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The Enzo Ferrari
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Ferrari
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Enzo Ferrari

was born in 1898 in Modena Italy. His father, Alfredo, ran a local metal-blacksmith business who forged axles for the Italian railways. When he was 10 his father took Ferrari and his brother Alfredo Jr. to an automobile race in Bologna. There he saw Vincenzo Lancia battle Felice Nazzaro in the 1908 Circuit di Bologna. After attending a number of other races he decided that he too wanted to become a racing car driver. Ferrari's formal education was relatively sketchy, something that he would regret in his later years. In 1916 tragedy, which would haunt Ferrari his entire life, struck his family to its core with the death of his father and brother in the same year. He spent World War I shoeing mules but the world-wide flu of 1918 brought upon his discharge and almost ended his life. Looking for work he applied for a job at Fiat only to be turned down. Ferrari nearly starved for lack of work, something that would be seared into his consciousness. Eventually he was able to get a job at Lancia, at that time a small carmaker involved with converting war surplus. His duties included test driving which he did in between delivering chassis to the coach builder. On one of his visits to Milan he met Ugo Sivocci, a test driver for Costruzioni Mecchanice Nazionali.

He would later join Sivocci in the 1919 Targa Florio. Their adventure began before the race even start when on the run down from Sicily they were chased by a pack of wolves which Ferrari fought off with his old service revolver. During the race it was more a matter of surviving the roads, wind and rain than any hopes for glory. On the final lap however it was a speech given by the Provincial Governor in one of the small villages and a contingent of carabinieri that finally blocked their progress enough so that they were unable to finish the race in the allotted time. Sivocci and Ferrari did perform well enough to be offered a job with Alfa Romeo who in turn entered some modified production cars in the 1920 Targa Florio. Ferrari driving one of these cars managed to finish second and first in class. While at Alfa Romeo he came under the patronage of Giorgio Rimini who was Nicola Romeo's aide. In 1923 he was racing and winning at the Circuit of Sivocci at Ravenna when he met the father of the legendary Italian WWI ace Francesco Baracca. The senior Baracca was enamored with the courage and audacity of the young Ferrari and presented the young driver with his son’s squadron badge, which was the famous Prancing Horse on a yellow shield. In 1924 he scored his greatest victory, winning the Coppa Acerbo.

Enzo Ferrari... Among the different competitions whom, in that time, I participated in, I remember with particular satisfaction my victory at Pescara in 1924, with an Alfa Romeo R.L.

With this car I had won at Ravenna the Racetrack of Savio and at Rovigo the Racetrack of Polesine, but in the Acerbo Cup I initialed my fame as a pilot. In fact I was able to beat the Mercedes, which was just returning from the success of the Targa Florio. In the team of the Alfa there was also Campari with the famous P2, but, unfortunately, he was forced to retire. My mechanic was Eugenio Siena, a Campari's cousin, full of an agonistic spirit which was over his relationship duties, who died in Tripoli in the Grand Prix of 1938 when he was graduating as an international pilot. As agreed, since the first lap I should have looked for the shape of Campari's P2 in the driving mirror, if I had lead the way, to give him way with dispatch. I had a very speedy start and at each lap I repeated my search in the mirror, but in vain: I couldn't see the P2.

Worried about his absence - Campari's car was faster than mine- and the chase of Bonmartini and Giulio Masetti's Mercedes, I looked at Siena with a first sign to slow down. But Siena gave a cry where there was not even a shadow of worry about the delay of his cousin: So I insisted on the first position, and I won. Campari explained me that he had hidden the car in a by-street, after having retired for a damage to the change-gear, so that the antagonists would not have realized too soon his surrender...

Enzo Ferrari
from "Piloti che gente..."

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Enzo FerrariAfter some more success he was promoted to full factory driver. His racing career up till that time mostly consisted of local races in second hand cars but now he was expected to compete driving the latest cars at the years most prestigious race the French Grand Prix. What happened next is not quite clear but it seems that Ferrari suffered a crisis of confidence and was not able to take part in the the biggest race of his career. A lesser man may have been permanently scared by this but Ferrari was able to resume his position at Alfa Romeo becoming Rimini's "Mr. Fixit". He did not race again until 1927 but his racing career was pretty much over before it really began. Recognizing one's limits in this most dangerous of sports should not be minimized. He continued to compete in minor events and in this he was quite successful. Ferrari by this time was married and owned a Alfa distributorship in Modena.

Scuderia FerrariIn 1929 Ferrari started his own firm, Scuderia Ferrari. He was sponsored in this enterprise by the Ferrara-based Caniano brothers, Augusto and Alfredo, heirs to a textile fortune. Alfa Romeo had temporarily withdrawn from racing in 1925 and the Scuderia’s main task was to assist his wealthy Alfa Romeo customers with their racing efforts by providing delivery, mechanical support and any other services that they would require. With Alfa Romeo he exchanged a guarantee of technical assistance with stock in his company. Ferrari then made similar deals with Bosch, Pirelli and Shell. To supplement his "stable" of amateur drivers he induced Giuseppe Campari to join his team. He followed this with an even greater coup by signing Tazio Nuvolari. In his first year the Scuderia Ferrari could boast 50 full and part-time drivers! The team competed in 22 events and scored 8 victories and several good placings. Scuderia Ferrari caused a sensation. It was the largest team ever put together by one individual. None of the drivers were paid a salary but received a percentage of the prize money won. Any extra technical or administrative assistance a driver required was gladly given for a price. The basic plan called for the driver to get to the race and his car would be delivered to the track and any entrance fees or duties were handled by the Scuderia. It is not surprising that Ferrari would look fondly back upon this period. It is also not out of the question that if anyone could survive as an independent in the current Formula One world then the younger Ferrari would be that man.

Alfa Romeo would continue to support the Scuderia either as a client or as the official racing department of the factory. But soon everything would change as Alfa Rome announced another withdrawal; from racing starting with the 1933 season due to financial problems. At first this seemed to be just the opening that Ferrari needed but then it was realized that their own supply of new racing cars would soon dry up. Luckily for the Scuderia, Pirelli interceded and convinced Alfa to supply Ferrari with six P3's and the services of engineer Luigi Bazzi and test driver Attilio Marinoni. The Scuderia would now be in effect Alfa Romeo's racing department.  In 1932 his first son also named Alfredo after his father, and known as Dino was born, and Ferrari took this opportunity to retire from driving. A more professional turn was also taken by the team. This upset Alfredo Caniato and he was bought out by Count Carlo Felice Trossi who was a part-time driver as well as a full-time millionaire.  All looked set for Ferrari to make his true mark on the racing scene. What he did not count on was a German tidal wave in the form of Auto Union and Mercedes. In 1935 Ferrari signed the French driver Rene Dreyfus who most recently drove for Bugatti. He was struck by the difference between his old team and Ferrari.

Enzo Ferrari"The difference between being a member of the Bugatti team and Scuderia Ferrari was virtually night and day", recalled Dreyfus. "I lived with Meo Constantini, the Bugatti team manager, I visited with Ferrari. With Ferrari, I learned the business of racing, for there was no doubt he was a businessman. Enzo Ferrari was a pleasant person and friendly, but not openly affectionate. There was, for example, none of the sense of belonging to the family that I had with the Maserati brothers, nor the sense of spirited fun and intimacy that I had with Meo Constantini. Enzo Ferrari loved racing, of that there was no question. Still, it was more than an enthusiast’s love, but one tempered by the practical realization that this was a good way to build a nice, profitable empire. I knew he was going to be a big man one day, even then when the cars he raced carried somebody else’s name. I felt sure that eventually they would carry his."

Old Ferrari workshopThrough the years the Scuderia Ferrari would employ such great drivers as Giuseppe Campari, Louis Chiron, Achille Varzi and the greatest of them all Tazio Nuvolari. Except for Nuvolari's great victory in the 1935 German Grand Prix, victories in any of the major races were few and far between. During these years his team faced the German might of Auto Union and Mercedes. On one occasion Ferrari had the opportunity to passenger the great Nuvolari. At the trials on the "Three Provinces" Circuit, when he asked his companion (Ferrari was also driving there with a more powerful car than the Mantuan's) to take him with him. It should be added that Nuvolari did not know that circuit. "At the first bend," Ferrari writes, "I had the clear sensation that Tazio had taken it badly and that we would end up in the ditch; I felt myself stiffen as I waited for the crunch. Instead, we found ourselves on the next straight with the car in a perfect position. Scuderia pits - Monaco 1934I looked at him," Ferrari goes on. "His rugged face was calm, just as it always was, and certainly not the face of someone who had just escaped a hair-raising spin. I had the same sensation at the second bend. By the fourth or fifth bend I began to understand; in the meantime, I had noticed that through the entire bend Tazio did not lift his foot from the accelerator, and that, in fact, it was flat on the floor. As bend followed bend, I discovered his secret. Nuvolari entered the bend somewhat earlier than my driver's instinct would have told me to. But he went into the bend in an unusual way: with one movement he aimed the nose of the car at the inside edge, just where the curve itself started. His foot was flat down, and he had obviously changed down to the right gear before going through this fearsome rigmarole. In this way he put the car into a four-wheel drift, making the most of the thrust of the centrifugal force and keeping it on the road with the traction of the driving wheels. Throughout the bend the car shaved the inside edge, and when the bend turned into the straight the car was in the normal position for accelerating down it, with no need for any corrections." Ferrari honestly admits that he soon became used to this exercise, because he saw Nuvolari do it countless times. "But each time I seemed to be climbing into a roller coaster and finding myself coming through the downhill run with that sort of dazed feeling that we all know."

Race car productionIn 1937 Ferrari suggested to Alfa that they build 1.5-liter voiturette class cars but what he got was Alfa Romeo's decision to bring the racing effort back in-house. After being the man in charge at the Scuderia he found himself, the new Direttore Sportivo,  working under Alfa's engineering director, Wilfredo Ricart. This was a situation he could not stomach and soon decided to quit. As part of his severance agreement he could not compete against his former bosses for four years. Ferrari started a new company called Auto-Avio Costruzioni S.p.A. which produced machine parts for various clients. For the 1940 Mille Miglia , Ferrari entered two small sportscars to be driven by Alberto Ascari and Lothario Rangoni. They were labeled AAC 815s but were actually the first Ferrari race cars.