Two Days in Maranello

By: Ron Profilli

In May 24 and 25, Jim Pyle (FCA National President) and I, at the invitation of Ferrari, were in Maranello to attend a special meeting of Ferrari Clubs from around the globe and the European introduction of the F355. It started out as a sort of "mystery" trip and ended up an unforgettable experience.

On April 22, Jim received a fax, obviously sent to the Presidents of all Ferrari Clubs worldwide, from Luca Matteoni (Direzione Communicazione) inviting the President and Vice President of the FCA to a "gathering with all the Ferrari Clubs" on May 24 "in the afternoon" and to "closely look at a new product" that was confidential. Mr. Matteoni requested that we mail him a schedule of FCA activities and suggestions on what Ferrari could do to help the club.

We got to Malpensa just before 9:00 am, Tuesday morning, May 24. We got to the Hotel Real Fini around 11:30 am and, after unsuccessfully trying to reach Luca Matteoni, decided to just drive to the factory. After a wrong turn (or two) we got to the factory about 1:00 p.m. and were told by the receptionist that our meeting would be at the Cavallino Restaurant across the street - at 5:00 p.m.! Well, that was sort of "in the afternoon." Just as we were wondering what to do next, Luca Matteoni drove up, introduced himself and asked us to hop in his car. Luca Matteoni is very personable and you like him right away. He told us that they gave a "special" F355 introduction to the Ferrari employees yesterday (Monday). Today was the European media introduction. Tomorrow would be the special introduction to the Ferrari Clubs, European importers, and Italian dealers, and Thursday would be the introduction to the invited local citizens. We drove out to Fiorano, one of Ferrari's two race tracks (the other being Mungello).

We got there at lunch time and after lunch all the European press was lining up to get F355 hot laps around Fiorano, so Jim and I got in line too. Jean Alesi and Niki Lauda were two of the six drivers. Neither Jim nor I got to be driven by either of these two driver celebrities. When my turn came up, the driver was Andrea Favro in a red F355 Berlinetta. Fiorano is a tight twisty track where each of the nine turns represents a specific turn on one of the F1 circuits. The six speed gearbox, with its short gears, and the engine's high low-end torque did well on this track.

Around 4:00 p.m., we joined the European reporters on their bus that took them to the Galleria, about a block from the factory. The Ferrari "museum" occupied the right side of the Galleria and was closed. We entered on the other side into a "theater in the round" style auditorium and were handed ear phones and a small radio receiver to hear the Italian presentations translated into English. There were two F355s in the center - a red Berlinetta and a yellow GTS. The speaker's table was occupied by Luca di Montezemolo, Sergio Pinninfarina, Niki Lauda, and Antonia Ghini (who is Ferrari's marketing manager). Antonio Ghini introduced Luca di Montezemolo who proceeded to give a very enthusiastic talk (in Italian) about the F355.

Sergio Pinninfarina then talked about the design elements of the car and the extensive aerodynamics involved (over 1300 hours of wind tunnel testing went into the F355).

Later that night all the Ferrari clubs met in a room above the Cavallino Restaurant. Represented were clubs from Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, England, and Japan. The President of each club gave a short description of their membership and activities. It was apparent that track events were the predominant activity overall.

Jim presented the Ferrari Club of America (which, by the way is the world's largest Ferrari club) as balancing its activities between social, track and touring events. He emphasized the independence of the regions to conduct activities and, at the concl