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  • Motivator who knew talent when he saw it

    Racing legend
    Feb. 18, 1898-Aug. 14, 1988

    Wim Oude Weernink
    Automotive News Europe

    Enzo Ferrari was a passionate man. He devoted his life to engineering excellence for the sake of winning races and creating the ultimate performance cars.

    He was a solitary character, but he had an ability to motivate everybody surrounding him to offer the best of their talents to meet his objectives.

    Ferrari was born in Modena, Italy, and raised in a small engineering world. His father ran a metal construction shop and was one of the first motorists in the town. Enzo Ferrari seldom left the region, and well before he died, Modena had become the symbolic capital of the world of high-performance cars.

    Ferrari tried to start his career at Fiat when he was 21 years old, but the Turin manufacturer turned him down. He was hired at the small C.M.N. sportscar maker, and in 1924 he joined Alfa Romeo's racing department.

    He flourished there. He was big man with warm, sociable ways, and he managed to lure great engineers and racing drivers away from the competition. His most famous recruit was the great Fiat designer, Vittorio Jano.

    Although Ferrari was not an engineer himself, he knew talent when he saw it, and he was an inspiring manager.

    His decision to start his own racing team, or Scuderia, in 1929 was no surprise to the people who knew him. Under Ferrari's personal banner with a prancing horse logo, Alfa Romeo scored glorious victories.

    In 1947, at the age of 49, he founded his own company: Ferrari. That marked the beginning of a motor racing culture that had not been seen before and has continued since, long past Ferrari's death in 1988.

    His passion made the difference. He always had a team that wanted to work for him, to devote their talents to his goals.

    Ferrari always reined supreme in his own empire. He never looked back and always sought new challenges. He was unpredictable and demanding, and many qualified engineers were forced to leave his teams, yet always there were more who wanted to join.

    When races were won, Ferrari shouted at his staff. He didn't want them to lean back and relax. But if races were lost, he spoke inspiring words, predicting that more effort would be rewarded with victory.

    Over the years, he created a culture with mythical values for his team as well as his cars. In the early years, all his cars were purpose-built for competition, but later on, when the legend had spread, the global jet set wanted part of it. Sales of his road-going Grand Touring models commenced.

    When Ferrari died at age 90, his efforts had culminated in 14 victories at the 24-hour race of Le Mans and nine Formula One world championships. His name had become one of the world's strongest brands, even if other manufacturers had been able to offer cars of higher performance.

    His passion for sports cars and motor racing lives on under the careful stewardship of Fiat, and production of Ferrari cars remains limited, sold without the need for any advertising.