Most knew of Kirk White (RIP), his wheeler dealer reputation, and his sponsorship of the Penske Ferrari 512M during the 1971 sports car season. Their 512M was delivered from the Ferrari factory, and rebuilt by the Penske team to be better than the factory cars. It was documented at the time that the team sent the engines to TRACO Engineering in LA for preparation. TRACO supposedly extracted an extra 25-50 HP per motor (reports vary- but the engines were more powerful after tuning than before). The cars arrived at Daytona and caused a minor sensation. There prepared to a standard that embarrassed the factory team, and were faster than the favored Porsche 917 factory cars. The Penske-White 512M easily achieved pole position, and was doing well in the race until a collision with another car. Sebring was much the same. The car was rebuilt to the Penske standard, was the fasted during practice, then ran into difficulty during the race. They had one last hurrah at LeMans. Supposedly the Ferrari factory gave them a special engine that did not last, while their normal race engine lasted for the race, with the car finishing in the top 10.
Regardless of final results, everyone was impressed by the Penske team; their efficiency, preparation and quality of the cars they raced.
Two questions come to mind:
How much of what Penske accomplished with White/Ferrari helped to convince Porsche that Penske was the person to run their CanAm 917-10 program in 1972 ?
Was the Ferrari effort a shrewd calculation by Penske to show a potential client what he was capable of ?