Interviews by Froldi - Ferrari Rex: How and why Enzo became Ferrari?

«I’m nothing after all, I’m just one who dreamt to be Ferrari».

These are the first words we read, sharp, sententious and truthful (like many others by Enzo, the Ferrari’s founder), in the introduction to “Ferrari Rex - biografia di un grande italiano del novecento” (published by Giunti and Giorgio Nada Editore, 1100 pages), a tell-all book by Luca Dal Monte that, to this day, is Enzo Ferrari’s definitive biography. Although the volume goes back to the noticeable and well-known facts of the public figure, it keeps its focus on the private man, trying to enlighten his soul from within. The portrait that the author is able to paint is delightful. The book can be devoured in a very short time (leaving you “hungry”) and it shows us a unique man to such an extent that, says confident the author, «If Enzo were Shakespeare’s contemporary, the playwright would certainly have written about him».

This article is based on a long interview that Luca Dal Monte gave to, and we’re grateful for that.

Something about him. Luca was born in Cremona in 1963, and he’s always been interested in the car racing world. He wrote 10 books, which include a novel that takes place in the 30s (“La Scuderia”). He’s been communications director for Maserati, communications manager for Ferrari and Maserati in the US and press office manager for Pirelli Competizioni.

Why did you write this biography?
«I think I’ve read all the books (both Italians and non-Italians) about Mr. Ferrari, but ultimately they all described well-known facts. I wanted to do a research as much detailed as possible, so that I could analyse the man instead of the celebrity; I would like to cite as example the relationship between him and Villeneuve. The words that Enzo said after Gilles’ passing (“I loved him”) are honest but, in the autumn of 1977, before Mr. Ferrari learned how to love him, he almost managed to give him away. He had already traded him, but Reutemann left, so he had to keep him; then the 1979 came, and with it the Villeneuve that we all loved».
Even the title of the book is captivating, “Ferrari Rex” (it stands for “King Ferrari”). Luca explains: «I tried to approach Mr. Ferrari like an historian would do. I was inspired by a well-known biography by Edmund Morris that deals about the 25th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt; one of the three volumes is called: “Theodore Rex”. Additionally, one of the very first interviews that I gave thinking of Enzo, back in 2004, while celebrating Ferrari’s 50 years in the US, Phil Hill told me: “Mr. Ferrari was like a king, and we were his knights”; in that moment I already had that title in my mind, and Hill’s words confirmed it».

You say, and everybody agrees with you, that Mr. Ferrari was a very complicated man.
«Absolutely, and that didn’t discourage me, quite the contrary. I had two strokes of luck. First one: I’ve never met Mr. Ferrari, and that allowed me to stay impartial enough while writing about him; many books written by journalists that met him are inevitably biased. Second one: I wrote this book while I was working for Maserati. I had the opportunity to meet people like Franco Gozzi (he’s been Mr. Ferrari’s right-hand man from 1960 to 1988, he passed away in 2013 - Ed.), and to regularly spend time with them.
I wasn’t looking for big secrets, but during the time spent together Gozzi and other people that I’ve interviewed had the opportunity to analyse both known and less known topics, and doing so they narrated Enzo himself.

These sources, in the very moment that they realised that, compared to the others, they were trying to do something different, allowed me to deepen an intimate knowledge without betraying the man that they have known and respected. Example: At some point, I asked Gozzi a question about Dino, Enzo Ferrari’s eldest son. “You shouldn’t ask me this question, ask her (pointing his wife)”, said Gozzi. And Mrs. Gabriella told me 15 different things about Dino (she grew up with him) that probably she never said to anyone else. Others told me: “I’m going to tell you this thing not just for you, but I’m going to tell you this because I think that it is the right thing for him, for Enzo”».
Impossible to not to talk of Dino, Enzo’s son who died prematurely in 1956 (he was just 24 years old) because of the muscular dystrophy, a disease that back then was completely unknown to the medical science.
Regarding this fact, Luca explains: «Mr. Ferrari has never been the same after Dino passed away; during the following weeks he wanted to stop racing (but not to produce cars). This was his life’s discriminating factor. After that Enzo Ferrari is strong enough to keep going for 32 more years. It is the most touching episode, but it is the exact one that made me feel embarrassed while writing because I didn’t want to write something tearful, also because I wanted to respect his relatives’ grief. Of course, it is impossible to not to be touched when the dying son, while smiling to his father, says: “Dad it’s over”».

What unexpected thing did you find out?
«I had proof of all the things that I read. For example, that he was very romantic and emotional. Enzo’s “lady-killer” side was recently made famous by his son (Piero), but the thing is more “sophisticated” than that, because it’s true that at one point he becomes a cheeky ladies’ man, but before that he tries to make the relationship with his wife work. Then if you see the relationship with Lina, or with Fiamma Breschi, you understand that this 60 years old man maybe was looking for something that probably he never found. Another aspect that touched me is the unselfishness of this man; yes, he was thick-skinned, but go and take a look at all the charity work and other things he did and that have never been advertised.
At this point I would like to say that he was a great optimistic: guys, his world comes apart and he keeps looking at the future; that’s the reason why he says that the best car ever made is the one which is yet to be built, and the most important victory is the one which has to arrive. He’s a hopeless optimistic… in the letters from the 20s that he writes to his wife you can read that he’s not winning, there are also some earth tremors in Reggio Emilia and he says “Oh well, at least we are healthy!”.

What else did you find out in his letters?
«To me Enzo is a character from the Risorgimento; he has always understood his limits, he was a very smart self-taught man (by the way, he wrote very well and his handwriting was magnificent) and he knew that. But he was aware of the fact that he needed other people when, during the last years, in several occasions, he started to thank all the people that allowed him to be Enzo Ferrari. Essentially, he was able to “team up” with others».

At a certain point in his life, Ferrari found himself accused of any nastiness…
«It is a “wonderful” moment when Enzo is accused by many daily and weekly newspapers (for the crashes where both pilots and audience died, between the 50s and the 60s) and he says, “Those who on Saturday told me I was a genius are the same that on Monday told me that I was a monster”. In 1957/1958 his son died, and Mr. Ferrari wavers because he deeply feels the life-death theme, but he understands that that is what he’s able to do and that is what he wants to do”».

Did you expect such a success for “Ferrari Rex” which, by the way, has also been acclaimed by people who are not into the motoring world?
«I was hoping for its success, even if only for the days that I spent in the library (I even lost some vision by examining microfilms). In agreement with the publisher, we decided go beyond the target of the motor lovers. Now we’re happy to be the finalists for the Bancarella sport. The book has even been quoted in some horoscope sections!

Do you think that today’s Ferraris kept something of the Ferraris of his founder?
«Of course they did, both in the manufacturing and in the Scuderia. The Ferraris are the most sophisticated cars, even if they stay true to the traditional Maranello’s values. A Ferrari is a Ferrari, as long as they stay loyal to the brand’s values. The same happens in Formula 1. Someone says to me “We don’t win a lot”. But think about all the years that Enzo didn’t win. The secret is to keep going. There was and there will always be the Ferrari. They have a unique coherence».

Your next project?
«The sequel of my first novel (“La scuderia”), that just like that volume, it will have something to do with the motoring world of the 30s, a love story and international politics intrigues».

What would you say to a young person that never heard of Enzo Ferrari?
«I would say to take a look at the story of this man that believed in his fate. His personal history could have stopped many times; he could have given up. But he got a tenacity that most of us don’t have. When he says: “After all, I’m just one who dreamt to be Ferrari”, he says some very humble but truthful words. I, for example, compare him to De Gaulle, one of the many officials that don’t stand with Pétain, and he says: “I am France” and he believes it, but no one told him so. The same happens with Mr. Ferrari. Mr. Ferrari believes to be Mr. Ferrari and he becomes Mr. Ferrari. It was a good but not an excellent pilot, he wasn’t a technician, but he became the best known brand in the world like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s even if they sell different products».

Current topic: who’s going to win the F1 World Championship?
«Vettel, and let me tell you something else: the Ferrari has a valuable team just let them take their time. Marchionne knows how to do».

The introduction to “Ferrari Rex” ends with a wonderful quote by Ecclestone about Enzo Ferrari: «He’s the most incredible man I’ve ever met; and I met a lot of people. He’s a legend, he’s like Winston Churchill. We will always talk about him». «And so it was», says Luca.

Mariano Froldi

Translated by Isabella Lai

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