Ferrari 1966-1974 - Three prototypes, three podiums (1): 1967

Ferrari 1966-1974 - Three prototypes, three podiums (1): 1967

Since Ferrari

The 1967 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans marked the climax in the duel between the two constructors that had begun in 1965. Beaten in 1966, Ferrari introduced the P4, undoubtedly one of the most handsome prototypes ever designed, the following year. The P4’s lines were the outcome of an aerodynamic study conducted in a Stuttgart wind tunnel notably used by Porsche, while its V12 engine produced 450 bhp. In April 1967, Lorenzo Bandini at the wheel of the P4 clocked the quickest lap time in preliminary testing for the 24 Hours (now the Test Day) but unfortunately lost his life during the Monaco Grand Prix the following month. The tragedy made Ferrari more determined than ever to score their tenth Le Mans win.

Ford set a very high tempo in the early stages of the race, particularly with the American pairing of Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt, who moved to the front of the field in the second hour. Ferrari opted to stick to a precise running schedule as the race team director, Franco Lini, considered that Ford would struggle to maintain such a pace through to the end. When a crash shortly after 3.00 a.m. took out three of the Fords at the same time, it appeared that his prediction would come true. As day broke, three P4s were trailing the Gurney-Foyt team. When Michael Parkes, in second place five laps behind the leader, found himself in Gurney’s wake, he hounded the American who countered by pulling on to the verge at Arnage to let him overtake! The Briton responded by pulling up behind Gurney but eventually decided to set off again, immediately followed by the race leader, who overtook the Ferrari again a shortly afterwards. After this episode of mind games, Ford continued to dominate the race with the P4 unable to gain the upper hand using more conventional methods. The Italian prototype finally claimed the second and third places with Scarfiotti-Parkes and Mairesse-Blaton (entered under the pseudonym of “Beurlys”).

This exceptional 35th running of the race, which saw the 5,000-km barrier broken for the very first time, soon became known as the “Race of the Century”. It also marked the end of Ferrari’s reign at Le Mans, and the end of an era too. As performance levels scaled new heights, the CSI (International Sporting Commission, the predecessor of the current FIA, International Automobile Federation) stepped in to restrict the prototypes’ engine capacity to three litres.

Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO
Translated from French by David Goward

Photo: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY 10 & SUNDAY 11 JUNE 1967. Two of the four Ferrari 330 P4s that started the race finished on the podium. Pictured here is the third-placed car driven by Willy Mairesse and “Beurlys”.