After sitting out the 1968 season, the new 1969 Ferrari 312 P represented the brand’s re-entry into racing. This epically-proportioned dynamo was primarily used in the Prototype Sports Car category in the Group 6 racing series during the 1969 season. While the car looked stunning, it wasn’t all quite as novel a design as it first appeared. You see, the 312 P was essentially the same 312 the world already knew under that fancy sheetmetal.
A Spectacular Design
To conform with new race rules mandating a smaller engine size, Ferrari used a naturally-aspirated 3.0-litre flat-12 mounted at the rear of the chassis. With a maximum 450bhp on tap, the 312 P could reach 320 km/h with enough track. An independent double-wishbone suspension was used at the front and rear of the chassis.
Originally, the 312 P was only built with an open-top design. Later models, however, would receive a closed-top Berlinetta body style to reduce drag. And that body style was quite something to look at, too. Those great swooping lines gave the car impressive aerodynamics as well.
The 312 P Goes Racing
The first true test of the Ferrari 312 P 12 Hours of Sebring in 1969, with Mario Andretti and Chris Amon behind the wheel. Ferrari’s lone entrant finished in second place. This auspicious result gave everyone at Ferrari hope that their new 3-litre racer could bring some more glory to the brand. That wasn’t quite the case, however.
Other notable finishes include a fourth-place result at the Brands Hatch 1000km and second place at Spa in 1969. Unfortunately, there were more disappointments than triumphs for the 312 P. Due to various reasons, the car failed to finish at such venues as Monza, Le Mans, and Nürburgring.
After Porsche’s 917 stormed on the scene later in 1969, Ferrari knew that it would need to field something new (the mighty 512) to stay competitive. Meanwhile, the last two 312 Ps were shipped over to Luigi Chinetti for use by his North American Racing Team. One model would end up racing in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it would complete 281 laps, compared to the 917’s 343 laps.