Niki Lauda’s Championship-Winning Ferrari Heads To Pebble Beach Auctions; Could Become Most Expensive F1 Car Ever
A very special car is going under the hammer at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach sale, taking place in California on August 16 and 17. It’s an actual Ferrari 312T Formula 1 car that the revered and recently-departed Niki Lauda drove in claiming the first of his three Formula 1 world championships in 1975. Reflecting its status, it’s estimated to go for a whole $6,000,000 to $8,000,000, and this is in the range of the record sale for an F1 car at auction, held currently by a Ferrari F2001 driven by Michael Schumacher in the 2001 season, which RM Sotheby’s in November 2017 sold for $7,504,000.
The Ferrari 312T is important for wider reasons. It at last ended Ferrari’s F1 championship drought, which stretched 11 years all the way back to 1964. Indeed for much of the early 1970s Ferrari was in the doldrums, even missing some races in 1973. The car was important technically too. Designed by famous long-serving Ferrari technical chief Mauro Forghieri, it featured a transverse-mounted gearbox, reflected in the “T” designation, as well as the car’s “transversale” moniker. It positioned the gearbox ahead of the rear axle to give a lower center of gravity.
This was just one of a number of design improvements on its already-competitive 312B3-74 predecessor, including narrower front bodywork. This was combined with Ferrari’s dominant and reliable flat-12 engine, which with 500bhp out-powered the Cosworth DFV of almost all of its rivals at the time. It all showed in results, as the 312T and its variants won in total 27 races, four constructors’ and three drivers’ championships. And this one going under the hammer, chassis 022, helped start the run, aiding Lauda towards an imperious 1975 drivers’ title.
It is one of just five of these cars made, and Lauda drove this very chassis to victory in that year’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. He also finished a close second in the Dutch Grand Prix, a race notable for being the scene of James Hunt’s first grand prix victory, won with the raucous Hesketh team. Lauda also finished third in the car in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, after leading the race until picking up a puncture, and in that event he became the only person to set a sub-seven minute lap of the famous circuit in its full configuration.
Lauda indeed qualified on pole in all five championship races that he drove chassis 022, as well as took it to victory in the non-championship Silverstone International Trophy race that year. His team-mate Clay Regazzoni also raced the car twice. Its final grand prix was in South Africa in early 1976, after which the car was retired from racing.
The car was acquired by noted French collector Jacques Setton in the 1980s, and he owned the car for nearly two decades. It was later sold to John Bosch of the Netherlands and is now being offered from a prominent American collection, where it has resided since 2008. It has been beautifully and painstakingly restored by the current owner using Ferrari experts at Dennison International, and it finished third in its class at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.