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Maranello, Modena and Fiorano Modense; but for a man called Enzo, they’d be just another little group of towns in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, gamely holding on in the world.
Instead they are a sea of red, with supercars being driven by tourists out of their comfort zone as they realise a lifelong dream for a few minutes between battered Fiat Puntos and identikit Lancias.
As a Williams fan in my youth, when Michael Schumacher was busy turning the Prancing Horse into the force it once was – and in the process turning many fans off Formula 1 – I never understood the team’s significance. I’d been blinded by my partisanship and the old double-sided poster of Nigel Mansell’s FW14B and Valvoline Indycar on my wall.
But an afternoon spent in and around Maranello has given me clarity. Ferrari is a unifying presence in a country, let alone a region, that wants something to hold on to, to celebrate and be a part of in victory – and to passionately defend and deny in defeat.
The Tifosi has new cause to go to the team’s hometown this month, with the opening of the Universo Ferrari exhibition, for 8000 lucky ticket holders across two weekends in September.
The pop-up museum is nothing fancy on the outside; a temporary building in the run-off area of the Fiorano race track, where legends were honed, perfected and then made, its Tarmac witness to more than most.
That the opening ties in with the launch of two new Ferraris is no coincidence. Prospective owners will be flown in to see the F8 Spider and the 812GTS, the first production-run V12 spider for 50 years and designed with a nod to its forefathers. Not least the ‘Daytona’ Spider, the last of its kind.
The long bonnet, Ferrari says, is vital to show fans and buyers what is beneath. Think 250GTO, a car that supposedly can be seen in the 812’s lines – though I couldn’t quite squint hard enough.
But, more importantly, before visitors (be they buyers with €300,000 burning a hole in their pocket or those who have shelled out €30) reach the special display of two of the five cars Ferrari will launch this year, there is a series of exhibits that show just what Ferrari is about.
First and foremost, that of course means F1. This visit coinciding with Charles Leclerc’s second win in as many weeks widened the already gaping smiles – though ironically, travelling to the home of Ferrari meant it was impossible for me to actually witness them win at home, on screen or otherwise.
Passing a show car of the 2019 challenger (by no means pretty and certainly not following John Barnard’s 641 into the Museum of Modern Art), the display opens up for a genuine beauty: a 250GTO, recently restored by Ferrari Classiche.
It greets visitors flanked by a 308GTB from the Classiche Academy – used for teaching owners how to drive classic Ferraris with manual ’boxes – and GT Boano white-metal shell.
Opposite, offering a rare glimpse into the secretive department itself, is a drawing board in front of a display of the red boxfiles of certification documents. More on that soon, including my meeting with Gigi, the passionate man behind Classiche.
The sample certificate and passport-like book across the doorway is strangely alluring, too, putting an image to the familiar words ‘Classiche certified’.
There’s more classic focus to come, just: Schumacher’s 1997 steed, F310B. That was the infamous year he was excluded from second in the points after getting physical with eventual champion Jacques Villeneuve at Dry Sack corner at Jerez in Spain. Its relative simplicity compared to the SF90 of Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel is stark.
After that things take a more modern turn, led by the Le Mans-winning 488 Evo (guarding the trophy it finally won this year at the third attempt) and through to the new two, via LaFerrari, FXX and more. Follow the noise to outside and Monzas SP1 and SP2 point towards the circuit.
The clear blue skies and welcome heat enjoyed by those at the exhibition’s opening are not guaranteed, but satisfaction for any Tifosi certainly is – particularly if you tie in a visit down the road to the Maranello centre and Museo Ferrari, stay overnight and drive on to Modena’s road-car museum, Museo Enzo Ferrari.
Universo Ferrari is open to the public on 21, 22, 28 and 29 September. Limited tickets are available at musei.ferrari.com.
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