Story and photos by Robert Little
All images copyright Robert Little
Following the absolutely heart-breaking loss to a Ferrari 312P driven by Sandro Munari and Arturo Merzario by only a mere 17 seconds over the course of nearly 500 miles of the Sicilian countryside in the Targa Florio only weeks before, Ing. Chiti was even more determined to break the domination of the 312Ps and to take on all challengers to the 1972 World Championship for Makes title.
Unfortunately, a high stakes game of ‘cat and mouse’ ensued where Ferrari withdrew from Le Mans, Porsche did not enter a factory team, and Alfa Romeo Autodelta was facing 12 cylinder Matras, Cosworth-powered Lolas, Ligiers, a variety of French Ferrari dealer racing teams sporting Daytonas, the BF Goodrich Team of Chevrolet Corvettes, a couple DeTomaso Panteras and a vast plethora of privately-entered 908s, 911s.
The Autodelta team, sponsored by Alitalia, Shell, Goodyear and Koni brought three V-8 cars to the circuit along with a full and complete racing caravan of spare parts, a large Alfa Romeo autobus machining operation and a full staff…including the writer who was once again in charge of keeping the cars absolutely spotless, keeping the local Le Mans Alfa Romeo garage clean and guarding the assets of the company during off hours.
The FIA formula for the World Championship for Makes competition and this 1972 Twenty Four Hours of LeMans race specified that prototypes run with three-liter engines. The era of the magnificent 4.5-litre 917 in Le Mans was over, but a 908 long tail privately entered by Reinhold Joest turned heads. Joest, Mario Casoni and Michael Weber shared the car owned by Jo Siffert and scored third overall behind two factory entered Matra-Simca 670’s and a single Matra-Simca 660. The 908 benefited mainly from its sophisticated long-tail aerodynamics and low weight. Despite its substantially lower engine output compared to the works Matra-Simcas, the Porsche reached an identical top speed on the Mulsanne straight.