The curious 6-wheel Ferrari Formula 1 car

20 novembre 2009

par R Fagnan

Back in 1977, the year of Niki Lauda’s second World Championship the Scuderia Ferrari, under the guidance of Mauro Forghieri designed a 6-wheel car that was vastly different from the infamous Tyrrell P34 that had four front wheels.

Niki Lauda posing beside the twin front tires at the rear.

Codenamed 312 T6, the boxer 12 engined car was derived from the T2 with which Lauda came close to win the 1976 title despite his life threatening crash on the long and dangerous Nurburgring circuit in Germany.

The six-wheeled 312 T6 used four front tires at the rear, specially developed for the purpose.

Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann tested it at at Fiorano during the spring of 1977.

The idea behind Forghieri's project was probably the reduction of total aero drag, with front tyres at the back instead of the regularly sized rear wheels – which of course were enormous in the ‘70s.

Niki Lauda driving the 312 T6 at Fiorano.

Another theory might be that Forghieri tried to counter the deformation of the huge rear tyres under cornering, which in turn reduced the contact patch, thus traction. Having two sets of front tires at the back would give a more rigid solution. At the same time Ferrari tested a De Dion suspension with the same aim.

Carlos Reutemann driving the 312 T6 at Fiorano.

The T6 was tested but never raced. The T6 was never declared illegal as such, but its width was way beyond the permitted dimensions of a Grand Prix car, so it was never officially entered in a Grand Prix.

During a test at Fiorano, Reutemann crashed the only T6, and suffered a rear upright failure on another occasion. The project was then abandoned, and all Ferrari F1 cars have remained on just four tires since then (FIA banned 6-wheel cars shortly after).

A regular rain tire standing beside the twin tires.