The 2007 Finali Mondiali at Mugello
The sting in the tail of the 2007 World Drivers' Championship may have brought pain to Woking, but it was smiling faces all round at Mugello last weekend for the end-of-year Ferrari festival. This featured F430 Challenge racing, F1 Clienti and FXX demonstrations, the Shell Historic Challenge – and of course some tyre-smoking laps from the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.
Alternating as it does between Monza and Mugello, the Final Mondiali is as much a ‘thank you’ from the Scuderia to its fans as it is a chance for tifosi ranging from the humblest Torinese baker in his Fiat Uno to Enzo and 599 GTB drivers to pay their respects to that most charismatic of brands. The event’s scheduling revolves around the Formula 1 team and the various times when Luca di Montezemolo, Jean Todt and Piero Ferrari make their appearances, this year joined by Michael Schumacher, now retired from racing
At times it borders on the theatrical, but there’s no denying the passion that exists for Ferrari and everything it has done in the 60 years since its birth as a car manufacturer. As well as the racing on the Sunday, there was a parade of cars from all eras including the reproduction-body 125 S built by Ferrari Classiche in 2006, several 599 GTBs and cars from all decades in between.
It was trebles all round this year, for not only had Ferrari won the 2007 World Drivers' and Manufacturers’ Championships, but the AF Corse Motorola Ferrari 430 GT2 had triumphed in FIA GT2, and on the other side of the Atlantic the Risi Racing F430 GT was first in class in the American Le Mans Series. Both teams had brought cars over for some demonstration laps and driver and tyre changes. All good entertainment for the 30,000 fans attending the event.
At the two press conferences, Luca di Montezemolo paid credit to his drivers and the whole team, the ‘Ferrari family'. Jean Todt put the Scuderia’s success down to its ability "to never give up and to believe for as long as you can believe", while General Director Amedeo Felisa left the rhetoric to others, and explained the continuing integration of parts developed in F1 and sportscar racing into road car production.
The FXX Programme has been extended by another two years with an updated and even faster car, while the 430 Scuderia is living proof that ‘racing improves the breed’, employing as it does many aspects of the GT2 and F430 Challenge cars.
The latter featured regularly on the rolling Tuscan circuit with rounds for the various regional championships, split into the Coppa Shell for non-professional drivers and Trofeo Pirelli for the really fast boys. It was always likely to be an Italian benefit, and in the World Finals, Vito Postiglione won the Trofeo Pirelli ahead of two compatriots, while Giorgio Massazza took victory in the Coppa Shell.
You had to concentrate, but these cars do produce tight racing with a lot of contact and a drifting, sliding driving style that is dramatic to watch.
And talking of drama, there was a well-known multiple World Champion exercising one of the cars in his collection and, to be honest, he made it look so easy it was ridiculous. He wasn’t even wearing a helmet for goodness' sake! Yes, Michael’s famous black #30 FXX was at the circuit and the German, wearing a race suit plus just his familiar baseball cap, effortlessly threw this - and the ‘FXX Evolution’ - around what many drivers consider to be one of the world’s finest circuits.
All with a big smile on his face that was clearly visible in the cockpit. Retirement clearly has its benefits.
Wouldn’t it be great if he could be enticed behind the wheel of one of the older cars racing in the Shell Historic Challenge? As always, the historics provided one of the highlights of the meeting and the (theoretical) Classic Driver of the Day Award would go to David Franklin driving the 1969 Ferrari 312P in Grid C to 3rd overall in Race 1 having started from the pits, and then just taking second in a nail-biting Race 2 ahead of the big 512S of Olivier Cazalieres.
Mugello has a long, undulating pit straight and the sights and sounds of the various V12s powering ever upwards to the higher reaches of the circuit are highly evocative. Franklin had a power band of just 2,000 or so revs to play with in the 3-litre V12 and his performance was one of the highlights of the weekend.
2007 is the first year of the Shell Historics carrying associate sponsorship from Panerai, the Italian luxury watch manufacturer that ‘engineers’ Ferrari’s range of wristwatches. The company’s CEO, Angelo Bonati, was present for the weekend, in the company’s exclusive pit-top hospitality suite showing the company’s latest Ferrari watches.
New watches, a revitalised Genuine Ferrari parts programme (including ‘Scuderia Ferrari’ for track-focused improvements), several examples of the 430 Scuderia and a chance to talk with the experts at Ferrari Classiche - all were on show at Mugello.
But come 4.35pm on Sunday there was only one centre of attention: the track itself when four cars from the Scuderia circulated the track showing the Corse Clienti drivers how it’s done; how it’s really done. Raikkonen, Massa, Badoer and Gene were stepping on it big time, finishing the display with doughnuts and burn-outs that required minor attention from the local Fire Brigade.
As usual, di Montezemolo, Todt, Piero Ferrari and the drivers then walked over to take the applause from the rapturous tifosi in the main grandstands.
I was wrong, it’s not theatre; it’s an Italian opera with the sets, the intricate scene changes, the noise, the colour, the colossal budget and larger-than-life characters.
And it's still going strong, even after a 60-year run.
Text - Steve Wakefield
Photos - Ferrari SpA / Ferrari GB / Classic Driver
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