History of Ferrari
The Ferrari automobile company has produced sports cars since 1947.
Unlike many similar yet independent companies, Fiat Group-owned Ferrari continued to thrive after the death of its charismatic founder and is today one of the most successful sports car companies in the world.
1947-1961 – The beginning
The first Ferrari road car was the 1947 125 Sport, powered by a 1.5 L V12 engine. In 1950, Ferrari fielded racing cars in the Monaco Grand Prix, the first World Championshipevent held there. Froilán González won the first Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1951, and Alberto Ascari secured Ferrari’s first World title in 1952, a task he would repeat the following season.
1961 – The great walkout
Enzo Ferrari’s strong personality had served his company and racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, well for decades. Internal tensions reached boiling point in November 1961. Long-time sales manager Girolamo Gardini had long chafed at the involvement of Enzo’s wife, Laura, in the company. The two frequently argued, and their dispute became a crisis for the company when Gardini made an ultimatum to Enzo: if tensions continued, he would leave the company.
As a result, Gardini was ousted, as was Scuderia Ferrari manager Romolo Tavoni, chief engineer Carlo Chiti, experimental sports car development chief Giotto Bizzarrini, and a number of others who stood by them. All were tremendous losses to the company, and many thought this might be the end of Ferrari. Indeed, the defectors immediately formed a new company, ATS, to directly compete with Ferrari on the street and the track, and took with them Scuderia Serenissima, one of Ferrari’s best racing customers.
This “great walkout” came at an especially difficult time for Ferrari. At the urging of Chiti, the company was developing a new 250-based model to defend its honor against theJaguar E-Type. Development of this car, the 250 GTO, was at a critical point, with the chassis development and styling left incomplete. Even if the car could be finished, it was unclear if it could be raced successfully without Tavoni and his lieutenants.
Into this void stepped young engineer Mauro Forghieri and long-time racing bodyman Sergio Scaglietti. Forghieri successfully honed the GTO’s handling and Scaglietti designed an all-new body for the car. The GTO went to Sebring with driver Phil Hill and placed first in class. It continued winning through 1962, brushing aside the challenge fromJaguar and becoming one of the most famous sports cars in history.
This shakeup, and Forghieri’s engineering talent, made the 1960s even more successful for Ferrari than the previous decade. The mid-engined Dino racers laid the foundation for Forghieri’s dominant 250-powered 250 P. On the street, the Dino road cars sold strongly, and legendary models like the 275 and Daytona were on the way.
1963-1967 – The US rivals
The big V8-powered Shelby Cobra challenged the Ferraris in the early 1960s.By mid 1960s, Ford tried to buy Ferrari but no agreement was reached. Instead, the Ford GT40ended the dominance of Ferrari Prototypes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 when GT-40 Mark IIs finished 1-2-3.
1968 – Ferrari boycott
After the performance of the big V8-powered Ford at the 1967 Le Mans, the FIA banned prototypes over 3000cc, which also affected the 330Ps. The change was announced in late 1967 and came in effect for 1968; for that season, the Scuderia did not take part in sports car racing in protest.
1969-1971 – Porsche
These years saw a new challenger. Formerly competing with smaller cars only, the Germans entered the new 3 litre sports car prototype class in 1968 with the Porsche 908, while Ferrari raced the Ferrari 312P in only few events in 1969. In March, the presentation of the 5 litre Porsche 917, built in advance in 25 exemplars, had surprised also Ferrari, which answered later that year with the production of 25 Ferrari 512S, funded from the money gained by the FIAT deal. At that time, Porsche had almost a full season of experience with their new car, and took the World Sportscar Championship where Ferrari was only 4th.
The 1970 season saw epic battles between the two teams and the many cars they entered, yet Porsche won every event except Sebring, where the victorious car and its driversIgnazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella/Mario Andretti had their origins in Italy. Ferrari decided to give up the 512 in 1971 in order to prepare the new 312PB for the 1972 season, when only 3 litre class would be allowed. In addition to Porsche, the old national rival with its Alfa Romeo T33/3 also had won two races in 1971, and thus was ranked second in the World Championship, above Ferrari.
1969 – Fiat
Early in 1969, Fiat took a 50% stake in Ferrari. An immediate result was an increase in available investment funds, and work started at once on a factory extension intended to transfer production from Fiat’s Turin plant of the Ferrari engined Fiat Dino. New model investment further up in the Ferrari range also received a boost.
Less positive was the effect on industrial relations at Ferrari’s Maranello plant. In June a visiting journalist witnessed a group of workers suddenly running out of a work-shop in response to the blast of a whistle: this was part of an industrial stoppage originating at the main Fiat plant in Turin, and contrasted with the relatively smooth state of production that the writer had witnessed at competitor plants nearby.
While increased Fiat influence was quickly felt in the development, production and marketing of road cars, the racing department remained initially little touched by Fiat’s new status within the company as chief investor.
1972-1973 – dominance, defeats and fare-well
The 312PB dominated the World Sportscar Championship in 1972 against a rival Alfa Romeo, as the Porsche factory did not compete after the rule changes, and Matra focused on Le Mans only. In their home race, the French won, as Ferrari did not enter in 1972 due insufficient reliability over 24 hours, in order not to blemish their otherwise perfect record in that season.
In 1973, though, the Matra team also challenged for the championship which Ferrari eventually lost with two wins, compared to Matra’s five, while Alfa Romeo had not entered that year. In addition, Ferrari was now forced to race also at Le Mans, despite concerns that even the modified engine would not last. Yet, one car survived and scored an unexpected and honourable 2nd place.
1974-1987 – Niki Lauda and the 1980s
Ferrari enjoyed a successful spell in Formula 1 in the 1970s, with Niki Lauda winning the World Championship in 1975 and 1977, and Jody Scheckter in 1979. In the 1980s, however, the team entered a period of crisis, culminating with the death of Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium in 1982 and a nearly-fatal accident for Didier Pironi in Germany the very same year.
1988 – The death of Enzo
1996 – Champion Schumacher to Scuderia Ferrari
The hiring of Jean Todt as Sporting director in 1993 and Michael Schumacher in 1996 triggered a comeback of the F1 team, with three wins in 1996, and close yet eventually losing challenges to the driver’s championship in the years 1997 to 1999.
2000-2004 – Schumacher Dominates F1
In an unprecedented and record-setting fashion, Schumacher and Ferrari dominate F1 winning the World Driver’s championship from 2000 through 2004 and the Constructors’ Championship from 1999 through 2004.
As of 2008, Fiat Group owns 85% of Ferrari, Mubadala Development Company owns 5%, and Enzo’s second son Piero Ferrari owns 10%. Of these, Ferrari is under main control of the Fiat Group, containing Alfa Romeo as well.
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