LEAVES OTHER FERRARIS IN ITS WAKE
This unique Ferrari-powered racing boat features a V12 engine that raced at Le Mans, Spa and in the Carrera Panamericana - before taking to the water. #1957 #San-Marco-Ferrari #KD800
Words Gerald Guetat // PHOTOGRAPHY Henri Thibault. #San-Marco #Ferrari-KD800
Sitting in the cockpit of this single-seater, the pilot activates the fuel pump and turns over the engine for a few seconds on the starter. Then a few pumps of the throttle to fill the carburettors, the magneto is set to position number three and a finger pushes the starter button again. This time it lights an inferno in 12 cylinders. The tachometer needle jerks round to 1300rpm yet, although the driver keeps his foot down, engine speed soon decreases to 1200pm and it remains ticking over. The water in the tank is heated slowly while oil pressure drops gradually from 100 to 50psi. The sound is fantastic, every single moving part of this historic V12 running like clockwork.
Briefly, the pilot contemplates Ascari and Villoresi, who might have won the Le Mans 24 Hours in #1953
behind this engine if it hadn't been for clutch failure - but today he's not sitting in that car, nor any car. Meanwhile, the water temperature has risen to 60 degrees. The pilot shuts down the engine so that the heat is distributed and continues to rise naturally. Three minutes later he fires it up again and engages the propeller shaft by means of a specially designed gimbal, and keeps his foot on the clutch pedal. He must now increase the acceleration while slipping the clutch to drive the propeller without stalling.
The red racer starts to trace its wake of white foam across Lake Como; the engine is hot, and now the driver can attempt take-off. Lift speed is achieved at the point where most boats have already reached their limit but, here, the party has just begun.
Unlike the other two Ferrari-powered classic racing boats still in existence, this is the only one equipped with an engine taken directly from a prestigious race car - the others have motors that were always intended to power boats. This V12's amazing adventure started on the track at La Sarthe in the year of the first World Sports Car Championship, when Commendatore unleashed a pack of three 340MM coupes. Among the contenders, one - chassis number 0318AM - was specially prepared with a reinforced chassis and a higher-capacity engine of 4494cc, actually a 375 engine directly derived from Aurelio Lampredi's #1950
and #1951 #Formula-1
design. This particular unit was reported as having been prepared for the Indy 500 in #1952
with machined (rather than forged) con-rods.
Entrusted to driving aces #Alberto-Ascari
and Luigi Villoresi, the 375 beat the lap record at Le Mans at 181.5km/h (112.5mph), dominating the race and leading at 17 hours only for the clutch to fail at 19 hours, after 229 of a total of 304 laps - thanks, possibly, to the increased torque of its bigger engine. Of the two other cars, only 0322AM finished the race (in fifth, driven by brothers Paolo and Gianni Marzotto), while Hawthorn and Farina's 0320AM had been disqualified after 12 hours.
After Le Mans, the three cars were sent back to Pininfarina to be modified for the rest of the season. The next race was the Spa 24 Hours in Belgium on 26 July, for which the other two cars were also fitted with 375 engines. Hawthorn and Farina won the race in 0322AM, #Ascari
retired in 0320AM (another clutch failure), while 0318AM (entrusted to Umberto Maglioli and Piero Carini) did not finish.
It next crossed the starting line in Mexico, all three sister cars having left for the #Carrera-Panamericana
under the private flag of Franco Cornacchia's Scuderia Guastalla. This time 0318AM was driven by Antonio Stagnoli and Giuseppe Scotuzzi, who died when the car left the road at almost 180mph after a tyre burst. Only the engine remained intact, and it was preserved in the garages of Scuderia Guastalla in Milan - until Guido Monzino bought it to mount in the 800kg-class racer he had ordered from Milanese boatbuilder San Marco. Owned by champion boat-racer and Ferrari multiple water speed record-holder Oscar Scarpa, the San Marco yard was a perfect match for Ferrari. This boat, hull number 069, was built in 1957 after the precious V12 was checked by the Ferrari Corsa department at #Maranello
was well-known for his chain of Standa stores, but even better for his expeditions: their wide media coverage almost made him a national hero. He was a wealthy explorer who financed his own adventures to the tops of the highest mountains, the North Pole and other remote spots - a thrill-seeker who loved dramatic landscapes and the feeling of living without limits.
His raceboat was of the 'three point7 type that dominated powerboat racing from the Second World War through to the mid-1970s. Its hull is designed with two wide sponsons at the front while the rear ends with a narrow transom, supporting the propeller and rudder mounts. Therefore, at full speed, the hull is in contact with water at only three points, minimising friction between the hull and the water.
Cooling is a crucial factor. The engine coolant is fed by a 20-litre buffer tank, with a heat exchanger to warm water that is collected from the lake by means of a dynamic scoop under one of the forward floats. This is only effective once the boat is running at a speed of 25-30mph. The pilot has to wait for the water to get up to temperature before revving up to 5000-6000rpm by adjusting the clutch to send the required torque to the propeller, which rotates at the same speed as the engine's output shaft.
Ideally, the lake surface should not be too flat: small ripples actually help to tear the hull away from the surface of the water from about 50mph. At that point the boat becomes a true hydroplane, running faster and faster. Just as Monzino wanted it.
Monzino's offices were in Milan, but he spent as much time as possible at one of the most beautiful houses on Lake Como: the Villa del Balbianello, where the James Bond film Casino Royale was more recently made. There he enjoyed both a sporting and refined existence, with his Ferrari racing boat brought to his private dock on request from a nearby boatyard. The servants loved to watch him, impeccably dressed, climbing into the cockpit of the red San Marco, casting off and speeding towards Como with a fantastic roar from its V12 engine. Within 15 minutes, he would alight at the Yacht Club where a Ferrari awaited to whisk him off to Milan. Now that's the way to commute.
Monzino was an accomplished water pilot, yet the only race that attracted him was the Raid Pa via-Venezia, a competition on a wild river that was similar in spirit to some of his great adventures (see panel, left).
By the late 1960s, Monzino had acquired some of the most expensive cars in Maranello's catalogue, such as a 400 Superamerica and a #Ferrari-250GT-California-Spider
. Yet his aquatic escapades had become less frequent. Stored at the boatyard near his romantic villa on the lake, the red racer had been almost abandoned when a young student of the Fine Arts Academy of Milan discovered it in #1969
and was fascinated by the aesthetics of this strange machine. Monzino reluctantly accepted a meeting with the young Austrian eccentric, who went by the name of Dody Jost, and a deal was done. Jost took deliver)' of the boat, which was in need of restoration: three-point hulls are delicate and one doesn't launch a #Ferrari
racing V12 onto the water without taking certain precautions. Jost went on to own the Nautilus hotel, with its own private dock on Lake Como, and kept his boat there for a few years before starting its full restoration.
The hull was entrusted to respected Como competition boatyard Luccini, while the engine went to the Diena & Silingardi Sport Auto workshop, specialists in rare Ferraris on Modena's Via Toscanini. Conducted piece by piece, the process took years to complete. It was recently exhibited at the Museo Casa Natale #Enzo-Ferrari
, where it fascinated not only the public but also the historians of the Maranello factor)'. For years they had paid little attention to Ferrari-engined boats yet in 2012 Ferrari Classiche itself made the trip to survey it. After a detailed examination, its engine received official recognition.
Collectable Ferraris with an exceptional pedigree can reach sky-high prices at auction: witness 0320AM, the 340/375MM sister car to the one from which the San Marco's engine was taken, which found a buyer for nearly €10 million at the RM Villa d'Erba sale in #2013
(and which was featured). But the San Marco's potential monetary value is of no great concern to Dody Jost.
'Smaller racers were powered by Alfa Romeo or BPM engines of 2.0 litres or less, whereas these 800kg "monsters" had 4.0-to-6.0-litre engine displacement, and sometimes even more,' he says. 'Driving is a delicate operation requiring a lot of concentration, because to go fast the hull must hover to avoid contact with the water except at the extremities of the lateral floats and the rear propeller. The engine torque is critical because, when starting up, the boat behaves like a mono water-skier. Fast engine response is essential to get the boat to lift out of the water.
This is where the multi-disc clutch is crucial to provide maximum torque for lift-off. The hull of a racer is built to go fast; it is much more manoeuvrable when it is gliding across the surface of the water.'
There's a secret to steering this boat, too: 'The profile of the rudder is designed for high speeds and responds immediately to the slightest command from the wheel, which requires a lot of concentration. The super-cavitation propeller is only half-immersed in water and the pilot can hear its characteristic roar at full throttle: 7000rpm. The torque of the propeller rotates in a clockwise direction and tends to turn the boat to the right. This is why a small winglet is fixed under the left sponson to help stabilise the boat.'
Even that sleight of engineering hand can't help in all circumstances, however. 'Race circuits always turned counter-clockwise around the buoys. Attacking such a turn is very tricky because it requires the pilot to reduce speed but not by too much, to prevent the hull from sinking back into the water, which would bring the craft to a halt within a few metres. One can imagine the race conditions of a pack of boats sending up huge white sheaves of water as they slip out of their trajectories in the furious chop generated by the hulls and propellers.'
How does it compare with racing a car? 'The powerboat champions had no reason to be envious of their colleagues on the track in terms of courage, strength and sense of anticipation. However, as in automobile racing, you can recover on a straight stretch, casing the acceleration to maintain 6000-6500rpm and attain maximum speed over the water. It's an exhilarating sensation - matched by the fabulous roar of the #Ferrari-375MM
V12. We'll certainly take his word for that.
Boat #1957 #San-Marco-Ferrari-KD800
ENGINE 6494cc V12, SOHC per bank, three #Weber
40IF4C four-barrel carburettors
POWER 340bhp @ 7000rpm
TRANSMISSION Propeller shaft with manual attachment and multi-disc clutch, twin-blade propeller.
PERFORMANCE Top speed c140mph
Attacking the Raid Pavia-Venezia
The longest river race in the world
The raid #Pavia-Venezia
, founded in #1929
, still occupies a unique place in the hearts of powerboat racing enthusiasts in Italy. The route followed some 280 miles of the wide and wild Po river, including locks and unstable sandbanks that were hidden just below the water, as well as blind curves and threatening bridge piles, all passed at high speed.
Taking part is a true adventure through relative wilderness: no wonder it attracted entrepreneur and explorer Guido Monzino. In #1958
he gave Ferrari third place, the best ranking it would ever achieve in the race, averaging 88.26km/h (54.72mph). He finished the race after U hours 36 minutes, AO minutes behind the husband-and- wife crew of Tarcisio and Amelia Marega (in a Timossi-BPM) and 30 minutes behind the great champion of the race, Paolo Petrobelli, with mechanic M Pacchioni (Timossi-BPM).
This was an honourable performance for a casual racing driver. At the time, the regulations required a two-man crew: the driver took the wheel while the ‘mechanic’ was supposed to go down into the river bed to dig the boat out of sandbanks. Today, the race no longer exists in its original form, due to low waters in late spring and, sadly, a lack of sponsorship.
Left and above. This boat was originally built by San Marco of Milan in 1957 for the Italian adventurer and chain store owner Guido Monzino, who used it to commute from his villa on Lake Como. Today it is fully restored and kept by the owner of a Lake Como hotel.
‘THE RED RACER TRACES ITS WAKE ACROSS LAKE COMO, THE ENGINE IS HOT AND THE DRIVER CAN ATTEMPT TAKE OFF
Right. Le Mans 1953: car no 12 was specially equipped with a 4.5-litre ‘375’ V12, but retired due to clutch failure - it subsequently donated its engine to this San Marco racing boat; at speed on Lake Como, fast enough for hydroplaning to take effect.
Right, top and bottom Steering wheel controls a rear rudder, though an additional fin counteracts the torque effect of the V12 - seen here with its triple Weber carburettors, and capable of a 340bhp output.