The Daytona circuit now has another significance for Ferraristi: it's the venue for the first ever US Finali Mondiali
The late 1960s were a time of flux for Ferrari. By the decade’s close, Il Commendatore would sign a deal with Fiat kingpin Gianni Agnelli, achieving much-needed financial stability in exchange for a 40 per cent stake to Fiat, while guaranteeing autonomy for Enzo Ferrari’s beloved Formula One team.
The Company’s presence in sports car racing, over which it had enjoyed dominion for almost 10 years, was also coming to a close. But not before Ferrari racked up one of the greatest victories in its existence.
Rewind to June 1966, and Ford had finally made good on Henry Ford II’s mission statement to “kick Ferrari’s ass” following rancorous takeover talks a few years earlier. The American rout of reigning kings Ferrari – a 1-2-3 for the GT40 at Le Mans and Sebring – must have hurt like hell, although it cost Ford an absolute fortune and was rinsed for all the marketing value the Blue Oval could possibly get.
Ferrari’s reply came in the form of the 330 P4, for many the definitive Ferrari racing car of all time. Two of the new cars appeared at Daytona in 1967, one in open Spider form, driven by Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini, the other a coupé with Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti at the wheel.
The Ford effort during the race was riven with reliability problems, to the extent that the Dan Gurney/AJ Foyt Mk II was a distant 30 laps behind the lead Ferrari at 1am, a situation that was only made worse when the car needed a new transmission.
Ferrari won a resounding victory, the last few laps choreographed to perfection to cause the Americans maximum discomfort. Amon and Bandini crossed the line having completed 666 laps at an average speed of 169km/h, with Parkes and Scarfiotti second, and the Rodríguez/Guichet NART 412P third. Significantly, the Porsche 910 driven by Hans Hermann, Jo Siffert and Jochen Rindt (who had co-driven Ferrari’s last overall win at Le Mans in 1965) finished fourth.
The Daytona influenced pretty much every other car designer, and represents the bridge between the curvaceous form language of the 1960s and the “wedge” motif that would dominate the 1970s.
It’s also worth noting that the Daytona, even as Ferrari’s range-topping Gran Turismo, turned out to be a highly effective competition car in its own right. Fifteen track versions were made in all at the Assistenza Clienti department. Leading French Ferrari dealer Charles Pozzi fielded a 365 GTB/4 at Le Mans in 1972 that finished a remarkable fifth place with Jean-Claude Andruet and Claude Ballot-Lena co-driving.
More amazing was the fact that the next four places were filled by competition Daytonas, a remarkable achievement for essentially a race-prepared road car.
It’ll be one of many rich memories honoured when Ferrari’s annual Finali Mondiali arrives at the Daytona International Speedway on 1 December for a four-day Prancing Horse bonanza.
As ever, this unmissable event will gather all the competitors in the European, North American and Asia Pacific series of the Ferrari Challenge, Corse Clienti and XX, and, of course, Scuderia drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, who will demonstrate the SF16-T on that hugely impressive circuit (marking the first time a contemporary F1 car has been driven there).
‘A relationship of close co-operation has been established between Ferrari and this historic race-track over many years,’ Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari’s Corse Clienti and GT activities says. ‘So much so that the North America Series of the Ferrari Challenge counts the Daytona race, organised to coincide with the legendary 24 Hours, among its most important events.
‘The Finali Mondiali, to be held in December at the Daytona International Speedway is a further development of this already established relationship.’ Another victory is surely in prospect.