Races

This weekend the Scuderia’s F1-75 will take to the Miami International Autodrome in traditional red, but in 1964 Ferrari fielded a team in very different colours altogether
Words: Ross Brown

With Imola already a distant memory, the Scuderia arrive in Florida this weekend leading both the constructors and driver’s standings by 11 and 27 points respectively. 

 

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be hunting a podium finish and with the F1-75 proving itself to be both reliable and blisteringly quick, the Miami International Autodrome - the latest addition to the 2022 F1 roster - looks set to provide 308.37 kms of pure racing opportunity for the Scuderia. 

John Surtees in his blue and white Ferrari 158 at the Watkins Glen circuit for the 1964 American GP

Regardless of the outcome, the truth is that America has always shone favourably on Ferrari, largely due to the ambition and determination of one Luigi Chinetti and his North American Racing Team.

 

Chinetti was an Italian endurance racer and entrepreneur who moved to New York at the onset of World War Two and decided to stay. He married, had a son and began to familiarise himself with America’s well-heeled racing fraternity.

As a racing driver himself, Chinetti (left) was as much at home with his drivers on the track as he was with the well-heeled racing community he sold Ferraris to   

In 1946 he returned to Europe and as the legend goes, spent a memorable Christmas Eve with Enzo Ferrari in Modena discussing how to best make their post-war fortunes. For Enzo, the future was clear – a return to racing with the V12 125 S. For Chinetti, who could see the value in selling his new friends the fastest and most beautiful cars Europe could offer, this presented the perfect opportunity: He would become Ferrari’s exclusive agent for American customers. 

 

The first Prancing Horse that Maranello shipped across the Atlantic as part of this new partnership was a 166 MM Barchetta, followed by a 166 Corsa Spider, both of which were sold before they touched American soil. The tap had been opened, now all Chinetti had to do was convince this new market that a Ferrari was the only car to own. And he knew the quickest way of doing that was to win races. 

The 1964 American GP gets underway with the blue and white Ferrari of John Surtees in the centre in the photo. His teammate, Lorenzo Bandini, can be seen on the right 

Fortunately, Luigi Chinetti was no slouch behind the wheel. In 1931 he had set a speed record, covering 5000 miles in 33 hours, 6 minutes and 28 seconds at an average speed of 150.9 Km/h. His bravery translated into endurance racing; between 1932 and 1934 he won twice and came second in three Le Mans outings, took part in the Carrera Panamericana (dubbed the most dangerous race in the world) and won the 12 Hours of Paris 12 – twice. 

 

Now in America, with access to whatever new racing Ferrari he required, Chinetti first began his enterprise by sourcing and entered competition Prancing Horses into endurance races on behalf of his clients, often going so far as to include genuine racing drivers to ensure the best result on the day. 

With wins in both F1 and endurance racing, NART would become the perfect advert for Ferrari

Inevitably, by the late 50s he had established his own North American Racing Team (NART) driving under the Prancing Horse logo with the American flag running across the top and new acronym underneath. 

 

NART proved the perfect advert for Ferrari. In 1961 there were no less than seven NART entries at Sebring as America fell in love with the shiny red and very loud performance cars from Maranello. 

 

Yet, despite the legion of endurance wins and accolades, it was Enzo himself who ultimately put NART on the global map. In 1964, after a feud with the FIA, Ferrari did the unthinkable and handed in his FIA competitor’s licence, announcing his cars would never race in Italian red again. And they didn’t, for the last two Formula 1 GP races of the season at least.

John Surtees testing the 158 in Europe before it was sent to race in the American GP

For the penultimate race at America’s Watkins Glen circuit Chinetti had every Ferrari painted in his NART blue and white livery, and again for the finale in Mexico. The Englishman John Surtees won himself the driver’s championship and Ferrari the Constructors championship when he crossed the finish line in a blue and white Ferrari 158.

 

Sadly, all good things come to an end. The Scuderia returned to racing in red and over the subsequent years endurance racing lost its audience to the more accessible and closer world of F1 racing. Chinetti bowed out with a final, beautiful swansong in the form of the factory built 275 GTS4 NART Spider but by the 80s it was over. 

 

But Chinetti’s work was done. America had fallen in love with Ferrari and the nation will be watching when Leclerc and Sainz pull up at the lights on Sunday afternoon. 

06 maggio, 2022