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Enzo Ferrari: The Progenitor of Ferrari

Modified 20 Jan 2014

Enzo Ferrari

Ferrari is a name which has now become synonymous with speed and glamour around the world. But for all this, credit goes to one man who had an ambition to build the fastest and most advanced cars in the world, Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena, Italy on February 18, 1898. When only 10 years old, he went to witness a local race called Circuit di Bologna, which completely mesmerized him. Throughout his life, he remained quite attached to his birthplace and spent a majority of his days there. He totally inhabited in his life the culture and the values with which he was brought up and never strayed away from it. His life was affected by the First World War, in which he along with his brother had to join the Italian army. This period had a grievous impact upon his life as he lost both his brother and father in a flu outbreak in Italy and also just nearly survived from the flu himself. After returning from the war, left with no employment opportunities, he sought after to fulfill his childhood ambition. Fascinated by cars and racing since his childhood, he landed a small job with CMN Car Company. Later on, he also raced for them, but did not garner much success.

By 1920, he left CMN and joined Alfa Romeo as a racer. He had driven in several races for Alfa Romeo, who had become impressed with his driving ability and were willing to give him a chance to drive at a higher level, but he declined the offer. This practically ended his racing career, and he then directed his attention towards managing racing teams.

After this, he continued to work with Alfa Romeo and managed their racing team. In 1929, he convinced Alfa Romeo to race under his name and formed his own racing team “Scuderia Ferrari”. During this time the trademark prancing horse logo was also adopted by him, he once described the reason for it -

Ferrari Logo

“The horse was painted on the fuselage of the fighter plane of Francesco Baracca – a heroic airman of the First World War. In ’23 I met count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father, and then his mother, Countess Paulina, who said to me one day, ‘Ferrari put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck’. The horse was, and still is, black, and I added the canary yellow background which is the color of Modena.”

He also got hold of several young drivers like Tazio Nouvlari and Giuseppe Campari. After humble beginnings, his team started winning races and dominating the racing arena for several years. But by the mid 1930s, several nations had understood the possibilities of utilizing motor racing as a means to showcase their supremacy. This marked the arrival of well funded and technically advanced German teams like Mercedes and Auto Union in the racing arena, which had assistance from the German Government. The German teams with their superior machinery, completely outshone everyone on the grid including Ferrari. During this time, one man who still kept the team competitive was his lead driver, Tazio Nouvlari. Even with inferior machinery when compared to the Germans, he still outpaced the capability of the car and came up with several fine performances. The most famous of which was the German Grand Prix in 1935, in which against all odds, he outclassed the Germans at their home.

Tazio Nuvolari

Nouvlari is perhaps one of the greatest drivers in racing history. Enzo Ferrari first noticed his talent while racing alongside him on the grid in the 1920s. He admired his talent a lot and considered him to be an ideal racing driver. Nouvlari served as a benchmark to Ferrari and he always looked for qualities like him in other drivers. His heroics at the 1935 German Grand Prix served to Ferrari as a benchmark as to how a driver should drive in a race.


By 1937, Nouvlari left his team and joined Auto Union. Later, Ferrari was sacked from the team when Alfa Romeo retook control the same year. He spent the next few years selling parts to other racing teams and also built two cars of his own in 1940. But all his racing activities were abruptly stopped after the beginning of the Second World War, when he had to direct his factory to produce ammunition for the Italian army. There was no major racing activity until the war ended in 1945.

After the war, in 1947, he laid foundations for Ferrari S.p.A, which still exists today. In 1950, there were foundations of a championship, called Formula One, which was to crown World Champions each year. Ferrari enrolled his team for the inaugural season and since then it has competed in every season of Formula One. In 1951, Jose Froilan Gonzalez provided the first win for the team at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone.

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Published 19 Jan 2014, 18:25 IST
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