Ferrari 126 CK

Ferrari 126 CK

by Luca Dal Monte

It is the evolution of the 126 C, a single-seater that essentially served only as a test car without competing in a single grand prix. The 126 CK is therefore the first turbo Ferrari of the modern era and also the first to win a race for the Cavallino team.

The choice of which solution to adopt for the brand-new turbo engine Tipo 021 was quite laborious. There were two options: the classic Kühnle Kopp & Kausch (KKK) turbocharger or the mechanical compressor Comprex produced by Brown Boveri. In the first configuration, we are talking about the Ferrari 126 CK, in the second about the 126 CX. What distinguish the two cars is the single exhaust pipe and a more pronounced dome in the CX version.

Ferrari 126 CK Image 1


Gilles Villeneuve: 1981 is the year of redemption for Gilles. His two victories have made the legend of the flying Canadian. The first, in Monte Carlo, achieved in the final laps in the face of problems accused by the nearly unbeatable Williams of reigning world champion Alan Jones, ends a long drought for Ferrari and brings tears to the Cavallino mechanics standing on the pit wall. The second, on the Madrid track of Jarama, probably represents the masterpiece of Villeneuve’s career, as he holds off four cars for three-quarters of the race that will never manage to overtake him and will finish behind him in the space of only one second and 24 hundredths.

Didier Pironi: His first season in Ferrari is quite complex. Learning to drive a turbo car takes time. Moreover, the car reveals a significant underlying fragility. For the Frenchman of Italian origins, only four points finishes in his first year with the Cavallino. His best result is fourth place in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Our model cars:

Ferrari 126 CK Image 2

At first, the idea is to go with the CX version because the Comprex ensures an extremely balanced power distribution. Then, when it is discovered that further development is needed to make a solution originally designed for road cars reliable in racing, for which Brown Boveri requests financial support from Ferrari, Maranello chooses the KKK route – probably less sophisticated, but certainly more reliable. It will be a success.

The 126 CK competes in fifteen races in the 1981 season, winning two and achieving one podium. The driver who best adapts to the turbo engine is Villeneuve – his are the best seasonal results. At the end of the season, with a total of 34 points between Villeneuve and Pironi, the 126 CK secures Ferrari fifth place in the Constructors’ World Championship. For a team like Ferrari, perhaps it’s not much. But compared to the disastrous 1980, the steps forward are enormous.

Ferrari 126 CK Image 3