The rules of the World Sportscar Championship for Makes changed again in 1972, bringing an end to the era of 5-litre sports cars exceeding 25 models produced. The new regulations brought in the new 3-litre Group 6 cars, to focus on the development of this car, Ferrari prematurely ended work on the 512. The 312 P that Ferrari started work on in 1970 began life as a distant relative of the 312 P of 1969.
Its mechanics were overhauled by the team, led by Mauro Forghieri, to such an extent that is was informally renamed the 312 PB. That was largely due to the installation of the F1 derived 3,000 cc, 460 hp 12-cylinder Boxer. Therefore, 1971 was a year of development, with a promising one-two in the 9 hours of Kyalami that boded well for the coming year, with Clay Regazzoni and Brian Redman finished ahead of Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx. In the 1972, season Ferrari registered three cars with fast and highly experienced drivers. In addition to the four who competed in Kyalami, Ronnie Peterson, Tim Schenken and Arturo Merzario made regular appearances. Rally champions Sandro Munari, Helmut Marko and Carlos Pace also competed in some races. The programme’s sports director was former driver Peter Schetty, winner of the European Mountain Championship in 1969, who did not hesitate to change the make up of the crews in order to defeat the Alfa Romeos, Porsches and Matras. Indeed, Ferrari’s domination turned out to be overwhelming, with 10 wins out of 10 races. Two Ferraris were on the podium in every race: including eight one-twos, plus a victory and third place at Monza. The highlight came at Zeltweg, when the four Ferraris took the top four positions. Maranello won the 1972 Championship for Makes, with Andretti and Ickx leading the way with four wins, while the Belgian driver won another two with Regazzoni and Redman. The latter won twice, the second time with Merzario, who also finished first with Munari in the Targa Florio. The victory in Sicily was a stroke of genius. Ferrari had the great idea of deploying the rally champion out of his natural environment, and the driver – although not as fast as Merzario – showed his mettle with sports cars; both on the road in Sicily and in the 1000km of Zeltweg. He later used this experience to develop the Lancia Stratos to perfection.
Peterson and Schenken also won twice, showing the high quality of the drivers and the car. In addition, Scuderia Ferrari won the 500km of Imola that didn’t count towards the World Sportscar Championship, with Merzario victorious ahead of Ickx. It was a swan song of sorts for Ferrari in this category, with the entire programme dropped soon after, in order to focus on the Formula 1 team.