This article on the Ferrari Testa Rossa comes from Collector AUTOhebdo dedicated to the Ferrari adventure at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, available on our online store.
The Testa Rossa testifies to the change in attitude of Ferrari at the technical level. Before it, Maranello’s creations were rustic to say the least, relying on their V12 to compensate for weaknesses in chassis and aerodynamics. In perpetual evolution, the Testa Rossa allowed the small Italian manufacturer to bring itself up to date thanks to the work directed by Carlo Chiti. This former Alfa Romeo engineer was appointed technical director in place of Andrea Fraschetti, who was killed in August 1957 while testing an F2 on the Modena circuit. If the initial design of the Testa Rossa is due to Fraschetti, it is Chiti who finalized it and directed its evolutions.
In 1955 and 1956, Ferrari abandoned the V12 in favor of inline 4 and 6 cylinder engines, with disappointing results. At the bottom of the wave, the Scuderia will find a second wind with the 250 Testa Rossa, so called because of the red color of the cylinder head covers of its single shaft V12. This appeared in 1957, at the prototype stage. After a 10th place at the 1000 km of the Nürburgring, it entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a 3.1-litre version, Gendebien-Trintignant evolving between 2nd and 4th place before being betrayed by their engine in the 10th hour. The 335 S with a 4.0-litre twin-shaft engine also having to give up, Jaguar took its 5th victory at the 24 Hours.
1958: a well-watered victory
The definitive version of the 250 TR appeared in 1958, when the FIA limited the engine capacity of sports cars to 3.0 litres. Maranello’s new weapon will be available to both factory and customers on both sides of the Atlantic. For the time being, we cannot say that Ferrari is avant-garde, having privileged reliability over innovation. The ladder-type chassis remains archaic, the rear suspension retains a Dion bridge equipped with leaf springs, the synchronized gearbox has only four speeds and the brakes are still drum brakes. As for the bodywork signed Scaglietti, it remains more a matter of style than aerodynamics, except for one detail: this recess around the front wheels, supposed to promote cooling of the brakes. Chosen over the V6 Dino, the “short block” V12 designed by Colombo is far from being a novelty, but it is efficient, proven and widely available since it also powers the 250 GT. Its development will be ensured by Franco Rocchi and Walter Salvarani.
Despite its rusticity, the 250 TR enjoyed a triumphant 1958 season, ending with a world title, the brand’s third after 1953 and 1954. The high point of the season remained victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the TR has already evolved. On the three factory cars, the tunnels intended to cool the brakes