1952 Ferrari 375 - Photo by BadRiver
In the early days of Formula One racing, the Indianapolis 500, known then as “the 500,” was part of the points chase in the F1 driver’s championship. Few European teams raced the 500 and, likewise few American drivers competed on the European circuits. The story of the 1952 Ferrari 375 is one that broke that mold. In these early days of Formula One racing, Alfa Romeo was the team to beat, and it was in the Ferrari 375 that Alberto Ascari garnered Ferrari’s first grand prix win with a victory at Silverstone. Later wins in 1951 at the Nürburgring and Monza cemented Ferrari as a true contender at the highest level of racing. Enzo Ferrari was outspoken in his dislike of the Offenhauser V8s that dominated American race circuits and approved sending four teams with specially-built 375 Indy V12s to compete at the Brickyard in 1952. In one of the most technically diverse 500s of all time, where the pole-setting Cummin’s Turbodiesel battled alongside the Offy supercharged V8s, Ferrari came to make their own case with a naturally-aspirated V12. Many argue that Alberto Ascari and the 375 Indy could have won, had he not spun and retired with a wheel failure on lap 40. The 375’s overall pace was on par or better than the winner, an Offy. With Ascari behind the wheel, coupled with the V12’s reliability and relatively meager fuel consumption, it was certainly possible.