Undefeated at the 24 Hours of Le Mans six editions running, Ferrari had witnessed the rise in power of Ford since 1965. The American marque was relentless in its efforts to beat the Italian manufacturer on one of its favourite playing fields. After Ferrari's loss in 1966, spectators awaited the 1967 edition of the race with extreme impatience, excited for the next chapter in the top motorsport duel of the 1960s.
A new prototype - Presented in January of 1966, three Ferrari 330 P3s were fielded that year: two coupe versions for Michael Parkes-Ludovico Scarfiotti (#20) and Lorenzo Bandini-Jean Guichet (#21), and one Spyder for Richie Ginther-Pedro Rodriguez (#27) representing the NART, the American team of 1965 winner Luigi Chinetti (with Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt).
Supporting partner teams - Four prototypes of the preceding 330 P2 generation were fielded by long-standing Ferrari supporting partner teams: the NART of course, as well as Maranello Concessionaires (U.K.), Ecurie Francorchamps (Belgium) and Scuderia Filipinetti (Switzerland).
The NART - During qualifying, the 330 P3 of Rodriguez-Ginther was the fastest of the Ferraris, clocking the fifth time behind the #3 Ford (Gurney-Grant, pole position), #1 (Miles-Hulme), #8 (Whitmore-Gardner) and #2 (Amon-McLaren). Next-to-last on the starting grid, it chased down the Fords in less than 10 laps, even taking the lead in the sixth hour before the Ford of Miles-Hulme snatched the top spot. But, at 01:45 Rodriguez was forced to retire with gearbox problems.
A difficult race for the factory Ferraris - Having qualified in seventh position, the Ferrari of Parkes-Scarfiotti entered the top 4 going into the third hour and later climbed to the second spot. But the car was forced to retire shortly before midnight at the Tertre Rouge when Scarfiotti collided with the Matra driven by Jo Schlesser, starting off again after contact with another competitor. The wreckage of the #20 330 P3 remained in place until the end of the race. Problems (gearbox, spin out, brakes) multiplied for the other official Ferrari of Bandini-Guichet and the car withdrew from the race on Sunday morning at 08:25.
The Ferrari GTs to the rescue - No 330 P2 or P3 made it to the chequered flag, nor did the 250 LM fielded by Equipe Nationale Belge or the three Dino 206 Ss (2-liter prototypes). The GTs were the only Ferraris to cross the finish line, namely the 275 GTBs of Piers Courage-Roy Pike (Maranello Concessionaires) and Pierre Noblet-Claude Dubois (Ecurie Francorchamps), eighth and 10th, respectively.
Ferrari for kids - Open for six hours during to the race to kids 8-15 years old, the Young Driver Criterium was held for the first time with Ferrari 330 P2 replicas powered by a 73 cm3 engine with 3 hp. The winning trio in 1966, Olivier Mordret-Jean François Mortarini-François Faucher, covered 183 kilometers at an average of 30+ kph.
PHOTOS (Copyright - ACO/ARCHIVES): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY 18 & SUNDAY 19 JUNE 1966. From top to bottom: along with the one driven by Rodriguez-Ginther (NART), the factory Ferrari 330 P3 of Ludovico Scarfiotti-Michael Parkes (#20) was the Ford Mk IIs' most dangerous rival; the 330 P2 of Richard Attwood-David Piper (#16) sported the colours of British importer Maranello Concessionaires, red with a sky blue stripe; fielded by the NART team, the car of Masten-Gregory-Bob Bondurant (#18) stood out from the other 330 P2s thanks to its contoured rear; 10th, the 275 GTB of Pierre Noblet-Claude Dubois (#57) was one of the two ranked Ferraris in 1966.