Name someone who has actively worked at Ferrari since 1965. My list starts and stops with one man—Piero Ferrari. Piero, son of company founder Enzo, has seen and been involved in most every facet of the business, and has been around the company his entire life, yet has a wonderful ability to view Ferrari almost as an outsider.
The history that the man represents and understands makes spending time with him a treasure, so I try to see him regularly when I am in Italy. On a beautiful spring day this past May, I met him in his office at the factory. Our talk, however, started far away from Maranello.
Someone told me you have a passion for NASCAR.
(Laughs.) It is not really a passion. I have my small engineering company, and I try to spend time by myself and my engineers in some fields of technology or areas of technology…[the idea is] to be like a hub of knowledge, to exchange experience from Formula 1 to NASCAR and vice versa. You always have these opportunities to learn something. We started some interesting engineering activities for a NASCAR team.
So there is a NASCAR team that has Ferrari engineering in it?
Not Ferrari, but my private, small group of 25 engineers. Some are Formula 1, some are from the GT, some are in Ducati. You know that I had to design the Desmo 16 MotoGP engine. This was done by a couple of my guys, my engineers. This started like a hobby and now it is a small group of high-level engineering.
When did this start?
The engineering, 11 years ago. With NASCAR, four years ago. I have twice been to the Daytona 500. It is really quite the motor-racing event of the year in the U.S. There are 400,000 people, quite impressive. What I really like is you see the cars, all tubular frames, bodywork with metal sheets and not carbon fiber. It looks like quite old technology, but behind it there is a lot of experience and every detail is developed to perfection, as they have not much space to do new technology. But they know every screw of the car.
They still use carburetors.
They still use carburetors. (Pauses.) In fact, I have been talking with Jim France, the owner of the series. His father was Bill France…and my father was dealing with him for the Daytona 24 Hours in the old days. The famous 330 P4 victory was one-two-three in Daytona. So, he was asking me, “When do you think Ferrari will be back for the Daytona 24 Hours?” Maybe, some time—never say never.