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Ferrari's first rear-engined car



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Phil Hill


Ferrari 246P




Late May 1960, just ahead of the Monaco GP


And finally Ferrari caught on to the idea… Or was it that he had seen the benefits of the rear-engined single-seater concept years before but stubbornly refused to jump on the bandwagon? Up until Cooper's breakthrough win in the 1958 Argentinian GP Ferrari had been the Great Innovator, and it must have been with great pain that this superb but simple idea wasn't conceived in Italy. Ferrari's dislike of the garagiste attitude must undoubtedly date back to the period when his front-engined cars were soundly beaten by the nimble Cooperettes.

Or maybe the idea was that his superfluously powered front-engined cars would see out the remaining years of the 2.5-litre formula with just enough of an advantage. If that was the case, Ferrari must have been shocked by his cars' form in the first races of 1959. Having lost the inaugural constructors title to Vanwall, partly because of his reluctance to adapt to disc brakes, Cooper's half-expected surge to the front must have come as another bitter blow. The consolation of a dominating double victory at Reims and Tony Brooks' consummate display of brilliance at the 'Ring was obviously not enough.

Ferrari quickly leaned on the patriotism of Scuderia Centro Sud's Mimmo Dei, who had purchased a pair of Cooper chassis for his supply of Maserati engines. Some say the idea was that Dei could run a Dino V6 in one of them, with Centro Sud handing over the other for "research purposes". This never happened though.

A parallel project involved the mating of Cooper chassis with Ferrari engines under the Scuderia Castellotti banner but these were four-cylinder Squalo engines that had "Eugenio" on the cam covers. These cars raced in the 1960 Italian GP, the race boycotted by the British teams, while another car crashed during the 1961 Modena GP, with fatal consequences for driver Giulio Cabianca, tragically linking the Castellotti name to Modena once more.

Meanwhile, reluctantly and secretly work set in on a full Ferrari rear-engined car, which finally appeared at the start of the 1960 season. It was briefly tested at Modena by chief test driver Martino Severi and Phil Hill, who both found that too much weight was placed at the rear end, causing the front to lift under acceleration. Slightly adapted it was meant to appear at the Monaco GP, with Richie Ginther penciled in to drive. To prevent any embarrassments Ferrari cunningly spread the word that a 2.1-litre engine was fitted but anyone could hear a proper 246 Dino during practice. It actually went quite well, recording a time of 1.38.6, which equalled Phil Hill's time in the regular 246. In the race the number 34 car, although still looking a bit unwieldy, performed admirably. It retired on lap 70 but was placed 6th due to the usual Monaco attrition rate, with only four cars circulating at the flag this time.

Next stop: Zandvoort. But by the time the race came up, all the attention had been devoted to the gear problems that caused the car to retire at Monaco. These were now solved but the engine had not really been looked after. The valve rings were worn and the engine was beginning to blow oil, preventing the car to be run in the Dutch GP. So Ferrari lined up with its usual three-pronged attack of front-engined 246s and were blown into the weeds, or rather, the dune grass, by an amazing assortment of Coopers and Loti. With Ginther the fastest of the Ferraris in 12th on the grid, and Trips only outqualifying veteran Trintignant and local boy Beaufort, the red cars were truly reduced to also-rans.

Still Ferrari decided to abandon work on the 246P, and on the long term this proved to be a wise decision. The front-engined cars at least began to show some qualifying mettle again, mainly in the hands of Phil Hill, while all of the development effort was directed towards the future 1.5-litre car and engine. The basis for that engine was laid down by the Jano-designed V6 that was already used in the team's front-engined F2 cars, but Carlo Chiti made several modifications, at first retaining the 65-degree V angle but then moving on to the wide-angle (120 degrees) V that would allow for a lower body and centre of gravity.

The testbed for the new engine? A heavily revised 246P… After another test at Modena the car was rolled out for Wolfgang von Trips at the Solitude F2 race to take up the Porsches - another of the batch of cars that would automatically become F1 cars at the start of 1961. Trips won. More development and testing followed, followed by more development and testing. And while the British teams were still betting on the Inter-Continental Formula to become a success, Ferrari had all the time in the world to hone their first 1.5-litre to perfection.

A second opportunity to test the car in anger followed at the Italian GP. Once Ferrari knew they had the race to themselves, a 156 was quickly entered for Trips. Fitted with auxiliary fuel tank the German had the 1.5-litre class all to himself, outrunning the all-conquering F2 Porsche by a full 10km lap. After another appearance at the Modena GP - where Porsche got its revenge with Bonnier winning from Ginther in a front-engined F2 Ferrari and Trips in the 156, slowing down with fading brakes - the car was taken back to the shop to receive yet more modifications, including the 1961 body that became famous all over the world.

So although strike one belonged to the British teams, Ferrari got his revenge in the opening season of the 1.5-litre formula.