For decades, Ferrari has only developed single seaters for Formula One racing. Indeed, the last single seater from the Scuderia to race in a series other than F1 celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2018: behold the Dino 246 Tasmania.
It was known as ‘the little Ferrari’, because it was so elegant, diminutive, minimal – and blindingly fast. Enough to dominate the Tasman Cup in the hands of New Zealand hero Chris Amon. He convinced Enzo Ferrari to build a one-off car for the annual Australia and New Zealand race series in 1968, and went on to make it a fan’s favourite.
The racer bore the name Dino in its title because it was Ferrari’s collaboration with Fiat that sourced the engine for the racer – and made it eligible to race: rules dictated 5,000 road-going versions of the engine had to be produced in a year in order to be homologated. This racer thus bore the heart of the road-going Fiat Dino Coupe and later Dino 206/246 GT.
Ferrari first used the engine to create a new Formula 2 car called the 166, which debuted in 1967. From this, it developed the 246 Tasmania, which developed its 200 horsepower 1.6-litre Jano V6 engine into a searing 285 horsepower 2.4-litre V6. In the hands of Chris Amon, with just two mechanics, Bruce Wilson and Roger Bailey, he won the 1968 New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe.
He then won the next round at Levin, but only after leader Jim Clark’s Lotus broke down. For the next race at Wigram, Amon finished second, to Clark. The car’s designer Gianni Marelli called Enzo Ferrari after each race with an update. What was needed to beat Clark, Enzo asked? Another 20 horsepower, Marelli told him.
Two weeks later, for the Surfer’s Paradise race in Australia, a brand-new engine was waiting for Amon, with exactly 20 extra horses. Amon put it on pole. Only a breakdown in the race stopped him from winning: he retired from the lead.
For the rest of the 1968 season, Amon and Clark battled intensely – at one race, Clark triumphed by just 0.1 seconds. At the end of the season, Clark was Tasman Champion, Amon a close runner-up. It was a respectable result. But Enzo wanted more.
Two cars were prepared for 1969, for Amon and British racer Derek Bell. Amon duly dominated, winning half the races and taking the championship with ease. “When we went back to Italy, Mr. Ferrari invited us to lunch,” recalled Wilson later.
“He thanked us on behalf of Ferrari and our dealer worldwide and gave us a big hug. He was very warm and I thought I was going to get a handshake. But he put his hand in his pocket and brought out a gold watch and gave it to me. Chris got the handshake and I got the watch with a little black prancing horse on the dial. To me, it’s priceless.”
The triumphant Tasman Dino remains the last Ferrari single-seater to race in a series other than F1. Chris Amon never did win an F1 world championship race. But he did win a title in a Ferrari single-seater, dominating the field while doing so. For the late, great racer, it was a fitting success in an elegant, fast car as classy as he was.