Spaghetti Sunday and Maranello Monday have come and gone, I guess it’s Tertre Rouge Tuesday? This is one of those cars that exemplifies my belief that the 70's and early 80's were a magical golden age at Le Mans, when crazy prototypes and mutant GT cars of all kinds did battle at La Sarthe. From the little local Rondeaus and WMs, to Domes, Chevrons and Lolas, to BMW M1s, turbo Lancia Monte Carlos, Porsche RSRs, 935s, 924 Carrera GTs, and these sleek 512s, the variety on the grid has perhaps never been better.
This, of course, is one of those 512BB/LMs, chassis number 32129. It was fielded by famed French Ferrari importer and privateer Charles Pozzi at Le Mans in 1980 for the all-Belgian squad of Jean Xhenceval, Pierre Dieudonné, and Hervé Regout. Sponsorship came from the European University, which is where dang Communists go to learn the metric system. From what I’ve found on RacingSportsCars and elsewhere, this Le Mans would be its only race, though it has since found some success in vintage racing. Le Mans 1980 was a wet one, with several of the frontrunners falling afoul of the weather, and it served as somewhat of an equalizer for the less powerful cars. Which this was, considering that it was running around 500hp against 800hp 935s. Also helpful were fuel fill restrictors and a 120L fuel capacity limit implemented by the ACO that necessitated longer pitstops, hurting famously thirsty cars like those 935s. Ultimately attrition and the weather would serve our BB well, seeing it to 10th place, 26 laps behind the winning Rondeau M379 of Jean Rondeau and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud.
The 512BB LM had a protracted development, growing from seeds planted by the privateer N.A.R.T. 365 GT4 BB that was modified to run in the US with IMSA in 1976. After mixed results and the debut of the 5-liter 512BB, Pozzi, Ecurie Francorchamps, and N.A.R.T. modified four of the new 512s with Ferrari’s blessing for 1977, but these suffered reliability issues and were generally ineffective. Ferrari stepped in officially for the 1978 season, developing the 512BB LM in the form seen here. While it looked the part, it too would be a disappointment, hampered again by reliability issues, particularly with its gearbox, which was not uprated to accommodate the increase in power. The engine was mounted atop the transaxle as with the street car, meaning the high center of gravity did the handling no favors.
The BB LM would see ongoing development through its life, racing into 1985, with 25 chassis made. In addition to gearboxes, RSC’s type archive shows an unusual and depressing number of engines and accidents as reasons for withdrawal throughout the car’s life. In fact, the BB LM has perhaps the worst record of any car I’ve researched for a piece, the DNFs are everywhere! Still, one of this car’s teammates, chassis number 31589 would go on to manage a 5th overall at Le Mans in 1981, winning the IMSA class and beating all but one of the 935s. Shame it didn’t go better, because for my money this is one of the greatest looking race cars of all time. Function does not always follow form, I suppose.
This model is in 1/43 by IXO. It’s worth noting that in period it had yellow wheels & no BB512 rear script,so it seems the model reflects the car’s more recent appearance as vintage raced.
See how high the motor is? And it’s a big damn motor.
Gratuitous rear shots of 1:1 versions:
Nice to do a feature again, it’s been too long and this is a welcome distraction from the world’s problems. Thanks for reading.