Freedom road

Stroll poses with his 330 P4 on the circuit of Mont Tremblant; photo Blair Gable

Canadian fashion mogul Lawrence Stroll dreamt of owning a Ferrari 330 P4 when he was a child. with a lifetime’s hard work to back up those dreams, he has gone on to acquire not just a P4 but also a number of other hugely significant Ferraris, and a famous circuit to drive them on

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Even in the elite world of Ferrari collectors, one name commands a certain respect: that of Montrealborn Lawrence Stroll. He has amassed a collection of Ferraris that is of remarkable distinction and provenance, numbering the 330 P4, the Testa Rossa, 250 GTO and a 512M, to mention a few. Stroll is a significant name, especially in the international fashion and textiles business. Following in his father’s footsteps, this highly respected Canadian launched Polo Ralph Lauren in Europe in the ’80s, later became closely linked with Tommy Hilfiger, and eventually built a company with worldwide sales in excess of $2bn. Today, Lawrence Stroll is involved in a new challenge as one of the principal investors backing the expansion of the Michael Kors brand, which has gone from strength to strength since Kors unveiled his first womenswear line in New York back in 1981.
The fashion business isn’t Stroll’s only passion, however. Since childhood, he has been completely fascinated by the world of motor racing, with engines and cars, and with one name in particular above all else: Ferrari. The quality of the cars in his garage is a powerful testament to this passion, and it’s one that he has passed on to his son Lance, a karting prodigy who is part of Ferrari’s young talent programme and who probably deserves a separate chapter in his own right. Lawrence understands the meaning of hard work, having begun assisting his father at the age of 16. Of course, the man of today is rather different from the one of that time, not least because of the financial resources he now enjoys, of which he is rightly proud and for which he has worked hard. He is at once a top- flight business figure with ambitious yet pragmatic goals, but also a man who knows how to split his time effectively between his passions, his work and his family, particularly his two children, Lance and Chloe.
Like many devoted Ferraristi, the car of his dreams since childhood has been the Ferrari 330 P4, 1967’s intoxicating sports endurance racer, and an evolution of the legendary P3. It’s a love that ran in parallel with his professional life to such an extent that one day it became a realistic objective. But let’s start at the beginning, and try to understand the emotion involved in owning and driving these truly extraordinary cars, but also his passion and his remarkable life.

The Official Ferrari Magazine: Lawrence, you have a deep love and a passion for cars, Ferraris in particular, but what was your first car?
Lawrence Stroll: I must confess that, even if my 13-year-old’s eyes were only for the Ferrari P4, in 1967 my uncle rewarded my devotion to the family business with a Pontiac Trans Am. Then, soon afterwards, a fantastic – for that time – Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. However, my red dream came true thanks to my own money: a 308 GTS, like the one Magnum PI drove. Once you have started to experience the Ferrari world, the dream is continually renewed and reinforced; you want the red car from Maranello more and more. Of course, you have to be able to afford it, and work becomes the means of satisfying this type of dream.

Tofm: Is there a distinct chronology in the Lawrence Stroll Ferrari collection, or did opportunities present themselves by chance on each occasion?
LS: Before the P4, a more realisable dream occurred in 1980: the Daytona Spider. I bought it while I was living in Paris, so it had glamour with a European flavour. Immediately afterwards there was an opportunity to acquire a 1985 288 GTO. The idea of possessing a Ferrari with that legendary name, of which just 272 were built… what that actually did was reinforce the desire to own and drive another GTO: the 1962 original.

Tofm: And so the story continues…
LS: Of course! We are just at the beginning. But let’s get away a little from the historical chronology of my Ferrari purchases. In 1995 I managed to crown the dream, and yes it really is a dream, of becoming the owner of a 1962 250 GTO. I researched the market for years and became friendly with an owner quite separately from any negotiations. Actually, it was a very difficult and emotional process, even more than the final financial negotiation, which was almost quite trivial by the end of it all… These opportunities came about and took shape alongside my success at work. In the end, for me one of the motivations to succeed, to be successful, is also about having the financial opportunity to realise my automobile dreams.

Tofm: What happened to the Pontiac and Corvette, and your other early cars? Did you get rid of them?
LS: Yes, I abandoned them all. I focused on my Ferraris and I continually tried to reinforce the quality and history of my collection. Based around Ferrari, but above all on those cars that have a racing history; on my car in particular or on the history of the model in general. My 250 Testa Rossa did not win, but the idea that one of her twins won the Le Mans 24 Hours in both 1960 and 1961 almost makes me shiver when I drive it. The more Ferraris of this type, with this racing history, that I can possess, the more my dream will be complete, though I know that in reality it can never be definitively satisfied. It is a little like in work, in the success of a new project and in the consolidation of the one in progress. The processes of realisation are similar, but obviously for me there is a weakness for cars that I cannot allow myself in work.

Tofm: Which terms or words best identify your Ferrari desire and aspirations?
LS: There are three: the first is the technology of the time, when the car was conceived, designed, built; the second is the beauty of the style and the design, including the details; the third, respect and passion for what the car has done and represents, its life and career, which for a Ferrari is not merely mechanical.

Tofm: For Lawrence Stroll, is the car more about travel, mobility, performance, or even racing?
LS: All of those, when possible and with good sense. A trip can also become a moment when you experience the performance. I drive and race with all my Ferraris; for me the car is not an object to admire in a room, in a garage, boasting of it to your guests at a static level. Instead, as I’ve already said, it is something to experience dynamically, to use in its reality and in its content, to do what it was designed and produced to do.

A racing Ferrari was made to race, for the driver to take mechanical and human risks

When I use my cars I’m tough: I exploit her 100 per cent in her performance, and if we are at a race meeting, I act tough by taking risks. I don’t think of it as a museum piece or about the value of what I’m driving. If I go on a trip, it’s only sensible that I don’t start racing along the road, but if conditions and laws permit, I try to feel the sensations that a Ferrari can give you both on and off the track…

Stroll has chosen five of the 25 Ferraris he currently owns to show us and for us to photograph. It’s a passionate but also notably rational choice, because it allows us to cover every significant era in the marque’s history: the 250 Testa Rossa from 1957, the 330 P4 from 1967, the F40 LM from 1988, the 333 SP from 1994 and, to conclude, the FXX “missile” from 2005.

Tofm: So which of these five is your number one?
LS: Without doubt the P4, for its shape and its history. Driving the 333 SP is extremely special because it’s a blend of the past and technological modernity, technology that perhaps originated concretely in Formula One – V12 engine, 65 degree angle, 4000cc and 650hp, an engine that was actually based on the 3.5-litre unit in Ferrari’s 1992 F1 car, the F92A.

When I’m on the track with this car I wonder how many people would like to be in my place

Tofm: Could you choose five words to define each of these five Ferraris?
LS: Testa Rossa: classic beauty and Le Mans winner; P4: courage, spectacle and perfection; F40 LM: wahoooo! Driving sensations, with driver and car in perfect symbiosis; 333 SP: closest in sensation to F1; FXX: “amazing”, unbelievable, pure power… Stroll has built a beautiful home nestled in some woods about 140km from Montreal that offers a welcome immersion in nature and is close to some impressive ski runs. Most significantly, though, Stroll’s home is just 5Km from the historic and pretty Mont-Tremblant circuit, where, coincidentally, I raced for McLaren (using Alfa Romeo power) in the 1970 Canadian GP.

Tofm: So why have you chosen a country – or to be more accurate mountain – house at Mont-Tremblant?
LS: It was a coincidence, but an opportunity because I also bought the circuit! And now I keep my collection there. When the weather allows I have the chance to drive my cars when I want and how I want, to experience days of global motor racing, also with my racing fan friends. I also set up the Ferrari Driver Sports Driving School, similar to the one you manage for Ferrari at Fiorano, Andrea. It’s been a great success for various reasons; it’s a great venue set in some spectacular scenery, which marks it out from some of those circuits out there where there is nothing else to look at. For me, it’s a continuity of my passion and even a reinforcement of it. I have the cars I love and the track to drive and race them on. Mont-Tremblant has also become a kind of symbolic barrier, splitting my work and my private life. I work primarily in New York, in addition to my trips around the world. At Mont-Tremblant I think about my cars, my track, my family, our lifestyle; today is also very much about my son Lance and his passion for racing, which, at 12, means karting above all. Fortunately for me and for my wife, my daughter Chloe, who’s 16, thinks very little about cars and a lot about fashion. She could also have a future working “in fashion” some day, although she too is a little bit crazy about Ferrari…

Tofm: Your son Lance has embarked on a racing career that already seems to be well delineated: karting championships at international level, inclusion, aged just 12, in the Ferrari Driver Academy at Maranello, which aims to cultivate and launch promising youngsters towards a professional career leading to F1. How has this changed your working and private life?
LS: Well, first I was Lawrence Stroll, today I’m… Lance’s father. We’ve changed, all of the family is
included, our life is to support Lance’s desire and passion, my working and private life have changed
because we have had to adapt to our son coming to live in Europe, practically at Ferrari, in addition to
the karting races he takes part in. I personally spend at least 12 days a month with Lance, which restricts my routine, but Lance is very understanding and appreciates what I do for him. My daughter is happy to have to come to Europe with her mother and us. I manage my work perfectly with my top level staff, and with modern technology, which enables you to be anywhere in real time. I go to all my son’s races, and occasionally the whole family comes, which makes Lance very happy. I’m there with him as his father, without interfering in his races and his team, and those who are there to assist his competitive training. It is not always easy not to interfere, because my son has the emotions and the adrenaline, but perhaps I have them more than him when he’s racing. But I manage to control myself perfectly…

We’re sitting in the office of Luca Baldisserri, head of the Ferrari Driver Academy project at Maranello, which is also a point of reference for Lance Stroll, who just happens to wander past at the very moment I’m winding up the interview with his father. Lance is accompanied by driver Andrea Bertolini, who occasionally supervises him on the racing track as a “dynamic” member of the Academy. Time, perhaps, for a question for Stroll junior…

Tofm: Which car in your father’s Ferrari collection fascinates you most?
Lance Stroll: [pause] The 1972 512 M, run by the Penske Team, blue with white bands.
That’s an Americanised Ferrari, utterly fascinating, and a car with personal resonances for me too, because it was my adversary during the years I raced in the Prototype World Championship. Well done Lance!

So, to my last question for Lawrence.
Tofm: Enzo Ferrari famously always said that the best Ferrari was the next one: which is the one that he loves or cherishes most?
LS: I can’t think of a Ferrari of the future because, unlike Enzo Ferrari, I’m not part of the Company. For that reason, I’m going to say the 330 P4; a dream of mine since I was a little boy, today owned, driven and admired every single time I have the possibility.

Published on The Official Ferrari Magazine issue 14, September 2011

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