And Final Part 3:
I thought the original 275 GTB was short and ugly. To show its prowess as a car it needed a longer nose, more refinement. To sell this car I told Enzo, it must be like a beautiful woman, plenty of fire on the inside and the perfect curves on the outside. I do believe that the Disney cartoon “101 Dalmations” also probably contributed to the idea. The car driven by Cruella D’Ville in this animated film was very striking. Enzo agreed. Production was halted and in 1965 the Series II was introduced to resounding success.
I was constantly looking for ways to bring the cars a sense of style that was only their own. Much to the shock and horror of many I suggested a two-tone color scheme for the Ferrari Dino which was produced from 1968 to 1976. It was the entry of Ferrari into mainstream high volume road legal sports cars. All previous models were manufactured in limited numbers. I persevered, and eventually Enzo agreed and a few were two-tone.
Enzo and Fiamma would continue their collaboration of mutual admiration and respect for each other in the years to follow. They were becoming increasingly close and in 1973, after the death of his wife Laura, Enzo asked Fiamma to marry him. She declined. It was not to be the last proposal of marriage, there were indeed, to be four more.
I was very close to Enzo and we were seldom apart, I was very flattered and somewhat amused but I could not marry him for two reasons, one because of the age difference, and two, I was still in love with Luigi Musso.
I can clearly see by the pause after this statement, she still is.
Enzo was becoming quite a public figure due to the technological advances being made by his company in engine design. He would receive many honorary doctorates from around the world. He was receiving honors from the President of Italy, but he took this in stride and never regarded them seriously.
It was 1969 and Enzo knew that to continue the company and continue racing, he would have to sell some shares in it or risk losing the ability to continue in the sport. Ferrari was never able to produce enough road cars to offset the increasing cost of Formula 1. He finally struck a deal with FIAT and they retained 50% of the company in return for what was essentially a blank check so that he may continue with his design and development and keep the F1 team in the game.
Enzo was starting to become increasingly reclusive and preferred to watch the races on television instead of attending the meetings. He would then have a telephone by his side and I remember how many times he would call and scream orders down the receiver.
One day we were talking about the latest Gran Turismos and I mentioned my displeasure at how trying to fit my luggage in them on the many trips I made between Modena and Florence. The idea for a bespoke set of Ferrari Luggage was born. We spent many hours staring at the trunk of a few of the cars and came up with designs that would perfectly fit in the limited space. I should have guessed at the time that your average sports car is not a cross country vehicle. After quite a large investment in design and prototypes there was little interest and we shelved the idea. I still have all the original prototypes, emblazoned with the Prancing Horse of the Scuderia, but also with my initials ‘FB’ prominently etched in the leather.
Despite all the accolades and hype, the Ferrari Formula 1 team failed to really light up the grand prix circuit, till the mid 70s. It was the discovery of a talented Austrian, Niki Lauda that would catapult Ferrari into the forefront of the game once again. Lauda started 1975 slowly but would end up winning the last five races of the season and collecting the World Championship for Ferrari.
I remember Niki, says Fiamma,
however, as talented and skilled that he was, he had a very big ego. An extremely likable man, was it not for this arrogance, and how he considered himself a superstar in his own eyes. It was to be something Enzo vehemently disliked in Lauda. Especially when Niki told the press he could win any race in any car because he was that good, as it was his skill alone and not the car. It is not polite to repeat what Enzo said when he heard that.
I remember clearly that day in 1976 when at the Nurburgring during the German Grand Prix. While negotiating a corner, Lauda went too wide and crashed into the guard rail. The car spun and burst into flames totally disintegrated. The heroism of fellow drivers and stewards saw him rescued from that inferno but he suffered severe burns and was not expected to survive. A priest was called and he was read his last rites. It was a disaster. Both Enzo and I thought ‘What next?’.
Miraculously, only after six weeks, he recovered rapidly and returned to racing , placed 4th at the race in Monza for the Ferrari team. His determination was mind blowing. It was short lived though. The following race in Japan would cost the team dearly. During the race which was beset by howling winds and torrential rain, Lauda just pulled his car over to the side and withdrew, getting out and walking off. Perhaps it was a lack of nerves, who knows, but from then on Enzo never spoke to Niki Lauda again, even though the team offered Lauda an astonishing one billion lire (500,000 euros) a year later to return to the team, Lauda turned it down. Enzo was also relieved.
All was not lost for the Ferrari team though. Fiamma had spotted a daring young Canadian driver who drove for McLaren in the 1977 British Grand Prix. She went to Enzo and said, This is the one.
After some negotiation the young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve joined the team for the final races of the 1977 season and from 1978 till his death in 1982.
Villeneuve was extraordinary. He had incredible focus and stamina. Enzo would say, ‘He reminds me of Musso and Nuvolari’. Villeneuve was also very popular with fans and was a huge star. He won six races for the team in 1979 but missed out on the championship to his team mate, South African, Jody Scheckter.
Just as we thought everything was going well, 1982 ended up becoming a very painful year. During a qualifying race for the Belgian Grand Prix, Villeneuve was trying to beat the lap time of bitter team rival Didier Pironi and took unnecessary risks. He was on his 4th set of tires which by now were already worn out. He was trying to maneuver past the car of Jochen Mass that he clipped the 2 cars and took off in free flight, airborne for over 100 meters and then losing his helmet and flung a further 50 meters. It was horrendous.
Fiamma takes a deep breath as if reliving that incident clearly.
I was devastated. Enzo was in disbelief. Is this a curse we were to wonder? Gilles died later that evening after being taken off life support by his wife.
All these tragedies, all these deaths were taking a heavy toll on Enzo. He would never been seen or heard blaming the drivers again. In fact he made a firm commitment to safety. And the Ferrari road car division was instructed to make the safest cars possible. It was an obsession with him. Even today, Ferraris are the safest road legal sports cars in production at this time.
For the next six years, Enzo barely moved around or met anyone. He lived a rather solitary life, spending his days dealing with company matters, approving designs and also working on the ultimate road car, the F40, a perfect combination of road car and the track car. Enzo would also, without fail, visit the tomb of his beloved son Dino every day and wipe his thumb over the picture on his grave, just in the same way he would wipe the tears from Dino’s face as a young boy.
The Ferrari team has since grown in both strength and technological advancement, much thanks to the cash flow from FIAT and has steadily developed into the ultimate racing design.
Fiamma laments on the many lives that were lost on this incredible journey…There is a piece of everyone who were ever a part of the Scuderia; they still live on in every badge of every car, standing proud and ready, just like that prancing horse, still going fast.
Whether it is just chance or fate, or perhaps even a remarkable display of the power of faith, the fortunes of Ferrari were to now take a more positive turn…..
It was a warm spring day in 1988, the 4th of June to be precise, that Pope John Paul II,made a very unusual visit to the north of Italy to visit “The Pope of The North”(another name Enzo was being referred to as).
Sadly Enzo was very ill and instead, sent his illegitimate son, Piero Ferrari, to meet the Pope. The Pope had his ‘Popemobile’ on hand, but after seeing a glittering array of Ferrari sports cars said, “Can I take that one?”, pointing to a Ferrari Mondial Spyder. He then drove around the Ferrari factory and track standing up in a Ferrari Spider waving the famous Catholic hand to 1000s of astonished bystanders, factory workers, drivers and engineers. He later conducted mass in a field to the thousands who had gathered. The Pope then blessed team drivers Gerhard Bergher and Michele Alboreto. Since that day there have been no deaths in the Ferrari team during a race.
I was very busy at the time after being personally appointed by Enzo as the special envoy for the Ferrari team and responsible for all matters relating to the Grand Prix Team. I reported directly to Enzo right up until his death later that year on the 14 August 1988.
I had decided to take a short vacation and had joined some friends on a cruise aboard the ship ‘Achille Lauro’. I had not spoken to Enzo for some time and when we disembarked in Catania, I was going to give him a call. As I walked from the ship, I saw a gentlemen seated at a bar reading a newspaper. The headline read “The Drake is Dead”. I knew my beloved Enzo had passed away. I was shocked and distraught that no one had told me, and I had to hear of it in this way.
It was an end of an era and the end of a chapter in my life. I never attended another race meeting and now prefer to catch up on the sport on television. I often look up at the sky and wonder what Enzo and Luigi are talking about now.
It was then that Fiamma decided it was best to end this interview, clearly somewhat pensive and quiet.
Just at that moment, a song played through the restaurant speakers in what seemed almost uncanny, surreal and oddly touching. It was Etta James singing It’s a Man’s World. For those of you unfamiliar with this song, it is haunting. It starts with the following words: “It’s a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing...nothing, without a woman or a girl…”
“We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” George Orwell