Ferrari’s First-ever Race Car Comes out to Play
Story by Giovanni Ferrari
Say “Ferrari” to most people and their eyes will sparkle with an image of a red sports car roaring through the scenery.
Now, ask the same person where the first Ferrari debuted and the answer will likely be one of the big names—Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, the Nürburgring—and he’d be wrong.
More than 68 years ago, the small city of Piacenza hosted Ferrari’s first race car, the 1947 125 S. Piacenza is a small city in northern Italy—and the first with Ferrari-made skid marks on its streets!
Thanks to a club of enthusiasts, in May the city woke up to find an oval street circuit with straw barriers and the good old smell of vintage combustion in the air. A 40-strong platoon of racing cars from the pre- and immediate post-war years gathered in the main square, the Piazza dei Cavalli, and then motored slowly towards the start line on the Pubblico Passeggio—amid the waving arms of the crowd, naturally.
First off, about 20 sub-1100 cc machines, most of them handbuilt around a modified Fiat 750 or 1,100-cc engine, now owned and operated by amateurs who proudly drove them while dressed like racing drivers from that era. Six laps with a single rule: no racing. Just pure enjoyment—a parade—with the crowd given the pleasure of watching marvellous machines roar in the streets.
After the small racers, it was time for the big ones to step on the track, and the first of the big ones was quite a sight: Ferrari themselves had decided that their first-born should take a break from being a museum gem and go back to what it had been made to do, on the very track that legacy was born. The 125 S was back on the Pubblico Passeggio.
Driven by Franco Cortese back in those days, this 1.5-litre V12 barchetta impressed right from the start, racing for the lead before having to retire for a fuel pump problem. Had it worked for three more laps, Piacenza would most likely have been the site of Ferrari’s first victory, as well.
Fast forward to today, this factory-commissioned (and owned) recreation 125 S by Michelotto was leading a group of authentic racing pearls, including Ferraris, Maseratis, an Alfa Romeo 4C, and an immensely beautiful Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale by Zagato. Recreation? The original 125 S is gone.
Parade over. The six laps began and every single driver floored his throttle to the full, the cars shouting, barking, spitting flames, and exhaling arousing odours.
Back in the old days, drivers averaged speeds around 87 mph (140 km/h), which means that on the straights they did more than 125 mph (200 km/h)—in a town! This time, the attitude and the value of the cars promised a more reasonable pace.
It was an immensely rewarding day in this small town. It pulled memories out of those who were there that first time, and it created new memories for those who were not. As long as these events continue to happen, we can rest assured that racing memories will not fade.