I am making good progress with my latest Ferrari 512 S/M book. It has been a very interesting journey so far and I am sure you will find my progress report very interesting…
It is said that Ferrari’s heart was never really in the 512. I get the impression from the many magazine features I have read, that Ferrari only really created the 512 in the hope of providing some opposition to the Porsche 917s. There may be a smidgen of truth in that, but it would be really surprising, if not unbelievable, to accept that Enzo Ferrari would contemplate creating a race car for that purpose alone. For starters, there was Italian pride at stake, which is under normal circumstances a big proportion of anything they do. But when it involves Ferrari, then the stakes are significantly raised. Of course, there was also the immense cost of developing a race car and there could be no stronger justification for doing it than to win races. And that is obviously what Ferrari had in mind.
Still, the Ferrari 512 S, and its updated brother the 512 M, must go down in Ferrari’s history as one of the most exciting sports racers. However, the fact that it did not achieve its full potential will no doubt be a subject for discussion over countless beers, and at motor races around the world, but it nevertheless was a fearsome contender and occupies an esteemed place in the history books of the sport.
One of the most enjoyable things when writing about historic, iconic race cars, is the people you get to meet and the cars you get up close and personal with. When I did my book on the Ferrari 250 GTO for example, I got to photograph that car in detail and sit in one of the most sought after sports cars on the planet today. Wow!
The Ferrari 512 is no different, it brings back the vibrant colour and that charged atmosphere of the era, so you can almost taste it. Is that possible? Well yes, in one way, because some fantastic folk have sent me their precious and personal memorabilia from the day. What an honour! Trying to recreate the actual scenes in print today that capture the atmosphere, the struggles and the victories of yesteryear, is no easy task. It can only be done with the help of the good folk who were there on the day and who share their memories with me. So you are going to find this latest book liberally sprinkled with quotes and accounts from the guys and gals who were there on the day!
Obviously some of the drivers and team personnel are no longer with us. This is a source of great sadness and in some cases frustration for me as a writer because I really want to get inside their heads to find out how they approached their driving, or how did they take Eau Rouge at Spa, or what was it like to stand on the podium at Le Mans. In these instances, the best one can do is to glean whatever info you can from those who worked closely with those drivers. As a case in point, Mark Donohue who died in 1975, was one of the best racing drivers of his day, but his chief mechanic has been instrumental in describing his approach to racing. I also have some humorous accounts, and some very human and touching stories to bring to this book from Mark’s mechanic.
When one sees a racing car, like a Ferrari, doing what it is supposed to do on the race track, i.e. beating the opposition, one cannot for a minute imagine all of the work that has gone on behind the scenes to get that car onto the grid. In this respect, the recollections of the Penske Racing chief mechanic, the NART Ferrari mechanic, racing drivers who piloted these super race cars in period, as well as engineers, designers and sponsors, have all been invaluable. I have been privileged to interview Woody Woodard, Don Cox, Francois Sicard, Dick Fritz, Kirk White, Sam Posey, David Hobbs and Derek Bell, to name but a few. And these were all instrumental in the 512’s racing achievements. Further interviews with key drivers and others intimately involved with the Ferrari 512 are planned.
The period and the racing world into which the Ferrari 512 was born was not only a highly competitive one, but it was also arguably one of the most innovative in terms of sports car racing. Mauro Forghieri told me that it was with great pride that the 512 was developed, and so with confirmation from the man under whose direction the 512 was designed and built, there can be little doubt about the factory’s original intent, even though it only raced for 2 years.
The book will also include interviews with those currently responsible for maintaining and driving these wonderful cars today. Here, Nick Mason will explain his love for the Ferrari 512, and I will also have the professional opinion on the market values of the Ferrari 512 today, and where those values are going in the future.
Hope you will join me for Part 2 as the project progresses. So stay tuned!
Written by: Glen Smale