Tens of thousands of Ferrari fans make the pilgrimage to Maranello every year. For some it’s an opportunity to visit the site where the greatest name in motorsport laid its foundations. For others, it’s a chance to wallow in a mystique that’s unrivalled in the automotive industry, maybe walk along roads named in honour of the great heroes who raced for the Scuderia.
Last weekend saw something very special though, even by Maranello’s exalted standards. Groucho Marx once famously opined that he would never be a member of any club that would have him as a member, but then he was never a Formula One racing driver. The Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix F1 was established in 1962 by Louis Chiron and Juan Fangio, and the recently renamed F1-GPDC exists to “preserve and promote the heritage and the spirit of Grand Prix racing”. Current president Howden Ganley notes that ‘racing drivers are not always the best organised or disciplined of people,’ but the gentlemen (and ladies – the late Maria Teresa de Filippis was honorary president until her passing earlier this year) still manage to meet up annually in some style.
This year a deputation of former F1 stars spent the weekend in Maranello, among them many Ferrari drivers, including 1964 F1 World Champion John Surtees, Patrick Tambay, Andrea de Adamich, Nanni Galli and Derek Bell, but also drivers and luminaries such as Philippe Alliot, Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann (who co-drove Porsche’s first win at Le Mans in 1970), Jo Ramirez, Mario Theissen, Derek Warwick, Philippe Streiff, Vern Schuppan and many more. After being shown around the Gestione Sportiva by Scuderia Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene, the VIPs attended a dinner at the Cavallino restaurant, during which Piero Ferrari was made an honorary member of the F1-GPDC.
The Official Ferrari Magazine caught up with Derek Bell, who remains modest about his connections to Maranello despite making his F1 debut in the 1968 Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari, his debut in sports car racing in a Ferrari 512 S at Spa in 1970, and competing in his first Le Mans (a race he would go on to win five times) in another 512 S.
‘The last time I visited Maranello was 1987, the year before the Old Man passed away. I couldn’t believe the difference… it’s become a massive place, like something from outer space, although it’s still beautiful.
‘Derek [Warwick] said to me at one point, “You know, I’ve always respected Ferrari, but I never knew it could be quite like this, or how much it means to people.” That sums it up, really. You don’t often see racing drivers genuinely amazed by something – we’re a group of people who have seen a lot of things down the years. But it was fantastically well organised, and you really can feel the passion people have for the place.
‘It was also the first time I met Maurizio Arrivabene, I’d only ever seen him on the television previously. He was extremely impressive, and very gracious. “Thank you for coming. You are part of Ferrari, you are part of our history, and you are what makes Ferrari what it is,” he told us. He knows what he has to do at Ferrari, and even if the past few races haven’t gone as well as they’d all like, he was clear that he and the team must never let their heads drop. With that, he turned and gestured to a painting of Enzo Ferrari on a wall. “We do it for him!” he said. It was a great moment.’