The regulation changes being introduced for the Spanish Grand Prix 1976 at Jarama had forced Ferrari to design a completely new car, the 312T2 - in contrast to their main rival McLaren, who simply modified their successful M23 type. Ferrari had been the defending champion that year, both for the drivers`and the constructors title. That should not become a serious problem, after 6 rounds of the worldchampionship Lauda had scored 51 out of 54 possible points.
But at the 1st August 1976 the worldchampionship leader had a horrible fire accident, that nearly had brought him fatal injuries. In the ultra-fast left bend of the track`s part called Bergwerk (mine) the top left rear wishbone broke, when Lauda had a little touch with the kerbs inside. The Ferrari left the track at 200 km/h, killed two catch fences to collide with a rock after that. US-American Brett Lunger with a Surtees Ford and Briton Guy Edwards (Hesketh Ford) crashed into the heavily burning Ferrari. When touching the catch fencing Lauda had lost his helmet, he was consciousless caught in his cockpit and sat in a fireball, inside 800° C were reached, for nearly a minute. Lunger, fellow Austrian Harald Ertl, Arturo Merzario from Italy and a marshall rescued him from the inferno. But Lauda did not suffer under serious burnings of his face and hands, he had done a massive inhalation of flames and poisoning gases giving serious damage to his lungs. Laudas battle for survival in the Mannheim university hospital nearly took a whole week, then he he returned to his home country of Austria for an intensive recovery programme with fitness expert Willi Dungl. Only after 42 days of absence Lauda returned to Grand Prix racing to celebrate his sensational comeback with a fine 4th place in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Still being in the lead of the worldchampionship Lauda came to the final round, the Japanese Grand Prix at the Fudji International Speedway. But the Austrian suffered under the burnings of his face, especially of those of his eye-lids bringing massive problems with the visibility. The Japanese Grand Prix had been started delayed very much because of heavy rain and so it was no wonder, that Lauda decided to quit the race in lap 2 for this reason. This way James Hunt became world champion one point ahead of Lauda, a fact that was considered a big scandal in Italy.
But in 1977 Lauda fought back with the Ferrari 312T2, 3 victories and 6 second places made him become worldchampion 2 rounds before the end of the championship and very clearly ahead of Jody Scheckter in the Wolf Ford. After his fourth year with Ferrari Lauda joined the Brabham Alfa Romeo team for 1978 handing over his Ferrari cockpit to young talent Gilles Villeneuve from Canada. The 312T2 was replaced by the T3 version for the 1978 South African Grand Prix being the third round of that year´s worldchampionship.
Model designation: 312T2 Years: 1976-1978 Designer: Mauro Forghieri Chassis: Ferrari aluminum monocoque with spaceframe support Engine: Ferrari B12, 2991 ccm, bore x stroke 80 x 49,6 mm, 500 bhp at 12.200 rpm Gearbox: Ferrari transversal 5 speed manual Wheelbase: 2560 mm Track: 1405 mm (front), 1430 mm (rear) Weight: 600 kgs (with water and oil, without driver and fuel) Tyres: Goodyear Dampers: Koni Fuel and oil: Agip Drivers: Niki Lauda (A), Clay Regazzoni (CH), Carlos Reutemann (RA), Gilles Villeneuve (CAN)
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