the original engine. The V12 engine, producing nearly 450 horsepower with a 180-degree bank angle, is a precious artifact and closely related to the Scuderia’s Formula 1 engine of that era. Consequently, it is deemed too valuable for practical use in today’s context.
In summary, on May 20, 2023, RM Sotheby’s will be auctioning the Ferrari 312 PB, renowned as one of the brand’s most successful racing cars. This sports car model comes with a hefty price tag, estimated by the auction house to be between 14 and 18 million euros. It is likely to be one of the most expensive cars up for auction this season.