Imola 1994

By: Steve Tillack

Ferrari is much more than a car. It is an experience to be savored by an elite few, a tradition, a passion for many, every boy's dream. Nowhere is this celebrated with greater intensity than in Italy on a Formula One race day. I offer here a view of the spectacle of Formula One in Italy, the race itself is better explained by others and watched on TV.

Imola is a wide spot in the road about 30 minutes south of Bologna. There is only one exit from the Autostrada, and 300,000 plus pass through it on race day. Arrive early, stay late, we're talking major jam-up.

The race circuit is part of a large beautifully wooded park located right in the center of town. There are real restaurants, an open air theater and miles of trails and streams through the woods. Think about that, next time you're out at Willow Springs.

We lucked out, a parking spot with a straight shot, six blocks to the main gate. As we started walking, we heard the first practice session start. Perfect timing too! A few blocks on we heard them leave the pits. Two, close together, the scream, absolutely distinct from the rest. Louder, higher, felt in the bones as much as heard. And just as suddenly we were aware of a huge unseen crowd going wild. La Ferrari' on home turf.

We're pumped, pulse rate is instantly up and we're not even inside the track yet! Lots of Lira is hurriedly handed over and we charge through the gate into race fan paraphernalia Nirvana.

There is a kaleidoscope of visions to be had on the F1 midway. Did I mention the bella donninas yet? In Italy the girls all take a graduate course in flirtation. It is a feminine art form here and is only truly perfected with age. A personal recommendation: English girls should seriously consider some primary education in Italy. During this side show I thought I recognized an old friend, spied through a hole in the pit lane fence. Sporting all the right credentials he strolled regally through the pits, chatting, taking notes, wearing a kilt over truly neon legs. Na couldn't be.

Perhaps it is the remnants of an ill spent youth, for somehow I always find myself sitting with the rowdies. At every race track in the world this section locates itself at the first major turn. In my youth it was the south turn at Ascot, at Imola it is a rather larger section. You can have the reserved seats on the front straight. Two general admissions please, and we hiked off to the hillside over looking Curva Tosa to join the true Tifosi. Over fifty thousand of them on this hill and every one decked out in something red with a prancing black horse. I felt right at home.

About mid day a truly suicidal fellow decided to walk along the foot of this hill with a large Brazilian flag flying in the wind. It was suggested he lower it, he ignored the warning. The first barrage of empty bottles didn't have the desired effect either. The second barrage of half full ones did, the flag was retired. The fool then reappeared with the flag on the other side of the track. Big mistake. The rocks found their mark with stunning accuracy to the riotous applause of 50,000. Point, set, match.

It was time for a little racing! A false start, and then next time through Gerhard had the Ferrari in front. I have never heard a more glorious sound in my life than at that moment. The car and the crowd in a concert of sound not found anywhere else. In the end Schumacher won in the Benetton with Larini in a Ferrari second. But those first ten laps were something to remember.

I sincerely hope in years to come that the preceding is how I will choose to remember that beautiful sunny day at Imola. Every magazine in the car world will eventually run an article on the race and offer an opinion on the events of that day. All on the hillside saw Senna crash. It wasn't until late that evening we heard the words on a TV news program "Due morto en due giorno." A translation