In keeping with tradition, the Shanghai International Autodrome pit garage was in perfect order, with the singleseater up on the lift for final fine tuning by the mechanics and the large wheels neatly stacked, one on top of the other, and connected to the electrical cables used to warm the tyres.
The rolling shutter of the garage was down and the autodrome, with its perfect structures, was completely silent. There were no other teams on the track, because the inauguration was planned for that day, 6 June 2004, and Chinese authorities wanted just one team present, the true symbol of Formula One: Ferrari.
Someone suggested opening the garage dooor, since it was a beautiful day and, when the spectators arrived, they would be able to see for themselves the industriousness that Maranello mechanics are so famous for.
The roar that followed the opening of the shutter was as loud as it was unexpected: the grandstand was packed with enthusiasts and the curious. It was a moment of genuine revelation for them, and the mechanics and technicians just had to go out and return that warm greeting. If one considers that the first Ferrari was sold in China 12 years before that, one can see how much the great Chinese people had absorbed of Ferrari history, and of the dream, in such little time.
The emotion of that day had a precedent, one in some ways even more significant because, rather than an actual staged event like at the autodrome, it was one that introduced Ferrari to people by chance. We are referring to the Ferrari 15,000 Red Miles, the 2005 tour of China, when two Ferrari Scagliettis, driven by international journalists, travelled the length of that enormous country.
Arriving in remote towns, some still in the early stages of the revolution that has driven China’s development in recent years, together with the surprise and curiosity they would always hear an unequivocal word: “Falali! Falali!” An indication that this Italian brand is recognised everywhere. Twenty years after the first registration in China, that of Li Xiaohua’s 348 TS (see issue 15 of this magazine), Ferrari is a major player in the country.
With 15 dealerships and even more customer service centres, China is now one of Ferrari’s main markets. To celebrate 20 years in the country, Ferrari wanted to build 20 unique cars, all of them 458 Italias, in a special “Marco Polo” red and decorated with a symbol that signifies Chinese culture as much as the Prancing Horse does Ferrari: the Dragon, indicating courage, passion and success.
The Scagliettis used for the China Tour bore the same symbol, out of respect for a culture thousands of years old now turning its attention, with great energy, towards the whole world.
The presentation of the new car coincided with the inauguration of another event confirming Ferrari’s presence in China: the opening of a major exhibition, which is to run for three years, at the Italy Building at the Shanghai World Expo Park. This show will have considerable impact in terms of content and cars exhibited, and is further indication not just of China’s importance for Ferrari, but also Ferrari’s importance for China. One need only consider that the event is attracting 150,000 visitors a month, a number that makes most international events pale by comparison!
This affection is fully reciprocated by Ferrari, which regularly holds festivals and charity events to raise money for those less fortunate in Chinese society, particularly children and students.
Published on The Official Ferrari Magazine 18 issue September 2012