Following Ferrari…Through Stages and Ages

I was 22 years old at the time and a lieutenant in the United States Army. Before being assigned to Germany, I took my final Stateside leave in New York. On a street named Broadway, that stretched from New York City north into the County of Westchester and beyond, I saw my first Dino 206 GT. I can remember the freeze-frame sight of it to this day – a magnificently designed (by Sergio Pininfarina) brightly colored red mid-engine V-6 that wore the badge of Enzo Ferrari’s deceased son, Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari. The car, in two iterations, would be produced through 1974. This paragraph will end with the declaration that the Dino introduced me to, and made me an admirer of, all things Ferrari.

Lead Photo: Dino on display at Ferrari Challenge in Mosport

One of the 40 FXX K Ferraris built.

I returned to the States the owner of another brilliant red car –  that being an Alfa Romeo Giulia. The four-cylinder 1600 cc engine sent musical notes through the thin firewall and made the radio superfluous.  I became a regular attendee and photographer at Lime Rock Race Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. It was there that Chevrolet Camaros roared around the circuit with outrageous flat-out V-8 sounds. It was there that I first saw Paul Newman race in a Datsun 240, and it was there that I helped a friend trailer his car, race it and repair it all in one day. It was at Lime Rock Park that racing became ingrained in me.

I celebrated my sixth decade in 2005 and specifically rememberFerrari 488 Challenge car in pit lane. Ferrari’s 360 Challenge at Lime Rock Park in July of that year. A field of Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge cars lit up the 1.53-mile track with abundant color and characteristic high-revving engines. Fans not only crowded the paddock area for glimpses of the cars being worked on, they also sat on hillsides on both sides of the track to watch them race. It was a day of abundance for all things Ferrari.

Abundant attraction to Ferrari was magnified multiple times over when the Ferrari Challenge coincided with Montreal’s Formula 1 Grand Prix in June 2011. I was in attendance at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve named in honor of Formula 1 driver Gilles Henri Villeneuve, who died while qualifying for the 1982 Belgium Grand Prix. A Canadian, he had spent six years in Formula 1 racing with Ferrari, winning six races and garnering acclaim for his performances. He has remained an icon to fellow Canadians. His son, Jacques, remains the only Canadian to win both the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 and the 1997 Driver World Championship in Formula 1.

My third (and equally as thrilling) Ferrari Challenge event took place in Canada once again, however, this time at Mosport Park, recently renamed the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. With 2017 seeing Ferrari celebrate its 70th Anniversary (I have two years on them) and Canada its 150th Anniversary of Confederation, there was, as always, an abundance of goodwill coupled with great racing. In addition, Ferrari FXX K cars were invited to the event and drew large numbers of admirers due to their infrequent sightings on North American race tracks. They are, quite simply, magnificent V-12 machines, with the singular purpose of adhering to a racetrack at exceptional speeds.

It was at Mosport that I sat in the new Ferrari 488 GTB car alongside a gentleman named Didier Theys. A retired race car driver, he now focuses on being a driving instructor and motorsports consultant. Of note is that Mr. Theys has the “most victories of anyone in a Ferrari 333 SP” – that being 10. His list of driving accomplishments is not short, and spans east and west of the Atlantic Ocean. What registers Stateside to most are his two 1st-place finishes at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He has also stood on the top podium at the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, having driven a Ferrari.

Leaving the resumé behind, Didier Theys proceeded to race the Ferrari 488 GTB for two loud, fast – very fast! – laps while I tried to control the Cheshire-cat smile inside my racing helmet. I now know the meaning of “Forza Ferrari.”

Following the Italian automaker provides countless hours of reading, conversing about, and viewing, both online and in person. I prefer the “up-close-and-first-person” experience of walking in paddocks, listening for Italian dialects, engines being revved, mechanics going about their multitude of exacting tasks, and visually appreciating an automobile named Ferrari. Ferrari Challenge events provide all of the above in abundance. There’s that word again. In Italian, it is abbondanza. May the force be with you. Forza Ferrari!

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento