Ferrari 312 T, the extraordinary car that allows Lauda to become World Champion



The 312 T, in addition to having made the history of Scuderia Ferrari, was an unbeatable car, allowing Niki Lauda to triumph five times in the 1975 World Championship (Monaco, Belgium, Sweden, France and the United States) and at the home of the pony to win the Constructors' Championships.


After the failure of 1974, the Maranello house proposes the curious and revolutionary Ferrari 312 T for the 1975 championship.


In addition to the car, the team also won that year, cohesive around the figure of the technical director Mauro Forghieri, the sporting director Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, and the drivers Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni.


Curious and unknown to most is the fact that Niki Lauda and Mauro Forghieri do not always get along, despite the fact that serious clashes never occur. And even the technicians don't particularly like Lauda. However, an excellent mediator between the two strong characters of Forghieri and Lauda is Montezemolo, a young boy very skilled in public relations, as well as having quickly become a well-known character in the pits due to a strongly extroverted character.


It is enough to remember that in Monte Carlo Montezemolo takes to the track to celebrate Lauda's arrival, only to be dragged behind the barriers by a commissioner, who on the occasion receives a punch in the face by the Ferrari sporting director.


More or less the same scene can be seen in Monza, where to celebrate the World Champion title won by Lauda, ​​Montezemolo runs again in the middle of the track. And how can we forget the broken leg in the pits and the protests at Watkins Glen following the disqualification inflicted on Regazzoni, a fact that will trigger a fierce protest from the sporting director, which ended with a fight in the pits with the race director, given that just before the halfway through the race, Lauda joined Clay to round him; the Swiss stepped aside while he stopped Fittipaldi for four laps before making the way.


The consequence was that the race direction displayed the black flag to Clay.


Despite this, Montezemolo orders his driver, who has returned to the pits, to get back on track, and then runs to the race direction. This is how Nero - this is the pseudonym of Montezemolo runner - lashes out against the race director, against whom an incredible quarrel arises.


An explosive team, to which Regazzoni is added: the Swiss is undoubtedly fundamental for the triumph of the horse, given the countless hours spent running on the track, often ending with tennis matches played at the Maranello sports center, until late evening. But above all it is Lauda who makes this car absolutely unbeatable.


Niki, who will be nicknamed Golden Ass, as he told his technicians that with his backside he can feel sliding, skidding, and everything else that can be useful to understand the behavior of the car and of the individual tires when entering and exiting corners, uses every inch of the Fiorano circuit to improve the car and the car.


In fact, it is well known how he, getting out of the car, asks Forghieri why he was going slow in entering or exiting this or that curve. The advantage of having the Fiorano circuit, scattered with forty photocells along the route, is felt in the economy of the 1975 world championship.


The advantage over the competition is that Ferrari, having the circuit adjacent to the factory, cuts transport or logistics costs, favouring the speed of development of the car.


The novelty behind the 312 T


After eleven years of failure, due to Ferrari's participation in the Marche and Formula 1 championships, a choice that mainly affected the performance in the second championship, in 1975 Forghieri surprised everyone by deciding to build a car with a significantly shorter wheelbase than the competition. To do this, the technical director of Ferrari decides to place the gearbox of the car not longitudinally to the engine, but perpendicularly, transversely, causing the weight and wheelbase of the car to be reduced, making the car shorter in length, with more concentrated masses and therefore more manageable in exit and entry of curves.


In an era in which the development of Goodyear tires will have a significant impact on the world fate of cars and drivers, this choice to focus more on the handling of the car, at the expense of aerodynamics, will prove to be a huge advantage.


In fact, although from an aerodynamic point of view there are still no advanced technologies to guarantee the maximum performance of the frame surfaces thanks to in-depth studies, several competing teams have long understood that with larger airfoils or cars with larger surfaces, they could have generated enough downforce to be able to counteract the much more powerful Ferrari engine.


On the 312 T what is not there it is like static weight on the rear axle is added as aerodynamic load thanks to an increasingly overhanging wing, which is compensated by the front one.


In addition to aerodynamics there is more


Precisely because of the car's lack of aerodynamics, therefore the limited surface area dedicated to contributing to the downforce coefficient, Ferrari decides to install the V12 Boxer Tipo 015 engine, with a displacement of approximately 3.000 cubic centimeters and a power of 495 horsepower (364 kW) at 12.200 rpm.


The characteristic that brings the choice of its installation on the single-seater is its flat shape (V12 flat angle, 180°) with a low center of gravity. This means that the car is lower, therefore more attached to the ground and with less resistance at speed, thus compensating for the lack of contribution to the downforce coefficient.


Another absolutely positive factor is that the boxer engine, having such a wide angle, cuts down what is defined by the technicians as the problem of the center of gravity, that is, the height of a mechanical component that determines the oscillation of the car on a straight line and in a curve.

When a project is successful


Brought to its debut at the South African Grand Prix, during the third race of the 1975 world championship, the 312 T was not immediately fast: in this Grand Prix, only Lauda reached the finish line, no further than fifth. At the next Grand Prix, the two Ferraris immediately proved to be very fast, conquering the entire front row, but a collision at the start between the two drivers denied the team the deserved victory.


A victory postponed, given that in Monaco Lauda starts a series of victories that allow him to become a serious candidate for the World Champion palm.


The series is interrupted in Holland due to a very fast James Hunt, who reached the finish line first. Lauda is satisfied with the second place, but goes back to the next Grand Prix, in France, and thanks to the fourth victory in the championship Lauda begins to accumulate a sufficient number of points that allow him to run cautiously in the following events.


In Great Britain, for example, despite Ferrari being the fastest car, it is the rain that hinders the race of the two drivers, while in Germany, during the ninth lap, Ferrari's chances of catching a double are lost due to the failure of the engine on Regazzoni's car and a puncture for Lauda.


In Austria it is again the rain that stops Lauda's race at the world champion: since the race is interrupted on the twenty-ninth lap, causing the attribution of the score halved, Lauda cannot enjoy the world triumph by only half a point.


The race in Monza will be decisive, where Regazzoni wins in front of a cheering audience for the world triumph of Lauda, ​​who by finishing third closes the run-up to the drivers and manufacturers world championship in his favour. In the first three grands prix of 1976, the 312 T will once again succeed in winning all three occasions; the first two with Lauda, ​​the third with Regazzoni. From the fourth Grand Prix, the 312 T will give space to the 312 T2. Given the successes and the great performances of the single-seater, several examples will be built:


  • 312 T/018, driven in a Grand Prix by Niki Lauda and damaged by Clay Regazzoni in the Monaco Grand Prix;

  • 312 T/019, never deployed in the race;

  • 312 T/021, Clay Regazzoni's 1975 car for five championship races plus the 1975 Swiss Grand Prix, then Giancarlo Martini's in 1976 in two untitled races for the world championship;

  • 312 T/022, used by Lauda in six races (three victories), then by Regazzoni in one race in 1975 and one in 1976;

  • 312 T/023, the most glorious specimen, with six wins out of nine races run between 1975 and 1976 with Lauda, ​​plus a second place and the third that will give Lauda the world title in the 1975 Italian Grand Prix;

  • 312 T/024, used in seven races by Clay Regazzoni in 1975 and 1976, creator of only one victory;

  • 312 T6 version with six wheels, two of which are of normal size for each rear side and one of smaller dimensions for each front side. It will be tested by Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, but never fielded in the race, as it will be problematic to drive and wider than the regulations allow.


This singular single-seater will be able to underline the undisputed search for innovation and continuous performance of the Ferrari company, so much so that it still reflects its soul today. His myth is now history, as well as the top driver, Niki Lauda, ​​who helped to mark the name of the Ferrari team and Formula 1.


Andrea Rasponi

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