The 1972 Targa Florio winning

1972 Ferrari 312PB Sports-Prototype

The Ferrari 312PB enjoys a special place in the Scuderia’s history books. Conceived as a thinly disguised Formula One racer clothed with sports car bodywork to challenge Porsche’s all-conquering 917, the raucous, ear-splitting flat 12 sports-prototype from Maranello won every race it entered in the 1972 season and took the Cavallino Rampante to its last victory in the World Sports Car Championship. Eight race cars were built that year, plus one ‘muletto’ test mule. Unlike the 512S/M which was available to privateers, the 312PB was exclusively reserved for the Works Team and driven by the crème de la crème of its drivers.

Our research into the history of this chassis took us recently to Maranello where we were granted rare access to the original, handwritten records of the Gestione Sportiva- Ferrari’s contemporary racing department- leading to a fascinating discovery. This chassis was laid down on 15th September 1971 and was originally numbered ‘0884’. Its first outing came two months later when tested at Daytona in the USA on 23rd November 1971. Flown back to Italy, on 13th December it performed brake testing duties in Modena.

The scene was set for the dawn of the 1972 season and ‘0884’ lined up for action on 9th January at the opening Buenos Aires 1,000Km where, piloted by Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni and Englishman Brian Redman it finished 2nd overall. Overhauled and updated for its next race, the Sebring 12 Hours on 25th March, it appeared there with the same driving duo but they retired whilst in the lead due to a broken halfshaft. Returned to Maranello, the car was rebuilt with 0.8mm bodywork and readied for the Monza 1,000Km on 25th April but here Redman and Merzario were unlucky, ‘0884’ leaving the road in heavy rain and retiring.

Next came a classic challenge laden with historic significance: the gruelling, epic Targa Florio, scheduled for 21st May. In the weeks leading up to the Sicilian race the Gestione Sportiva’s records show in detail how chassis ‘0884’ was overhauled following its Monza outing. As Antoine Prunet recalls in his book ‘Ferrari Sports Racing and Prototype Competition Cars’: “The only 312PB, entered at the last minute, in the Targa Florio had Merzario and Sandro Munari at the wheel (the latter being the most recent winner of the Monte Carlo Rally, was under the direction of Cesare Fiorio, the Lancia rally team’s manager). For this particular race the 312PB had been specially prepared: the spoiler had been raised and the spare wheel had been positioned in the right hand lower sill. The magnificent victory won by Merzario and Munari against four official Alfa Romeos, allowed Ferrari once again to inscribe its name in the honours list in a race where victory had consistently evaded the grasp of the cars from Maranello since the victory of Vaccarella and Bandini’s 365P2 in 1965.”

This 312PB’s official duties still weren’t over. A post-Targa overhaul followed and in June the Ferrari team headed north to Zeltweg in Austria where the successful Merzario/ Munari pairing again shared the same chassis, this time bringing it home 4th overall. Back in Maranello a final Works check up was conducted before the car was retired. What happened next remained a secret for almost 40 years: when star driver Jacky Ickx decided at season’s end that he would like to buy a Ferrari 312PB, he was proudly presented by Ferrari with this car…quietly renumbered ‘0882’ before its sale, with the Belgian ace’s trademark yellow stripe added and race number ‘85’ to match the 312PB Ickx had driven to victory at Watkins Glen earlier that year. The real chassis ‘0882’, the Sebring 12 Hours and Monza 1,000Km winner which had been Ickx’s car for all of its racing life, was not ready for sale as it had been repaired following an ‘off’ at the Nürburgring and was busy tyre testing for Michelin. It was sold to a museum at the 1972 season’s end, conveniently renumbered ‘0884’…

Looking through the Gestione Sportiva’s quaint, handwritten but very detailed race records- one A4 book per season- there is no attempt to conceal this simple swap which was perfectly legitimate, as neither car had yet been sold by Ferrari. Further confirmation comes from the engine number of ‘our’ car: ‘0884’ was built with engine number 001/n.10 (‘001’ is the type, ‘10’ the progressive) and sold with the same engine fitted…which is still in the car today.

Following its sale by Ferrari SpA on 20th October 1972 to Jacky Ickx, this car remained in his ownership until 22nd September 1980 when acquired from him by well-connected American racing car driver, team owner and dealer Harley Cluxton. Harley has confirmed to us that he resold the car soon afterwards to well-known French racing car collector Jacques Setton, who in 1990 set the record for the highest price ever paid for a motor car when he acquired the ex-Fangio Mercedes-Benz W194. The Ferrari 312PB remained in Setton’s extraordinary collection at his Chateau de Wideville retreat outside Paris- complete with private race track- until passing, via German enthusiast Peter Fandel- to the current family ownership in the mid-1990s.

Since then this jewel-like projectile has been maintained to the highest standards, as evidenced by invoices for work totalling some €820,000, enjoying successful track outings in the Ferrari Challenge, Goodwood Festival of Speed (co-driven by ‘Little Art’ Merzario) and beyond. It is now ready to enter another, hopefully equally long-term ownership with its intriguing history revealed for the first time in four decades.