A Raging Thunderstorm Couldn’t Dampen The 70th Birthday Of Ferrari In Maranello
Photography by Rosario Liberti
The classic car world in 2017 has been characterized by more than a few celebrations in honor of Ferrari’s 70th birthday, but some of these achieve a greater level of significance than the rest. This past weekend’s spectacle was surely among the best of the year so far, and along with the upcoming display and contests in New York City on October 7-8th, it will likely be unmatched by the rest of the year’s calendar. Why? Well it did take place over a full weekend of auctions, a concours, and a lavish night of celebration amidst a roaring thunderstorm of flood-like proportion for starters, and did I mention this was all happening in Maranello? Besides the remarkable roll call of Rosso brought in by the company and Ferrari owners, Pirelli was involved in the event as well. The long and fruitful history of the two companies is clearly one with staying power—a match made in Italy if you will—and I am happy to see such partnerships lasting so long as this one. So then, Pirelli invited me along for the weekend’s revelries, and though it was a rather wet occasion at times, it is also one I won’t likely forget for reasons other than soaked socks.
The RM Sotheby’s “Leggenda e Passione” auction was a quite literally epic inaugural event that saw Saturday afternoon filled with a remarkable grouping of Ferraris and assorted memorabilia trading hands among the brand’s discerning collectors, featuring a number of rare lots like the alloy-bodied Daytona that had spent its previous four decades inside a hay barn in Japan. The auction spanned everything from original artwork to toolsets to prototype racing models, and the amount of money commanded by these pieces was a staggering representation of the importance commanded by the marque’s creations over the past 70 years.
Saturday night brought with it an intensity of rain and thunder and lightning that while not ideal for cars like the first official Ferrari product, the 125 S, to be displayed from a preservation perspective, still seemed fitting in its own way, and lent a due gravitas to the machinery rolled out underneath the pyrotechnics and lasers. Indeed, what better way to underscore the sheer might and force of the company than with an Olympian display of nature? The birthday celebrations began with a speech from Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne extolling the virtues of the brand’s past and visions for its continued march along that path into the future. This was followed by the raising of the Italian flag surrounded by cadets of the Military Academy Modena and the country’s national anthem.
The body of the event was comprised of a tour through the times of Enzo’s reign, beginning with his earliest years of racing, his first victories, and the crystallization of his dream to construct the fastest racing cars in the world. Following this, a veritable parade of significant automobiles bearing the Cavallino Rampante badge made their way through the rain on the main stage while sounds and songs of their respective eras provided some context to these otherwise timeless objects. Musical highlights included a performance of Carmen’s “L’amour est un Oiseau Rebelle” beautifully rendered by the mezzo-soprano talents of Stepanka Pucalkova, and sung in the company of one of the brand’s modern icons, LaFerrari. After a demonstration of legendary Ferrari GT race cars, a concert from Jamiroquai punctuated the opulent but appropriate festival.
To conclude this two-day tour of Italian machinery and to continue exploring the vast, rich history behind it, the next morning saw me headed to the manufacturer’s private proving grounds where the development of the world’s finest sports and racing cars still occurs today. To be on the hallowed Fiorano test circuit is in and of itself an experience that easily inspires awe and calls up the imagination’s favorite kind of game, but when it is lined with the cars that in large part defined the benchmarks of motorsport and performance production, it becomes otherworldly. Constructed in 1972 adjacent to Enzo’s home, it is a special racetrack in the sense that it is responsible for so much competitive success while not holding a single race of its own, and now I was walking along this mettle-testing legend and viewing an impressive selection of the cars that earned their keeps here and those that preceded it too.
To see the likes of 512s and 333 SPs and just about every guise of 250 lining the red and white curbing and glistening in the rain was perhaps the best way to view Ferrari’s history in physical form, and while the weather may have literally dampened the festivities, it did not hinder the celebration; as you can see, the rain did little to deter the owners and guests from enjoying the precious metal homecoming.