Italian motor racing legend and entrepreneur, the founder of the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and Ferrari automobile marque Enzo Ferrari, was born February 18, 1898 in Modena, Italy. Ferrari grew up with little formal education but a strong desire to race cars. At the age of 10 and seeing 1908 Circuit di Bologna, he decided to become a racing Driver.During World War I he was assigned to the third Alpine Artillery division of the Italian Army. His father Alfredo, as well as his older brother, also named Alfredo, died in 1916 as a result of a widespread Italian flu outbreak. Ferrari became severely ill himself in the 1918 flu pandemic and was consequently discharged from Italian service. Upon returning home he found that the family firm had collapsed. Having no other job prospects, Ferrari eventually settled for a job at a smaller car company called CMN (Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali), redesigning used truck bodies into small passenger cars. He took up racing in 1919 on the CMN team, but had little initial success.
He left CMN in 1920 to work at Alfa Romeo and racing their cars in local races he had more success. In 1923, racing in Ravenna, he acquired the Prancing Horse badge which decorated the fuselage of Francesco Baracca’s (Italy’s leading ace of WWI) SPAD S.XIII fighter, given from his mother, taken from the wreckage of the plane after his mysterious death. This icon would have to wait until 1932 to be displayed on a racing car.In 1924 Ferrari won the Coppa Acerbo at Pescara. His successes in local races encouraged Alfa to offer him a chance of much more prestigious competition. Ferrari turned this opportunity down and did not race again until 1927. He continued to work directly for Alfa Romeo until 1929 before starting Scuderia Ferrari as the racing team for Alfa.Ferrari managed the development of the factory Alfa cars, and built up a team of over forty drivers, including Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari. Ferrari himself continued racing until 1932.
The support of Alfa Romeo lasted until 1933. Only at the intervention of Pirelli did Ferrari receive any cars at all. Despite the quality of the Scuderia drivers, the company won few victories. Auto Union and Mercedes dominated the era, but Ferrari achieved a notable victory when Tazio Nuvolari beat them on their home turf at the German Grand Prix in 1935.In 1937 Alfa took control of its racing efforts again, reducing Ferrari to Director of Sports under Alfa’s engineering director. Ferrari soon left, but a contract clause restricted him from racing or designing cars for four years.In response, Ferrari organized Auto-Avio Costruzioni, a company supplying parts to other racing teams. Ferrari did manage to manufacture two cars for the 1940 Mille Miglia, driven by Alberto Ascari and Lotario Rangoni. During World War II his firm was forced to undertake war production for Mussolini’s fascist government. Following Allied bombing of the factory, Ferrari relocated from Modena to Maranello. It was not until after World War II that Ferrari could start making cars bearing his name, founding today’s Ferrari S.p.A. in 1947.
The first open-wheel race was in Turin in 1948 and the first victory came later in the year in Lago di Garda. Ferrari participated in the Formula 1 World Championship since its introduction in 1950 but the first victory was not until the British Grand Prix of 1951. The first championship came in 1952–53, with Alberto Ascari. The company also sold production sports cars in order to finance the racing endeavours not only in Grands Prix but also in events such as the Mille Miglia and Le Mans. Ferrari’s decision to continue racing in the Mille Miglia brought the company new victories and greatly increased public recognition. However, increasing speeds, poor roads, and nonexistent crowd protection eventually spelled disaster for both the race and Ferrari. During the 1957 Mille Miglia, near the town of Guidizzolo, a 4.0-litre Ferrari 335S driven by the flamboyant Alfonso de Portago was traveling at 250 km/h when it blew a tire and crashed into the roadside crowd, killing de Portago, his co-driver, and nine spectators, including five children. In response, Enzo Ferrari and Englebert, the tyre manufacturer, were charged with manslaughter in a lengthy criminal prosecution that was finally dismissed in 1961. Many of the firm’s greatest victories came at Le Mans (14 victories, including six in a row 1960–65) and in Formula One during the 1950s and 1960s, with the successes of Juan-Manuel Fangio (1956), Mike Hawthorn (1958), Phil Hill (1961) and John Surtees (1964).
By 1969 the problems of reduced demand and inadequate financing forced Ferrari to allow Fiat to take a stake in the company. Ferrari had previously offered Ford the opportunity to buy the firm in 1963 for US$18 million but, late in negotiations, Ferrari withdrew once he realised that he would not have been able to retain control of the company sporting program. Ferrari became joint-stock and Fiat took a small share in 1965 and then in 1969 they increased their holding to 50% of the company. (In 1988 Fiat’s holding rose to 90%). In 1974 Ferrari nominated Luca Cordero di Montezemolo sporting director. Niki Lauda won the championship in 1975 and 1977. After those successes and another title for Jody Scheckter in 1979, the company’s Formula One championship hopes fell into the doldrums.1982 opened with a strong car, the 126C2, world-class drivers, and promising results in the early races. However, Gilles Villeneuve was killed in the 126C2 in May, and team mate Didier Pironi had his career cut short in a violent end over end flip on the misty back straight at Hockenheim in August. Pironi had been leading the driver’s championship at the time. Ferrari remained chairman of the company until his death in 1988 but the team would not see championship glory again during his lifetime.