The time for important decisions
Eleven years were needed to return to win a World Championship in Formula One. Eleven years of ups and downs, sudden hopes and great disappointments, always unable to take a breath of press and fans who were calling for a return to the great success of the 50s and the first half of the 60s. Then there was Ferrari's humiliation of seeing the English "assemblers" as he used to call them contemptuously, thrash its drivers and cars regularly. The bottom was probably touched in 1973. Technical direction was in Sandro Colombo's hands who, in order to pass to a very modern chassis conception, gave up to the customary system of the chassis assemblage of tubes and panels for a real unibody (monocoque). But at Maranello they only worked out the project, while the construction was given to a specialist from Northampton in England: John Thompson. It seemed a blasphemy for many people, given that at Ferrari's the cars have always been homemade and certainly neither means nor expertise were lacking. Press praised first Ferrari monocoque, while Forghieri, temporary removed from Formula One, was shaking his head perplexedly because the first monocoque of the prancing horse had effectively been the 158, world champion in 1964 with John Surtees. Powered with flat 12 engine referred to as a "boxer", the B3 appeared only from the GP of Spain of that year: a catastrophic failure followed in which the best result was the sixth place gained by Ickx in the Swedish GP. The Belgian driver and his team-mate Merzario were obliged to struggle with a real dud that didn't work and what's more it turned out to be breakable and unreliable. That situation compelled Ferrari to take a series of initiatives, some very drastic ones. First of all the "Commendatore" recalled Forghieri: the dynamic engineer from Emilia had immediately the task to overturn the B3, but also a work much more demanding for resuming the technical command of the team. During the period of the removal from Formula 1, Forghieri didn't twiddled his thumbs: he started working out a project on a single-seater which was very different for some ways from the constructive standards of those days: "I had seen, working on the 312 Prototype, that as a matter of fact was a Formula 1 of 1972 covered as much as the wide surface of the bodywork could permit to obtain a high negative lift. Thus I started designing an experimental Formula One, very squared, with long and wide pods so as to exploit them for a max aerodynamic efficiency. At that time everybody constructed F1 with narrow bodies and radiators placed behind: I did just the opposite: a wide and flat car with a big body. I got a higher negative lift". Forghieri started pouring out his ideas to the B3, which appeared modified in the Austrian GP, with an air-scoop longitudinally developed, water radiators lying on the car sides and the oil radiators placed before the rear wheels, while the front side had a new and wider spoiler. These remarkable changes were not sufficient to solve the problem of a car turned out badly. On the other hand the season was already compromised. During those days "Commendatore" Ferrari convinced himself to rely on new drivers too, given that relations with Ickx and Merzario were deteriorated owing to poor results. He wanted Clay Regazzoni again with him: the driver who had already raced successfully for the prancing horse in two-year period 70s - 71s, winning the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. Later on, the "Ticinese" (Ticines) driver joined the BRM, by that time the phantom of the powerful organization which had been in the 60s, and had as a team mate a half-unknown Niki Lauda. Clay has always told that it was he who took Lauda to Ferrari: "Whom do you want with you, asked me the "Commendatore" as a co-driver on next season? And at that very moment I indicated Lauda. He's a speedy boy, I said, a reliable one, we know each other and he is a promising youth". As a matter of fact the "Commendatore" would have also liked Hunt, but Lord Hesketh, who actually managed the English driver's career, when he went to Maranello to conduct the negotiation asked for an outrageous price and it all came to nothing. After firing his drivers, Ferrari changed Peter Schetty too, the Swiss technical director, already an expert driver in the sports cars of the prancing horse. On the other hand, Schetty had always been a man on loan only for races, given that he was expected to manage the textiles industries of his family. As his substitute Ferrari called an unknown young man of 26 years age, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. How Montezemolo and the man of Maranello met was narrated in detail by Leo Turrini, in his biography on Enzo Ferrari: "from Rai studios Mario Moccagatta and Gianni Boncompagni led the successful broadcast: Call Rome 3131. The competitive crisis of the Red Cars was the topical subject. A disappointed fan railed against Ferrari: "motor races are a spectacle for rich idlers and moreover Ferrari speaks and talks and pontificates. If only he had won anything.." annoyed with it, Enzo asked for an intervention to the broadcast. But before being linked to the radio he was preceded by a young man of Bolognese origin: "My name is Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, I'm twenty-six and I like driving racing cars and rallies" said a voice that later on would have been familiar to millions of Italians. "I'd like to explain to that gentleman who has called before that he has understood absolutely nothing. Neither motor racing nor Enzo Ferrari.". If only we'd known that it was sufficient to call 3131 to become a Ferrari's sport director! As a matter of fact young and smart Montezemolo was so close to Agnelli family that had already guessed his talent and favoured his approach to Maranello. But the most sorrowful decision that Ferrari had to take was the organization in itself of sports activities: for a long time his collaborators had been urging on the Company to concentrate all its resources on Formula One, abandoning all other fields. In fact, it's worth mentioning that at those days Ferrari was also present in the world makes and in the uphill races. That radical change was a bit like a Ferrari's act of denying its character of racing car factory, which had been distinguished the Company since the very beginning. But the lack of results on a stage like the Formula One which had been gaining more and more importance with respect to other championships, persuaded Enzo Ferrari to follow his collaborators' advice. The beginning of the 1974 season saw a complete new organization in Ferrari: workers were divided into two teams, one for car; their expertises were well distinguished and distributed among the staff. We had gone out from the age of empiricism and improvisation provided by the initiative and genius of individuals, to adopt the advantages of a structured reality and planned activity. At the beginning of the season a B3 was prepared with a forward driver's seat, the additional petrol tank placed among the cockpit, the engine and an air scope reviewed with vertical development. First neo-hired Lauda's judgements weren't so good: after 15 laps on Fiorano track, Niki got off the car and told clearly that the car was a real dud. Caliri, the aerodynamic expert, and Forghieri set to work and during that season improved more and more the B3 that, however, was not so bad. In April 1974 they had already made available an updated version of the single-seater, improved aerodynamically, with a new air scope which also included a roll-bar and the famous twin-arrow wings that featured Ferrari cars in the following years. Final spoils included three wins, ten fast laps and several good places. At the end there was a certain disappointment because Regazzoni lost the title for only three scored points with respect to Fittipaldi. The B3 was at the most of its development and they could have scarcely obtained more: now it was necessary to have a full new project.
A new arm not to make mistake
Forghieri and his engineers decided to go back to the old: as a sub base they chose a frame made by reinforced tubes with riveted panels in aluminium, which offered major stiffness and more creativity for the solutions related to the monocoque. The engine was the traditional flat 12 cylinder 015 type considered as the most powerful in the full range of the engines existing at those days. For the genesis of this engine we have to go back to 1969 and say it was completely fruit of Forghieri who was then at the branch office in Modena at Trento and Trieste Street, where sports customers' relations were managed. This office was known by Ferrari managers and engineers as the "Purgatory", where employees were temporary parked when somebody fell out with the "Commendatore". Besides being more powerful than the old 60° V12 engine, the flat engine (boxer) also allowed a low centre of gravity of the heads, with the general better distribution of the loads. The heads and the engine block were in light alloy, while the cylinders were fitted with aluminium pressed-in liners. The driveshaft worked on four main bearings and the timing was made by four valves per cylinder, driven by two overhead camshafts per cylinder. The group of gears which set the shafts in action was placed in the rear side of the engine. The boxer made then use of the traditional system of Lucas fuel injection and Dinoplex capacitive injection system of Magneti Marelli. Thanks to a bore/stroke of 80x49.6 mm it was possible to get a total displacement of 2991 litre/182.5 cu in., while power was by then settled in about 490 hp at 12200 rpm. Some years ago Forghieri reported in an interview that "the real advantage was in its running: Ford V8 scarcely reached 10600 rpm, while in 1971 our V12 had already run at 13600 rpm. An unbelievable speed rate, but it was useless because neither the running up nor the fuel ignition, still of Lucas type, could keep up with it. To such an extent that full power was obtained at 1000 rounds on lower." By that time the problem of the flat engine (boxer) was given by the power supply, which occurred at rates of too high level in comparison with the more flexible ones of Cosworth engine: therefore in view of the 1975 season engineers re-designed the cylinder heads to get a more suitable torque for low rates and improve the compression ratio which raised up to 11.5:1. They also worked hard on reliability, after the numerous failures occurred in the past years. The renewed engine was matched with a revolutionary transverse gearbox in magnesium casting (the T of transversal gearbox gave the name to this version): the idea of that type of unit sometimes was attributed to Salvarani, one of the designers belonging to Maranello technical department, sometimes directly to Forghieri. The advantage they tried to have by a transversal gearbox was a major compactness and the possibility to move the weight forward before the rear axle, i.e. towards the car's centre of gravity. Contemporaneously it was improved the access to inner elements, the real strong point of Hewland gearboxes, used by the English engineers, was to speed up interventions of maintenance and replacement of ratios. When Barnard joined Ferrari Company by the end of the eighties and he decided to return to the longitudinal one, there was a rebellion by the engineers of the old school, who accused him of misunderstanding the real advantages of the layout introduced by them. Barnard himself brushed it up in the mid-nineties, during his second and contested period at Ferrari, but the race for the miniaturized gearboxes and the use of light alloys partly cancelled the difference between the two constructive typologies. The new transverse gearbox included a lamellar self-locking differential, while Borg & Beck clutch was of a multiple-disk dry type. A particular development was made on suspensions, the weak point of the old B3: even if the general layout was maintained, the components were redesigned and repositioned. Therefore, on the front, there were anti-roll bars and double-wishbones cast in magnesium which worked on Koni shock-absorbers no longer vertically housed in the aluminium hoop but inclined. On the rear the layout showed lower reverse wishbones and an upper arm, with the shock absorber inserted in the lower part of the hub. The anti-roll bar was newly designed in order to allow a major adjustment possibility. On the four wheels there were self-ventilated disks and Lockheed clamps, all-round, rear inboard and cooled by generous air intakes. The tank was divided into three cells placed behind and on the cockpit sides, with an efficacious weight distribution, for a max capacity of about 200 litre fuel. It was taken great care of bringing aerodynamics into harmony with mechanics. The ideas introduced with the B3 were further refined by an in-depth study in Fiat wind gallery. On the B3 last version water radiators were in the side-pods, and the air flowed from the generous air-intakes installed on both sides of the cockpit. On the contrary the new car radiators were more compact and placed immediately behind the front wheels, which allowed hot air to go out laterally, without prolonging its presence inside the pods. The oil radiators were still before the rear wheels and no more placed in a perfect longitudinal position, but inclined in order to make the most of the air flow coming out from the bottom of the body. A gearbox oil radiator was incorporated in the wing support and cooled by a small in-take, revealing all the accuracy of the aerodynamic study made on that car. The body kept on having wide surfaces, but the nose was much more outlined, while before the rear wheels they introduced some shapes which improved aerodynamics around this special area. The airscope, a unitary element with a fibreglass body, confirmed the studies made earlier with the B3 and the wings too, always arrow shaped. Curiously, the idea of that type of profiles had been suggested by a certain Kiki Guglielminetti, who made model aircrafts as a hobby. Thanks to a wheelbase equal to 2518 mm the 312 T was quite handling in comparison with its rivals and especially with the M23 which had taken the title away from Ferrari in 1974. The front and rear tracks were instead 1510 and 1530 mm respectively. Tyres were supplied by Good Year and mounted on alloy rims (13 inch fr. /18 inch r.). On the whole it wasn't a revolutionary car, but it was project that saw mechanical requirements be well combined with the more and more important needs of aerodynamics. Thanks to the improvements made with respect to B3 earlier knowledge and with the other numerous innovations like the transverse gearbox, we expected to have finally a chassis fit for an engine which was known as the most powerful in Formula One, but having scanty opportunities to show its power superiority because of deficiencies in the other sectors.
The nine points scored to win
Given the good results earlier obtained in 1974, there was no reason for making changes in the composition of the team: therefore, Regazzoni and Lauda as its drivers and young Montezemolo at the sports direction. Unfortunately, the triangle among these men started showing first rifts: Clay, seeing the championship vanish the year before for a few points, had the impression that the team hadn't fully believed in his possibilities. Press, smelting rivalry, threw itself into the matter brushing up the old story of the two cocks of the walk, and that fact had not certainly helped to relax the environment. As a matter of fact, there were differences of character and method between the two drivers. "He was more ambitious, calculating and more methodical man" said then Regazzoni, "I was more instinctive, more fighter, more fond of driving, or rather I more enjoyed driving, apart from the car and the results. However, Lauda got on well with Montezemolo better than I did and also for another press campaign that tended to support Merzario instead of Lauda". On the eve of the first GP, foreseen in 1975, the one of Argentina, Lauda went to the Commendatore's office, at Maranello, and asked him what he wished: the Old Man significantly pointed nine fingers at him, the points of the win. Unfortunately his expectations were disappointed and Niki, at the wheel of the old B3, didn't get over the sixth place, whereas Clay finished fourth. The race was won by Emerson Fittipaldi, the champion in charge, with McLaren M23. On the contrary, in Brazil, Carlos Pace went up to the top step of podium, with original Brabham Cosworth. Again Regazzoni fourth and Lauda fifth: by then it was clear that nothing was left to squeeze out of the old B3. Thus they decided to anticipate the new 312 T debut, at the beginning scheduled for the Spain race. The GP in South Africa wasn't very successful for the newborn: very close qualifying tests saw the two Brabham cars driven by Reutemann and Pace monopolizing the first row. Regazzoni was ninth, whereas Niki managed to move up to the fourth place, but after analysing the scant gaps it was easy to realise how the new car, at least as for performance, was not so far from the best cars (0:7 and 0:4 respectively from pole). At start Scheckter flashed past the two drivers who were favoured on the eve of the race and steadily kept the lead, while Ferraris were occupying reserve positions, behind Reutemann, Pace and Depailler (Tyrrell). Then Regazzoni's flat 12 engine started playing up for fuel problems, obliging him to retire at only 7 laps to the finishing line, while Lauda finished with a dull fifth place. Someone, outside and inside the team, was disappointed at the poor performance of the car. In Spain, usual critics were partly proved to be wrong by the bright pole position scored by Lauda, side by side on the starting grid by his team-mate. The win seemed within reach, but during the race it occurred a bit of everything: at start Andretti (Parnelli) ran into Lauda's car, which, on its turn, crashed into Regazzoni. The Austrian was obliged to retire, while Clay went on a race ended up by the fatal off-track of the Embassy Hill driven by Stommelen, caused by a rear wing breakage. Two firemen and two photographers lost their lives in that accident. The race was interrupted because of the mess made on the track: thus Regazzoni managed to cross the finishing line, but with such a delay as not to be classified. An aura of dud car started to spread around the 312T. The engineers of Maranello needed a success in order to get rid of nightmares and ghosts: and finally, at Monaco Lauda scored pole position and a win in one of the most challenging races of the world championship. Even if on a wet track his dominium proved to be sure and in a position to prevent any escape neither from the McLaren of Fittipaldi nor from the Brabham of Pace who unsuccessfully tried to run after him. The legend says that on the eve of the GP, Niki obsessively passed again the straight, bend after bend, as he should see its image projected on the ceiling of his hotel bedroom. On the contrary, it was a black day for Regazzoni: in an earlier anxiety during qualifying tests. He remained in race up to lap 36, when he was obliged to retire for an accident. On next GP of Belgium, on Zolder fast circuit, Lauda again secured pole position, while Regazzoni was fourth 0:4 from his team-mate. On Sunday Niki got a wrong start and was obliged to stay behind. But only six frantic laps were sufficient to allow him to be again in the lead and dominate the race up to the finish. The legend of the "accountant" hadn't yet started and Niki was still able to have an overbearing and aggressive drive to combine with a high ability to manage the race and the vehicle. Regazzoni saw his team-mate escape and he grabbed the fifth place, behind Scheckter (Tyrrell), Reutemann (Brabham) and Depailler (Tyrrell). Anderstop in Sweden: it was a so anomalous track as to highlight the cars that had stayed in the background during the season: in fact, the pole was scored by Vittorio Brambilla (March). Lauda limited failures gaining the fifth position on the grid, while Regazzoni finished twelfth. Both drivers were forced to have a hard fight for getting back on top. Niki succeeded in getting the better of a hard Reutemann only when nine rounds were lacking to the end, but all the same he scored the win, while Regazzoni, after a race all moved into the attack, had to be content with getting the lower step of podium, before the Parnelli Ford driven by Andretti. On next Grand Prix of Holland qualifying tests promised another long ride of Ferrari cars: Lauda and Regazzoni monopolized the first row, but during the race James Hunt at the wheel of the Hesketh dominated forcefully. The two Ferrari drivers had to be content with playing the role of chief bridesmaids to the revelation of the year. In France Lauda showed himself as a steamroller, dominating qualifying tests and race from the first to last lap. Regazzoni was less lucky in that away match: he didn't stand out for qualifying, getting bogged down at the ninth place, and in race he was betrayed by the engine after six laps only. If in the past year there had been space for a rivalry between Regazzoni and Lauda, now it was clear to everybody that the key man of the prancing horse was by then the Austrian. On the other hand, competition wasn't so bright. Brabham, in Bernie Ecclestone's hands, had entered the field with an aerodynamically sophisticated car as the BT44B, result of genius Gordon Murray, a rising star among F1designers. The single-seater fitted with Cosworth engine, allowed Reutemann and Pace to steadily keep on the first positions. In particular, the Argentine looked like more regular than his Brazilian team-mate, but the team lacked something more to win with continuity. Ecclestone interpreted that something as a twelve cylinder engine to oppose to Ferrari flat engine and it was just at that time he began opting for a supply of Alfa Romeo engines. Tyrrell had produced a solid car, the 006, designed by earlier tested Derek Gardner: scarcely striking, in Jody Scheckter's hands it worked better than in his team-mate Depailler's. But the South-African driver was still too impetuous and inclined to make mistakes for representing a real fear. But it was James Hunt who was really driving well, in the Hesketh Ford designed by Harvey Postlethwaite. A rather traditional but very efficient car that thanks to James's grit had reached unexpected results for a young team and rather improvised. Lotus was in deep trouble: Colin Chapman wanted to replace the 72 with a lighter and performing single-seater, but judging by the facts he found himself in a heavier car and less efficient than the previous one. He was forced to put the old and former star back on the track. McLaren M23 was by then a project that needed a deep restoration, while Emerson Fittipaldi, the leading driver of the team and champion in charge, was living a kind of sabbatical year waiting for the Copersucar. The Brazilian was paired up with young Jochen Mass, who was going on with a season of apprenticeship. It was just the McLaren to be the favoured car in that chaotic Grand Prix of Great Britain. An intermittent rain obliged numerous changes of tires on the fast circuit of Silverstone: the two Ferraris were behind and Lauda managed to reduce the damages finishing third behind Fittipaldi and Pace. Regazzoni arrived thirteenth after being in the group of the win favoured drivers and having scored the fastest round. Nürburgring might be the race suitable for the Swiss, given that in its former edition he had won hands down, and that his team mate couldn't stand the awful German track. But Lauda gritted his teeth and scored pole position, while Clay grappling with a car not perfectly set up finished fifth. In race he was then betrayed by the engine, while Lauda had managed to keep the control of the race for nine laps. Later on a trivial puncture forced him to run after the Brabham driven by Reutemann and the Williams driven by Laffite. In Austria Lauda scored another pole, while Regazzoni was again qualified fifth. The Austrian much cared about doing well in front of his fans, but on Sunday a heavy fall of rain made the cards shuffle again. After 29 laps, for conscience's sake, the marshals decided to stop the race: in that moment Vittorio Brambilla in his March was in the lead. "The rain man" scored his first win, while Lauda and Regazzoni had to be content with the sixth and seventh places. On the other hand, Niki had to think of championship. Next race at Monza would have been decisive: Lauda appeared with a gap of 17 points over Reutemann. Only one point was sufficient for him to mathematically win the competition. In front of the fans that were in frenzy, Lauda placed his 312T on the first row, before his team-mate, but at start Regazzoni was faster and escaped to be in the lead. Niki didn't try to run after him and neither making much resistance to Fittipaldi, who, on the day he was losing the title, seemed suddenly got by an outburst of pride. Clay won and Lauda was third, but champion of the world. Contemporaneously Ferrari won the constructors' title. There was a rejoicing of fans and it was a real rejoicing because by that time at the Grand Prix of Italy fans didn't restrict themselves to waving a small flag: Track, cars and public were one only and indissoluble thing. There is an odd photo of the champion team around the 312T. Men are facing the sun and thus there are all around a lot of grimaces and screwed up eyes. Lauda is sitting on the right front wheel and smiles with his protruding teeth. Regazzoni is sitting on the other wheel and is casting a crafty glance at the man who put him in the shadow, while Montezemolo, behind him, seemed absorbed who knows in what kind of thoughts. Perhaps he already knows that his experience in Ferrari has finished. Forghieri, on his feet is the happiest of all of them, is observing his creature radiant with joy. Montezemolo remembers that day: "People happiness was contagious. Going back home by car, I infringed all speed limits. A patrol of police stopped me. I thought: this is the time they confiscate my driving license and even fling me into prison. But policemen recognized me: "You are the one who works for the Old Man." They said. They gave me back my papers and claimed my autograph". The U.S. Grand Prix might be a formality, but Lauda undertook thoroughly to score again pole. Regazzoni was eleventh on the grid, but on Sunday he started very well recovering many positions, while his team-mate was steadily in the lead of race. Thus Clay found himself in struggling wheel to wheel against Fittipaldi for the second place: his behaviour on track, regarded as a bit too rough, forced the direction of the race to display a black flag. The Swiss took offence and ended the season polemically. Lauda won before Fittipaldi and Mass. In 1974 new technical rules were expected to be introduced in the Spanish GP. According to the new rules the air-box hadn't to be higher than 850 mm from the floor pan, while the projecting part of the rear wing was held within 800 mm from the centre of the rear wheel, limiting its efficiency. That fact obliged Ferrari engineers to put their hands on the single-seater to prepare the 312T2. The new car, which appeared in October, only differed from the old car for a few details, as for the original air-intakes of the engine, placed on the front part of the car and running on both sides of the cockpit to reach the flat 12 cylinder engine. The body was 19 kg lighter in comparison with the first version. Though the new single-seater was already made ready, the 1976 season was started with the old single-seater not to run into the restrictions of the new regulations. The drivers were still Lauda and Regazzoni, but now there was Daniele Audetto who managed the team instead of Montezemolo, called back by Fiat for other tasks. Since the qualifying tests of the first grand prix, in Brazil, James Hunt, the main rival of the season, has been appearing on the scene: he scored pole at the wheel of the Mclaren M23, mocking at Lauda for few tenths of second. Regazzoni was instead fourth. At the race start Hunt tried to keep his position, but he was mocked by Lauda, and he ended up destroying his first McLaren after 32 laps. The Austrian won, while Regazzoni finished seventh. On next Grand Prix of South Africa, Lauda found himself again behind Hunt on the starting grid, while Regazzoni was fighting in a car that wasn't perfectly setup and he didn't go beyond the fifth row. During the race Clay was left in the lurch by the engine, while Lauda, got rid of Hunt from the start, has been dominating in a striking way for all 78 laps of the grand prix. It was the first time in the history of Formula One that a race was run at Long Beach, California. By that time Long Beach represented the porn neighbourhood of Los Angeles: in an environment deteriorated by refineries, industrial plants and military bases you could find many blue movies, strip bars and sexy shops. The only hotel of that area was famous "Queen Mary", moored at the harbour. It was and Englishman settled in America, Chris Pook, who had got the idea of a renewal of that area, with the sponsorship of Dan Gurney who had the centre of his business in California. Availing himself of very poor economic resources Pook faced the organization of a Grand Prix with an interesting urban course of the race. On a track unknown to all drivers, Regazzoni gave himself the great satisfaction of scoring pole, the win and the fastest round, relegating his team-mate to the second place. By a twist of fate, some years later, just on the same track Clay had the crash that compelled him on a wheel chair. As for that first win, Chris Pook reported: "Every respected podium must have a beauty queen and a bottle of champagne. But just at the moment of the prize giving, I realized that the model we had chosen had gone to a bar to have a drink. Thus I seized the first girl who was near at hand. Second problem: nobody had thought of the champagne. I went to a nearest drugstore, but I had only ten dollars in my pocket. Neither a bottle of whisky could they give me for that money. The shopkeeper recognized me; he had pity on me and gave me three bottles of champagne. I went up the podium with the bottles still in the brown paper bag." The agonist career of the 312T was ended by that amusing anecdote. The heir to the 312T allowed the prancing horse's triumphal ride to go on, with the only interruption of Lauda's dramatic accident which prevented Ferrari from its key man and ended up destabilizing the team in a year that might be perfect.
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