Unrivaled: Niki Lauda and the Ferrari 312T-022

Wed, Sep 18, 2013 | Posted by:

Car Culture, Cars, Griot's Garage, History, People, Racing

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_thumbnailI remember the day it rolled off the trailer. I couldn’t believe the car was here. THIS car. Dirty and worn, sure, but every bit as beautiful as in my childhood memories. I had to sit in it. Hold the steering wheel HE held. Imagine the Veglia tach sweeping toward 14,000 RPM. Snap the gated shifter through the gears. I could have stayed in the seat for hours.

I spent that first afternoon removing bodywork from Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312T-022 and taking photographs. I felt like a kid again. It was like working on the model car I had built so many years ago, but in reverse. As I peeled back the layers, thoughts of that great time in racing flooded back.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_ferrari-vs-maclaren

Niki Lauda leading Emerson Fittipaldi. Watkins Glen Grand Prix (1975).

The Golden Age
Formula One in the mid-70′s was nothing nice. The cars possessed brutal power (and only basic safety considerations). Racing was done on a razor’s edge. The risks were ever-present, the rivalries intense. Lauda, Hunt, Regazzoni, Stewart… When the conversation turns to Grand Prix racing, these names echo loudly.

I became acquainted with F1 through magazines and television. The blood-red cars from Ferrari, with their screaming 12-cylinder engines, were especially fascinating to a kid in that era. I really began to follow F1 in 1975; the year Lauda won his first Drivers’ Championship. Back then, it seemed, you had James Hunt fans and Niki Lauda fans. Both were talented, but something about Lauda’s approach to racing and commitment to “the craft” put me in his camp.

The Making of a Champion
Niki Lauda was one of the early so-called “ride buyers,” who actually took out personal bank loans and paid teams for the chance to drive. Lauda first laid rubber with the March team in European Formula Two, where up-and-coming drivers put their skills on display for F1 team owners. He so impressed March in the ’71 and ’72 seasons, that he was promoted to their Formula One squad. Unfortunately, a series of poor performances in somewhat experimental cars put Lauda on his heels, deep in debt, and ready to throw in the towel.

Call it “Champion’s Instinct,” the inescapable feeling that one is destined for greatness, but Lauda knew this wasn’t the end of his story. He took out one more loan and moved to the BRM team in 1973. Financially it was a gutsy move, as the BRM team was running nowhere near the front of the grid. Lauda was quick, but the car was under-developed. He finished 17th in the Championship that year, but did manage to impress one important team owner.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_lauda-74-dutch-gp

Lauda waves to the crowd after a victory. Dutch Grand Prix (1974).1

Enzo Ferrari, buoyed by the endorsement of Lauda’s former BRM teammate Clay Regazzoni, offered Niki a paid ride with Scuderia Ferrari. The offer was generous enough to erase his debts of the preceding years. It was time for Niki Lauda to show what he could do behind the wheel.

A second-place finish in his debut race (in a car widely considered to be uncompetitive) rewarded Enzo’s faith in Lauda. His first GP victory – and the first for Ferrari since 1972 – followed only three races later. Though he won only one more race that year, Lauda was able to achieve six consecutive pole positions and finished fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, demonstrating his commitment to testing and his drive to win.

Lauda and the Ferrari 312T
Enzo Ferrari prided himself on having the most powerful engine on the starting grid. However, this focus on horsepower sometimes came at the expense of chassis development, as was the case with Ferrari’s 312B3 in the early 70′s. In spite of extensive testing by Lauda and others, handling issues with that car proved insurmountable, leading to a radical re-think of the design.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_lauda-john-player-gp-silverstone

Lauda in the 312T. John Player Grand Prix (1975).2

The resulting car was the 312T. Its revolutionary transverse-mounted gearbox put more weight ahead of the rear axle, for confidence-inspiring neutral handling. The venerable flat-12 powerplant finally had a chassis to manage the power. In all, 312T’s won 27 races, four Constructors’ and three Drivers’ titles (including two for Lauda).

Chassis 022
At Griot’s Garage we love anything that rolls on rubber. We also recognize the importance of preserving (and driving!) vehicles of all types. It’s the best way for us to honor and protect our shared automotive heritage.

With its rich competitive history and all-encompassing aura, Ferrari 312T-022 is a natural candidate for restoration. And with the highly-anticipated release of Universal Pictures’ “Rush”, which chronicles the intense rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, the time is right to shine a spotlight again on this iconic automobile.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_car-pre-restoration

Ferrari 312T-022 as it arrived at Griot’s Garage, pre-restoration.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_car-tim-paint

The Author (left) and Jon Byers determine stripe locations in the paint booth.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_car-on-stand

312T-022 on the operating table.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_car-fuel-bladder

Restored fuel bladder and foam, ready for installation.

unrivaled-niki-lauda-ferrari-312t-022_car-routing-oil-lines

The Author mocks-up routing for new oil lines.

The 312T is the source of countless racing memories from my childhood. A legend in red and white. The car I watched in near-disbelief being unloaded from a trailer just a few months ago now sits outside my office window, undergoing a full, concours-level restoration.

Some guys have all the luck.

We look forward to sharing more with you as we give this celebrated machine a second lease on life. In the meantime, get out there and…

Have fun in your garage!

Bookmark and Share
………………………………………………………………………………………….
PHOTO CREDITS
Thumbnail: By Verhoeff, Bert / Anefo. / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.05, item 928-0037 [CC-BY-SA-3.0-nl], via Wikimedia
1: By Peters, Hans / Anefo / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.05, item 927-2750 [CC-BY-SA-3.0-nl], via Wikimedia

2: By Gillfoto (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia
………………………………………………………………………………………….
caffgas-ad


Posted by:

23 Responses to “Unrivaled: Niki Lauda and the Ferrari 312T-022”

  1. ckwrites2 Says:

    Tim – Hats off – just a great story and a primo example of a brand connecting with its readers. Nice wheels too =)

    Reply

  2. Marc Says:

    great story… thanks for sharing and would like to see more stuff like this in he future.

    Reply

  3. Taroman Says:

    Brilliant job, hats off to you.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  4. BinNH Says:

    This is a great deed and a great story! Thank you! Having been involved in the restoration of a couple of Mustangs, I can at least begin to appreciate what was done here. It would be great to see a similar effort on the Lotus of Fitipaldi or Graham Hill, or one of the championship McLaren Can-Am cars.

    Reply

  5. Bogie Says:

    Great work and thank you for restoring a piece of racing history!

    Reply

  6. Jim Says:

    Great story that for sharing it here with the list!
    I too would love to see more of this kind of story.

    Reply

  7. Jim Says:

    Great story thanks for sharing it here with the list!
    I too would love to see more of this kind of story.

    Reply

  8. SamSmith Waldorf Says:

    Hi Tim,
    This is a GREAT post for an important car and your effort to restore it faithfully and I figure toward safety so that we will see t at places like Laguna Seca, Sanoma and Portland I look forward to watching the progress and sometime soon seeing “022″ out on a race track ‘you tube’ ? Thanks sam

    Reply

  9. Scott Bufe' Says:

    Terrific!! Can’t wait to see more updates as the restoration progresses. Hope you bring the completed project to Road America for the “Vintage” gathering next year…..a perfect venue for this classic “prancing horse”.

    Reply

  10. Clyde Says:

    After seeing the other cars in your collection, I can say that the fastidious attention to detail will be second to none. Well done Richard, cannot wait to see her completed. Keep us all posted on the restoration.

    Reply

  11. bruce Says:

    I visitied the factory a few years ago and was cruising around the Corsa Cliene shop. Most of the gold chain wankers were off listening to the tour guide give some useless speil while us engineeering types were looking at the dimantled cars and the parts bins checking it out.

    There was a blown gear boxes from something F1 – what an e$pen$ive way to have fun. But what really caught our eye was the 312 PB motor all apart – the completely gear driven cam set up was a thing of absolute beauty. Every part of the motor was just mindblowing as only the Italians can do it.

    The only thing that I’ve ever seen that came close was a Rolls Royce aircraft v-12 out of a Spitfire but that thing was just massive. The delicacy of the 312 motor was all about 14,000 rpm!

    Reply

  12. Mark Says:

    Thanks so much for telling this story. F1 drivers are some of, if not the most courageous of all athletes. I cannot wait for my son to return from overseas duty in the USAF and watch “Rush.” That movie looks fantastic!

    Reply

  13. katomonster Says:

    Thanks for the post, Tim. The Ferrari F1 from the seventies was one of my favorites. It takes me back to childhood, when I barely knew how to ride bicycles! I remember building a Tamiya version of the machine in 1/24 scale. It was fantastic to just bask in the glory of the championship vicariously thru a model…

    Reply

  14. Richard Says:

    I hope that there is a book in the making of this restoration.

    Reply

  15. j.m.scott Says:

    cars are so close to having a soul,,, they eat, breath, get rid of waiste,,, created by humans,,, so wonderful to see an ” old timer” being reborne. looks like it being done right, only way to go. Keep it between the lines…

    Reply

  16. Freddie46 Says:

    Some guys doooo have all the luck. I would love to be part of the restoration.

    Thanks for the write up and bringing to Richard Griot’s attention. I built my detailing business on Griot’s products.

    Fred

    Reply

  17. jaxxsun Says:

    I remember those days as well. Except in black and white. We did not have a color set.

    Reply

  18. Lance Says:

    Bravo! La tua poesia corsa cattura il cuore. (Your racing poetry captures the heart.)

    Reply

  19. W. R. Abernathy Says:

    Any plans to get Niki Lauda with the car for photos? Maybe at the American GP in Texas? What a terrific project. As the saying goes, This Car Matters!

    Reply

  20. Stephen Says:

    Thanks for making dreams come alive once again. Just returned from watching Ron Howard’s movie RUSH. Super car movie and it is great to see this one car alive and opened up. We are all Griot’s fans and are waiting for more installments. Meanwhile I am in the garge using multiple great products on my M5, X5, and a daily driver or two.

    Keep us all in the loop!

    Reply

  21. Wiley Norwich Says:

    Just saw the car at Seattle Auto Show today. Looks fantastic down to every detail that I could see – would love to have seen it in the F1 field at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, along side the 76 312T2 and the two 312Bs. As a side note, I saw 022 at the Spanish Grand Prix, Montjuich Park. Unfortunately, Lauda was crashed out on the first lap and the race was shortened due to a fatal crash, but 022 went on to better things, as you well know.

    Ferrari fans surely appreciate your efforts in restoring such a racing icon.

    Reply

  22. David Greenbaum Says:

    I would absolutely love to feature this car’s restoration on my webite, CarBuildIndex.com. How can I find more pictures of the 312T during it’s restoration??
    Thank you!

    Reply


Join the Conversation