By Carlo Carluccio
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article.
Tazio Nuvolari was a massive part of the Ferrari story, winning impossible races in Alfa's, dedicated to the same Italy that Enzo was so patriotic about and a driver who left Ferrari confounded with his skill.
“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. I 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.”
Nuvolari was, and still is, such a huge name in Italy, that Ferrari entrusted cars for him to race even when Tazio was in very poor health towards the end of his life.
Tazio had two sons who died in 1937 and 1946, both were aged 18 respectively and Ferrari suffered the same long drawn out helplessness for his son Dino which bonded the two men even closer together. He wrote, “Nuvolari lost two sons. His indomitable, almost incredible courage was perhaps even strengthened by these calamities. When he raced, he was looking for death, though he never found it in a car.”
The first months of 1956 found Ferrari in constant torment, his beloved son Dino was dying of muscular dystrophy. He passed away aged 24, on the 30th June 1956 in the family home. He was a shattered individual and spoke of not continuing racing anymore. Ferrari had threatened withdrawal from events over the years but it was a calculated threat to increase the starting money for the scarlet cars. This time his threat was issued at a time of emotional fragility. He changed his glasses about this time, and began wearing dark lensed glasses; it was a way of observing without giving anything away.
In November, the same year, Ferrari debuted the V6 engine that Dino Ferrari had worked with Jano in designing. When it made its debut, Ferrari watched the race and would never watch another race at a track again, only attending testing and qualifying sessions.
In the best stories of Royal concubines and mistresses, Enzo, the self-appointed King of Maranello also had a mistress. She had borne him a son in 1945 that would only be officially recognised after the death of Ferrari’s wife Laura in 1978. Ferrari would spend many evenings with Piero and his mother Lina in Modena and suffered the abuse of a scorned wife. He eventually moved into the Palace Hotel and offered his estranged wife whatever she wanted to allow him to officially rename his son.
“The horse should pull the cart, not push it”
Chaplin hated and refused to incorporate speech into his Little Tramp films. He was of the opinion that much of the non English-speaking world still loved his films. In much the same way that sound had heralded a new direction for cinema, Cooper was bringing about a revolution in F1 with a rear-engined car that whilst producing merely 174bhp was winning races. The Ferrari’s were blessed with 285bhp but were technically inferior. Ferrari, as ever, fought the direction of development for some time but the writing was on the wall.
It’s interesting to note that these two respective giants, born in the 19th century and who had always been at the cutting edge of their respective medium, were so stubborn in embracing a new direction.
New technology would prove to be anathema to the boss. He refused his engineers to work on the new design route and even Mike Hawthorn in 1958 pleaded for the fitment of disc brakes, something his Jaguar C Type had used in 1955. The following year, all Ferrari racecars were fitted with this “new” technology.
In 1958, following the death of Musso, an article was written about him, “He is a modern day Saturn. Having become a captain of industry, he continues to devour his own sons. The myth has unfortunately been reflected in reality. Luigi Musso is the latest of his victims..”
Ferrari had always wanted Italian drivers in his cars, he felt the victory was worth double. But the national outcry whenever an Italian driver was killed became too unbearable and eventually he changed his stance and would no longer employ Italian drivers.
In 1963, Ferrari was in serious discussion to sell his company to Ford. But this would be completely against his character as he was a nationalist and wanted to sell the company to fellow Italians. He knew Agnelli liked the Ferrari cars, as he was an enthusiastic racecar driver and Ferrari were the best in the world. If he could return to Fiat as a partner, 50 years after being turned down for a job, his journey would be complete. So these negotiations were part of a long-term plan to fully avenge himself.
At a critical point during a meeting with Ford, he made it apparent that the small print meant he would lose effective control of the manufacturing and racing divisions. He told Ford that he was no longer interested. As a poker player, I’d imagine he would have had no equal. Fiat completed negotiations for the purchase of 50% of Ferrari on the 21st July 1969.
Ford’s humiliation turned the company into Ferrari’s opposition. They entered and succeeded at Le Mans, but perhaps more significantly, they funded a Cosworth V8, which would eventually dominate F1 for the following 15 years. It was out-performed by the Ferrari engines of the 70’s, but the sheer weight of numbers lining up against Ferrari meant it was an uneven battle.
“Aerodynamics are for people who do not know how to make engines.”
By 1973, Ferrari had realised that they couldn’t compete in Endurance racing and Formula One simultaneously. John Surtees, some years before noted, “We couldn’t get any development done on the F1 cars until the month of June and Le Mans had passed”
Mauro Forghieri, Niki Lauda and Luca Di Montezemolo took over the effective running of the F1 team and transformed them from also-rans into genuine competitors. Ferrari had funds for the racing team provided by FIAT, and the various sponsors on the car. He famously refused any sponsorship from companies that did not contribute to the actual car. In 1971, he was offered a substantial sum for allowing cigarette sponsorship on the cars and he refused.
He changed with the passing years, shouting less than he had previously and developed a softer side, but he accepted no compromise from anybody. Ferrari was still Ferrari. People would wait outside the factory to see him and applaud him, they would wait for hours outside the Cavallino restaurant. When he emerged at 1 o’clock to have lunch, they would applaud him and he would reply by raising his right hand in a regal manner.
On 1st March 1978, Chaplin’s body was dug up by two grave robbers and a ransom demanded from his widow. On the 8th October 1978, Dino Ferrari’s coffin was dug up and opened before the robbers were disturbed and ran away.
Ferrari wrote in his book, ‘Il prezzo della notorieta’ (the price of fame ): ” I would never have imagined that the price of fame, which I had paid at every stage of my life, would also include the destruction of the tomb in which my son Dino was buried 23 years ago. After so many events, I feel alone and almost guilty that I have survived.”
… end of Part II