In his book, Sailing from Byzantium, Collin Wells describes the courage of the Italian humanists who, after the fall of Constantinople, bravely collected the shards of the fallen Greek empire, then curated and promoted the sculpture, architecture, literature, and political thought they discovered. In the process, they ignited The Renaissance. As a Greek, those Italians are my heroes because, without them, the world would never have known about Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Phidias.
Italian-American Lawrence Auriana, retired co-founder and co-head of the Kaufman Fund, has something in common with those storied Renaissance humanists. Like a kind of Medici, Auriana chooses the modern equivalent of lost artistic treasures—the rarest of Italian automobiles—and brings them to life in the most audacious fashion. He races them.
“My grandparents were all born in Italy, and instilled in me, as elders should, a love for one’s own heritage and respect for the heritage of others,” Auriana explains. “Italians have never slept for 2,500 years, and most folks are aware of their contributions to 20th-century culture through cinema and automotive innovation.
“We have a very broad collection of the most important Italian automobiles, going back to a 1913 Isotta Fraschini,” he continues. “We have prewar and postwar, Alfa Romeos, Cisitalias, Lancias, Fiats, Maseratis, and, of course, significant Ferraris. The collection is a broad tribute to Italian engineering. I chose to resurrect Italian automobiles because, when you turn the key, the technology and the art ignite—become alive—in a way that is not seen in any other human creation. The cars are alive. They speak to you.”
Joe Colasacco, who races our featured Ferrari 1512 F1 (s/n 0008) for Auriana, agrees. “You flip the ignition switch and then the fuel pumps, crack the throttle, and push the start button,” he says. “You can hear all the mechanical gears and chain noise quite clearly, and then comes the scream! It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. I see people jump from the noise once it fires, even when they’re expecting it.”
And that’s just starting the 1.5-liter flat-12 engine, never mind spinning it up above 10,000 rpm. We’ll return to that later.
The day I spoke with Auriana and Colasacco was the same day British magazine MotorSport published an interview with 1964 World Champion John Surtees. In that story, Surtees was asked what his favorite car was.