Once the flight to Milan finally managed to leave a fog bound Dubai airport – we finally managed to get to Bologna after a negotiation with a taxi driver to drive me and some colleagues the 200km from Milan. I have to say that I was a little disappointed that my first ever trip to Italy and Bologna was marred by a large number of graffiti strewn buildings. Spray paint graffiti is quite noticeable in its absence in the parts of Dubai I have frequented. However later that evening a stroll down the main drag confirmed that Italians are inherently stylish in all details of their appearance and the cappuccino and moped culture is alive and well.
I have been lucky in my career to have visited the F1 factories for Mclaren (in the fabulous Norman Foster designed McLaren Technology Centre - outside Woking), the Williams factory in Oxfordshire and the Red Bull Racing factory on the old Jaguar Racing site. Each time you can not help but marvel at the mix of high technology design with traditional hand craft finishing that goes to create F1 race cars. The Ferrari factory had a very different feel to the ones I had previously seen. For a start the scale of the place is simply huge – we had a mini-bus to ferry us between various sites on the tour. The thing that strikes you first is that the test track is central to everything they do. In the two days we spent on site – the howl of the Ferrari V8 and V12 engines was always in the background as F430s, F559s and F612 Scaglietti's were put through their paces. We also spotted one or two cars that were obviously prototypes being heavily taped up to disguise their final appearance.
The tour was split essentially into two parts. First up was a visit to the F1 factory – here everything is shrouded in top secrecy and on our visit there there was only a test car – with the two race cars and spare being in Bahrain preparing for the opening Grand Prix of the season in Melboune on March 18th. Unlike the other tours we spent a fairly limited time in the F1 factory – no visits to he wind tunnel or anywhere where they machine the components for the car. I was a little disappointed but it was soon made up for.
A short drive on the minibus – took us to the Ferrari factory where they produce the road cars. It is a place where I am fortunate to say I have stepped foot in. Everywhere you look there are homages to their illustrious history as engineers quietly go about their work and a long line of Ferrari's stand in a noble queue awaiting completion of the elite few who have the wealth to own one of these beautifully crafted vehicles.
Highlights for me in the hour we spent in the factory were:
The aqua blue F430 being prepared for a customer in Qatar
The long lines of traditional sewing machines for crafting the leather clad interiors
The 35 stations an engineer visits as he alone assembles a Ferrari engine which at the end he then signs
The F1 and road cars from yester-year lined up next together showing the evolution of the brand
That the only cars allowed on site other than Ferraris and Maseratis were Fiats
Sadly one is not allowed to take photos while on site – but I managed to take a team photo outside the test track:
Also a couple of photos of the meeting room where we held our business meeting for the two days:
Here a plane and F1 car just outside the meeting room:
Sometimes it was hard to concentrate when this is hanging on the wall in the meeting room:
I think this is Enzo Ferrari the founder... either way it is a nice quote:
We went to eat one night in a great Italian restaurant that was full of Ferrari memorabilia:
A nice collection behind the bar:
Overall it was a fantastic two days to be steeped in the history of probably the most famous marque on the planet. I now look forward to two things:
The start of the grand prix season
The day I can afford a Modena 360