1978 Ferrari 512 BBLM

{vsig}1997-2_1658{/vsig}

When the new prototype Berlinetta Boxer was introduced on the Pininfarina stand at the 1971 Turin Motor Show with its centrally located flat 12-cylinder Boxer engine it allowed a much lower silhouette body and introduced a completely new style of Ferrari Super Car. Production eventually began in 1973 and was catalogued as a 365 GT/4 BB using the same size 4.4-liter engine as the previous Daytona, but now in a horizontal plane as opposed to a Vee. Power output was quoted as 360 bhp at 7,700 rpm with a maximum speed of 175mph.

In 1976 a revised Berlinetta Boxer was announced with an increase in capacity to five liters and a new designation, “512 BB” (5-liter, 12 cylinders). The main improvement with the new engine was an increase in torque, higher compression ratio and dry sump lubrication, all of which provided maximum power at lower engine speed. As with the 4.4-liter version of the 512 BB, it was not intended for racing but there were several attempts on the part of Charles Pozzi, the French importer, Luigi Chinetti of New York and “Beurlys” of Belgium.

The first three BB 512 LMs were prepared at Modena with assistance from the factory for the 1978 24 Hours Le Mans, two for Pozzi and one for Chinetti and a fourth car was built at The Francorchamps Garage.

The cars were of all-alloy construction and had plexiglass windows and were built to the then-IMSA regulations which reduced the dry weight to 1,200 kg. The engines were blueprinted and appropriately tuned, raising the power to 460 bhp. To improve the aerodynamics and handling a large front spoiler and aerodynamic duct was fitted. Wider rimmed wheels with Michelin race tires and a rear wing overhanging the back as on the 312 Formula I cars completed the package. All other items remained standard to comply with the regulations. Early testing at Le Mans showed a considerable improvement in speed over the previous Competition Daytona’s lapping in 4 minutes 07 seconds.

The race result was disappointing with only the Belgian car finishing in 16th place after a gearbox change. The other three all succumbed to clutch/transmission failures after being in 11th and 12th positions and 2nd and 3rd in class; the standard clutch/gearbox was unable to cope with the increased power.

New cars were developed for 1979 using fuel injection and reinforced transmission with square-cut gears and individual oil radiators. Again the results were disappointing and it was not until 1981 with a 5th place overall and 6th in 1982 that the projects began to materialize, but the removal of the IMSA class in 1983 forced the BB-LMs into retirement.

This 1978 Le Mans car was the first of the Charles Pozzi entries driven by Claude Ballot-Leno and Jean Louis Lafosse which put up the fastest lap time in 4.07.1 and was in the 12th position when forced to retired tu to clutch failure at 9:10 am on the Sunday morning. Following that race, the car was never used again and except for a few demonstrations has been kept in a private collection. The car is in superb condition and represents the first efforts of the BB-LM IMSA project which was to be the final swan-song of Ferrari participation at Le Mans.