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Ferrari 246SP, the central engine arrived at the Sport Prototypes

After Cooper's irruption in F1 with the mid-engine, Ferrari reacted to the point of also adapting in the World Cup of Manufacturers

After the withdrawal of Mercedes and its W196 in 1955, the second half of the decade once again gave Italian manufacturers a free hand in F1. In addition, the position of Scuderia Ferrari was especially strong. First of all for having received the sensational D50. Paid off by Lancia after Lancia was bought by the Pasenti family, those single-seaters also included the signing of Vittorio Jano. His creator and, moreover, one of the best Italian engineers in history. Also, as if all this were not enough, Maserati announced its withdrawal from F1 at the beginning of 1958 due to financial difficulties.

With all this, Ferrari seemed destined to reign alone thanks to the mixture of excellent engines and economic solvency provided by its series models. However, from the United Kingdom a certain opposition began to emerge led by the so-called "garagers". Small teams that, using recognized brands as mechanical suppliers, focused their attention on weight and aerodynamics in order to be competitive. In this way, they tried to solve through ingenuity the obvious deficiencies that, compared to Ferrari, they exhibited in terms of power and speed.

Thus, in Maranello a dangerous arrogance reigned since the announcement of the withdrawal of Maserati. In fact, the Commendatore himself publicly mocked those who worked on improving aerodynamics. What's more, he said that this was for those who didn't know how to make engines. Likewise, he was fully convinced about the forward position of the mechanics, assuring that "The horse must always pull the cart." However, when Stirling Moss won the 1958 Argentine GP aboard a Cooper T43 all the alarms began to go off in Maranello.

In fact, from Carlo Chiti to Giotto Bizzarrini they knew that this had not been a coincidence. far from it, the Cooper's center-rear positioned engine improved weight distribution and the passage by curve. In addition, it contributed to reducing tire wear. What's more, in that race Moss did not have to stop even once in the pits. With all this, it was obvious how, as soon as Cooper had an engine only slightly better, he would manage to sweep Ferrari without too much trouble.

Something that came to confirm the T51 during the following season, taking Jack Brabham to his first world title drivers. A fact that, finally, made Enzo Ferrari react. Until now, he was especially reluctant to let himself be advised by the engineers who accompanied him in Maranello. So things, the Scuderia devoted all its energies to the development of a single-seater with a rear-central engine since late 1958. Plus, it had to be done fast since Cooper had been joined by Lotus. Especially effective in reducing weight and improving aerodynamics thanks to the ingenious designs of Colin Chapman.


Fully focused on responding to the challenge posed by the British, Carlo Chiti installed an improvised wind tunnel in Maranello. In addition, he focused on creating the lightest possible tubular chassis. This way, in 1960 the 246P was already ready. An experimental F1 that, in fact, was entered on a trial basis in two rounds of the season. Thus, it was obvious how Enzo Ferrari had given his arm to twist. Being now one of the main champions of the revolution started by the ingenious “garagers".

At this point, at the press conference for the 1961 season, Ferrari presented the 156F1."sharknose”. Adapted by Vittorio Jano to the new regulations of the category, its V6 engine left the displacement at 1.476 cubic centimeters to deliver 180 hp at 9.200 revolutions per minute with three double-barrel carburettors. In addition, the chassis featured a much lower center of gravity than that delivered by previous single-seaters. And that's not to mention the aerodynamic efficiency. Clearly superior thanks to everything worked by Carlo Chiti.

In fact, the 156F1 "sharknose” could not have a better opening. Managing to win that same year both the drivers' title and the constructors' title to thus enter a new era of F1. Much more competitive and varied than during the previous decade, with Lotus, Brabham or BRM consistently winning. In fact, if the fifties were Italian, there is no doubt that the sixties were British.

However, Ferrari had another field of action where it was doing really well. We are talking about the Brands World Cup. A terrain where victory had only eluded him in 1955 and 1959 due to the excellence demonstrated by the Mercedes 300SL and Aston Martin DBR1 respectively. However, It was a matter of time before the same thing happened in this specialty that had already happened in F1. Because of this, Ferrari decided to be as innovative in Sport Prototypes as it had not been in the single-seaters of the premier class.

Also, the 156F1"sharknose” provided an excellent basis for creating an innovative machine with which to win at Le Mans or Targa-Florio. A fact supported by the obvious wear and tear on the 250 Testarossa. Extremely effective with their front V12 although, at the same time, clearly in need of a quick relief. At this point, Carlo Chiti adapted the chassis of the new F1 to the demands of the World Championship, designing it as the basis for a Sport Prototype covered with a body made of aluminum plates.

Likewise, Vittorio Jano was in charge of everything related to mechanics. Increasing the displacement of the V6 block used in F1 to 2.417 cubic centimeters to deliver 270 CV at 8.000 revolutions per minute. Regarding weight, that Sport Prototype would be 590 kilos. In this way, in the same press conference in which the 156F1 was presented, Ferrari's new bet for the World Cup of Manufacturers was also revealed. Yes, the Ferrari 246SP had arrived. The first endurance model with a mid-rear engine created by the brand.

Of course, far from being a design stuck in time, the Ferrari 246SP was in constant evolution from the outset. Interestingly, especially in the previously underappreciated realm of aerodynamics. Where Carlo Chitti extensive work was done redesigning the rear in order to make it more refined and apt in relation to the aerodynamic load. From here, the Ferrari 246SP was combined throughout 1961 with the later 250 Testarossa. The latter used in races where there were more straight lines and, the newer ones, in Targa-Florio type twisty ones.

In fact, the first victory of the Ferrari 246SP was precisely in this Sicilian event. Starting point for a career full of successes for the SP, later replaced by the P that they would already have to deal with the Ford GT40 from 1965. Of course, regardless of what ended up happening with the end of Ferrari in endurance racing already at the beginning of the seventies, the truth is that, with the 246SP , they were as pioneering as Cooper with his T43.

Photographs: Ferrari

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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