Featured The Mystery Behind the Ferrari 8.5-Litre V12

Discussion in 'Motorsports' started by leon_90, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. leon_90

    leon_90
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    Ferrari 712M.jpg

    Myths and Legends Episode II.


    Whether it has been due to racing purposes, or for the different needs of an exotic clientele, Ferrari built a wide array of engine displacements, going from the IL4 “bastard child” of solely 850cc, for the Ferrarina, to the big and heavy V12, 7-Litre, made just for Can-Am racing. We all know the latter to be the biggest engine ever built by the Prancing Horse.

    This was so, until an article[1] wrote during previous summer by former racing driver Arturo Merzario for an illustrious Italian magazine made public the existence of an even bigger engine in the history of the brand: the 8.5-litre V12.

    Merzario claims in fact that during the Interseries race hosted at Imola in 1971, the modified 512M that we all know to have been the testbed for the 7-litre engine that would have raced in North America was instead fitted with a prototype 8.5-litre V12. That is not all; the engine according to Merzario was capable of delivering 1100 hp! It is enough information to shake the ground, to shed light into an incredible revelation about the, by far, biggest and more powerful engine ever built by Ferrari. Merzario tells that the new engine was so strong that he burned the clutch almost immediately going out of the pits, getting the gearbox stuck in between first and second gear. After being gently compared to a donkey for his finesse by Forghieri, the gearbox was then brought back to Maranello on a Fiat 124 Familiare for repair. After some quick fix, it was ready to race again and Merzario just dominated the race, giving almost 2 seconds in qualifying to Chris Craft on his McLaren M8E, and concluding both heats more than 30 seconds ahead of him, outpacing everyone else on the field. At this point, according to the Italian driver, Ferrari had proven his point against the competition. The engine was sealed and never brought back on the racetrack again.

    Vittoria Imola.jpg

    It is an incredible story. It would explain even more the staggering victory in that race, and it would be something very Ferrari-like to do: to just race an engine once and then abandon it when it has proven his clear superiority to the adversaries. Moreover, an 1100hp Ferrari engine, built in 1971, would be a massive revolution in the history of motor racing. However, could it really be so? Some things do not quite add up to this account.

    First, let us put everything into context. It is the beginning of 1971. The 512 has been evolved into the M specifications, much more competitive than the S model, but the production line has been entirely sold to customers. Ferrari will not officially race the car for the ’71 World Sportscar Championship and will instead focus all of its resources on the new-born 312P, with the innovative “boxer” engine that shows much more promise. The 312B in F1 has been evolved into the B2, and expectations are high for it to win the new championship.

    This is where the development of a new engine for the Can-Am series falls. Ferrari races on and off in this championship since 1967 with poor results. In 1971, he has drivers like Mario Andretti and Jackie Ickx, both free from commitment to the European WSC, to contest the wealthy series. What they need is a truly competitive car. Enzo then decides to build a monster engine, which should be ready for April.

    Ferrari 712 #5.jpg

    Now, what we know so far is that this engine would have been the 7-litre, which was first raced at Imola on May 2. There have been rumours that the engine was not yet ready for the race, and the old 6.3-litre from the 612P was used instead. This is not particularly important now in our investigation. What is, is that the new engine was then actually brought in summer to North America to run, where, however, competed only mid-season in one race at Watkins Glen. Here Andretti managed to qualify fifth, and despite losing the rear wing and spun he still got the car fourth on the finishing line. Not the best result, but the car showed promise. Still, the project was suddenly abandoned. First, Ickx was no longer available since the dramatic death of Giunti at Buenos Aires required him to take his place on the 312P development. Second, the 712 needed much more development while McLaren proved again to have in the M8F a car able to easily trump the competition, winning eight out of ten races at the end of that season. The 712 was just sold to the NART team and left to their care.

    Ferrari 712 #1.JPG

    At this point, if really an 8.5-litre engine existed in Ferrari and proved so strong at Imola, why not take it to the Can-Am championship. Why seal it after the 300km race? Merzario says that Ferrari had proven his point already. Did he really? The Imola race was only a minor one. Just a quick look at the entries proves that none of the big teams, like Porsche from WSC and McLaren and Lola from Can-Am, really entered in strong forces to contest the race. The modified 512M driven by Merzario was almost on a class of its own, where the only real competition came from Craft, who in those days was not still an experienced driver. Moreover, while Merzario improved his old 512S lap time of about half a second compared to the 500km race hosted at Imola in September 1970, he was still slower than Rodriguez’ Porsche 917[2]. Therefore, what did really Enzo prove by winning that race? In addition, developing an 8.5-litre engine, which surely would not have had any application on road cars produced by Ferrari, was a tremendous investment, both time wise and economic wise. Why then waste all of that to just win an obscure race? Lastly, when the 7-litre engine brought to Watkins Glen showed it was not enough against Lola and McLaren, why not retain the car, take the 8.5L big brother at that point, and give it another try, impressing the competitors. Winning the Can-Am season would really have proven the point, not just Imola.

    Ferrari 712 #4.jpg

    Another problem is the power output declared by Merzario. It is hard to believe that the engine was actually capable of delivering 1100 hp. That kind of power delivery was matched only by the Porsche 917/30, which had two big turbos to help with. Aspirated engine in those days could not really achieve those figures. The 712 itself showed a steep fall in the hp/litre ratio, falling from the 122hp/l of the 512M to 99hp/l of the 712, which is an enormous difference given that the latter is an evolution of the former. Moreover, the 512M with its 5-litre engine was capable of delivering 610 hp at 9000 rpm. The 712 was stuck at 680 hp at barely 7000 rpm. If we imagine the displacement to have been raised then at 8.5-litre, we cannot credit the engine more than 800 hp at best, although a range of 700 to 750 hp is much more believable.

    motore autosprint.jpg

    Italian journalists from Autosprint magazine, back in 1971 during the Imola weekend, were able to make some close up photographs of the new engine, and while they testify the clutch fail story of Merzario, they tell a different truth about the engine. One of the photographers was in fact able to snatch a picture from the engine after it was taken down the transporter bay. A tag was still attached on the fuel injection distribution, which said “Eng. 7000” (translated). While this may prove that at Imola it was the brand 7L engine that was actually raced and not the old 6.3L, it proves also that it was not an 8.5L. If Ferrari was in fact there to make a point, to prove how strong their engines could be and not just for testing, why lie to everyone and even deliberately put a wrong tag? Who would they trick, their own mechanics, since the tag was meant to be removed immediately before warm-up procedures?

    cartellino.jpg

    Therefore, in the end, we are left with a question: did this 8.5-Litre engine, the biggest ever produced by the Prancing Horse, really exist, or it has been just one of the usual infamous pranks from Forghieri to his drivers, which started a myth?

    Ferrari 712 #2.jpg

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    Notes:
    [1] A. Merzario, Meteora Rossa, «Ruoteclassiche», July Issue, 2017, p. 19.
    [2] Merzario clocked a 1’34’’ lap time back in September 1970 at Imola with a 512S, while doing a 1’33’’420 in May with the 512M fitted with the Can-Am engine the year later. Rodriguez in a Porsche 917 did 1’33’’400 in September 1970.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2018
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  2. nico80131

    nico80131

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    Looks like a Chaparral from the back
     
  3. E304LIFE

    E304LIFE

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    1100HP...Holy $%&t.
     
  4. Nick Hill

    Nick Hill
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    This is no reflection on Leon's article (which was excellent and very interesting), just a personal preference/bias: I have never really found huge engines to be all that interesting. From an engineering standpoint, it strikes me as somewhat lazy.

    It's kind of like if two random people came up to me simultaneously - the first one says "hey, I just punched through a car windshield with a bowling ball". I'm like, "ok, yeah I could picture that" (shrug). The second guy says, "and I just punched through a car windshield with a tennis ball". Curiosity = piqued. "Did you get it on tape, cuz I *really* want to see that!"
     
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  5. Dirk Steffen

    Dirk Steffen
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    Great article - thanks for that enjoyable read ;-)

    Regarding the topic - this REALLY sounds like something Ferrari and particularly an Italian Ferrari driver would do.

    Ferrari was properly embarrassed with their performance in sportscast racing towards the end of the 1960s when their streak of good performance has faded dramatically.
    By the beginning of the 1970's other manufacturers in sports car prototype racing have thoroughly wiped the floor with Ferrari and Ferrari and company were NEVER good losers.

    Instead of admitting defeat and congratulating the new dominant winners (Porsche in Le Mans prototype racing and McLaren and later Porsche in CanAm) Ferrari simply comes up with a fantasy story how they have allegedly invented a unicorn fart engine of never heard of performance already in 1971 that (what are they smoking) has developed a naturally aspirated power output ranging into the territory Porsche has found with a MONSTROUS Bi-Turbo charged 5.4 liter 12 cylinder engine two years later to own and subsequently kill the CanAm racing series.

    It's all a little bit far fetched, no?

    Ferrari did and does build great cars, good for competition with Porsche on the greatest tracks with the greatest drivers over the generations. It is just the weird stories they come up with some times - or is it a tifosi thing that creates these fairy tales ?

    A question to you @Celtic Pharaoh to answer perhaps ?
     
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  6. Celtic Pharaoh

    Celtic Pharaoh
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    I can't comment on Ferrari's sportscar history as I don't know very much about it but I can comment on the attitude of Ferrari.

    I would say its most likely a form of pride on Ferrari's part. Ferrari always have and likely always will never admit that their cars are inferior. It goes against their grain. So more than likely, they chose to claim they developed this "1100 hp" naturally aspirated engine to scare their competition and seal it away again as a way of saying "I can beat you if I really wanted to".

    I can't believe this engine spec to be true in any way without there being at least a big turbo attached.
    1100 bhp and an NA engine is a real stretch. Also, It wasn't until the early '80s got into using turbos, when Ferrari ran the 308 in Group 5 which only had 742bhp, and following Renault in F1 along with other manufacturers in 1981 with the 126C.
     
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  7. Dirk Steffen

    Dirk Steffen
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    About that history of turbo charged Ferrari engine in sportscar racing - I just stumbled over the curious case of the Lancia LC2 Group C racing program - an incredible story with unfortunately a very sad ending.

    In the midst of the Lancia LC2 Group C racer sat a turbo charged Ferrari V8 engine with it's block based on the Ferrari 308 GTB road car, massaged by Abarth with the help of two KKK turbochargers for Lancia.

    Now THAT Lancia LC2 Group C car was a development for the 1982 season but curiously years earlier (for the 1979 season) a private endeavor by Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti to build a Ferrari 308 Turbo Gr. 5 racer for the German DRM series based on the F308 V8 block and … guess what two KKK turbo chargers.

    The Carma Group 5 car was VERY fast and if not for it's reliability issues was able to challenge the Kremer K3 Porsche 935 and the monstrous BMW M1 turbo for outright speed.

    I am really wondering about the connections between these people and these projects and cannot help but think it is all playing together nicely.
    Was Abarth involved in the Carma Group 5 project?
    Did Ferrari / Lancia / Abarth "borrow" some ideas from Finnotti and Facetti for the 3 liter BiTurbo F308 V8 engine?

    Curiously both cars were mated to 5 speed transmissions (something of an exception during the DRM years with those highly turbo charged engines achieving well north of 750 hp when manufacturers such as BMW and Porsche opted for more durable 4 speed transmissions.

    The Lancia is often quoted to have had a Hewland 5 speed manual mated to the turbo charged 308 engine - was it even the same transmission?

    Now here comes the though that blows my mind.
    The Group 5 project was over by '81/82 - where these drivetrains even material FROM the Carma Group 5 project ???

    Specs and power outputs quoted all over the interned match with curious precision.

    [​IMG]



    A nice little view at the Lancia Group C program:
    https://jalopnik.com/lancia-lc2-the-not-ferrari-le-mans-car-too-fast-to-win-1790482732
     
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  8. Richard Dastardly

    Richard Dastardly
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    Tiny note - the 312P was an interesting-looking closed-roof sportscar from the very late 60s, the 1972 all-conquering one we all know was the 312PB - confusingly originally named the "1971 312P" even though it was a new car...

    1100bhp NA might be less of a stretch if they ran some rather illegal fuel, I guess? that might explain never running it again too.
     
  9. leon_90

    leon_90
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    The 312 PB is the '72 evolution of the original 312 P from '71. The 'B' does not stand for Boxer, as is general belief, but for 'B' as evolution, second version. Agreed, however, that the name used in '71 for the Prototype had the same nomenclature that was used in '69 for the Sport car.

    Ferrari never ran illegal fuel, at least as long as Ferrari himself was alive. It would have hurt their partner reputation, along with that of the company. Plus, no illegal fuel would grant such a boost in figures ;)
     
  10. Richard Dastardly

    Richard Dastardly
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    The previous 312P was a v12, interesting looking if not the best Ferrari sportscar ever.

    [​IMG]

    The '71 car looked much like the familiar 312PB.

    Yeah, I can't see using diluted drag-racing fuel lasting an entire endurance race, but hey who knows what happened at a one-off event! ( I don't believe 1100bhp NA for a second though ). However if we look the results up, the car won Heat 1 by 34s and Heat 2 by a huge 1s - so either race 1 was just a freak race or they tweaked something :p
     
  11. Highbank

    Highbank

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    I just like to bask in Can Am memories...Thanks
     
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  12. Caton XII

    Caton XII

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    I really LOVE this kind of thread, thank you so much ! :thumbsup:
     
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