Credit: Gooding & Co.
Helping Niki Lauda to become Formula 1 World Champion in 1975, the newly developed 312T reigned supreme during its short stint in the sport, before further development took Ferrari from strength to strength throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Several key decisions were made in the build-up to the season of 1975. Mauro Forghieri was re-instated as Chief Designer, who would work alongside newly appointed team manager Luca Di Montezemolo – formerly Enzo Ferrari’s assistant and driver for the privately-owned Lancia rally team, HF Squadra Corse. Having missed out on the championship in 1974, Niki Lauda agreed to stay with the team for the following season, eager to take his maiden World Championship.
First revealed in September 1974, the 312T (T standing for transversale; in reference to the car’s transverse gearbox) held similar design cues to the Tyrell and March cars of the time, as Forghieri sought for a tighter overall package – something the transverse gearbox would help with. By altering the gearbox, Forghieri was able to mount it further forward than in preceding cars, now with most of the weight ahead of the rear wheels. Coupled with a flat V12 engine, the weight distribution of the 312T was nothing short of excellent; greater agility in the corners reflected the car’s improved handling.
Several other structural changes were apparent on the 312T. A complete redesign of the front suspension along with a smaller monocoque were contributing factors in weight saving, which was aided through a lower rear wishbone and other changes around the rear Goodyear tyres. The bodywork was also curved upwards at the rear of the car to encourage airflow over the tyres, helping with improved handling and reduced drag.
The flat-12 engine from the preceding 312B3 had been radically improved and now produced 480bhp at 12,200rpm. This was enough to satisfy the Scuderia, who then began intensive testing prior to the ’75 season with Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni at the wheel.
However, the car missed the first 2 races of the season subsequently debuting in South Africa, where it would fail to impress. A broken throttle linkage led to an early retirement for Regazzoni in car No.11, and Lauda only managed to finish in 5th place. A Ferrari front row lockout followed in Spain, however this time Lauda retired early after a collision with Mario Andretti sent him into the sister Ferrari. Regazzoni was able to continue although found himself +4 laps by the time the race was prematurely ended, following a horrific accident involving Rolf Stommelen. Failure to complete 90% of the adjusted race length subsequently earnt Regazzoni a DNF. The 312T had yet to prove itself…
The mid-season was far brighter for Ferrari, with Lauda taking 4 wins from 5 races conceding only to Hunt at Zandvoort - taking his first Formula 1 win. Regazzoni then managed to win the penultimate race of the season at Monza, ultimately helping Ferrari take the Constructor’s Championship that same day, the marque’s first since 1964. With only half a point separating Lauda and the Driver's Title in the run-up to the weekend, the Austrian kept his composure and comfortably took 3rd place, securing his first ever F1 World Championship.
Credit: Gooding & Co.
In the charge to take both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships, Ferrari managed 8 victories that season (6 of which were during championship races); 6 for Lauda and 2 for Regazzoni, 9 pole positions, and 6 fastest laps.
The 312T was run for the first 3 races of the 1976 season as well, where its reign of dominance continued. Lauda won the first 2 races – Brazil and South Africa – and Regazzoni took victory in Long Beach. The 312T2 was then introduced from the Spanish Grand Prix, and Ferrari would go on to win the Constructor’s Title again, although Hunt would become World Champion following Lauda’s accident at the Nürburgring.
An icon of the sport, and in my opinion one of the most beautiful with its high airbox and shovel-nose (which has grown on me over the years), the 312T was a true game-changer for Ferrari. In 2019, chassis #022 crossed the block at Gooding & Co.’s Pebble Beach auction for $6,000,000. Being a championship-winning car piloted by the great Niki Lauda undoubtedly contributes to its value, bringing the 312T legendary status in Formula 1.