It is fitting that on the day we arrived in Italy to drive the latest offering from Ferrari, Michael Schumacher took the checkered flag in the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours, bringing Ferrari's star driver his fifth FIA Formula One Drivers' World Championship and moving Ferrari closer to a fourth consecutive constructors' title.
Racing is, after all, the foundation upon which the temple of Ferrari is built. To own a Ferrari is to bask in some of the reflected glory of the company's racing heritage. In recent times, the Ferrari road cars that can most legitimately claim some of that glory for themselves are the "special series" cars, uncompromising sports cars utilizing the most advanced technology for ultimate performance.
F50, F40, 288GTO--these cars, more than any others, reinforce the storied Italian auto-maker's rich tradition of turning out road cars that are tantalizingly close to its competition cars. They are produced only every few years, in tiny batches, and each one is an event. With the turn of the century and Ferrari's return to prominence in Formula 1, it's time for another in this grand sequence, the Enzo Ferrari.
The what? The Ferrari Enzo Ferrari? Or just the Enzo Ferrari? With characteristic Italian clarity, the press kit explains: "The car is called the Enzo Ferrari, but it will be referred to simply as the Enzo."
"After I celebrated Maranello [with the 550 Maranello] and I celebrated Modena [with the 360 Modena], I was really looking for a way to celebrate Enzo Ferrari," explains Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo. Clearly, the founder's presence is still strongly felt fourteen years after his death at age ninety. We see the Enzo for the first time in a courtyard, behind which is a brilliant white stucco farmhouse with Ferrari-red shutters. Inside, Enzo Ferrari's first-floor corner office is preserved almost exactly as it was at the time of his death. There's the simple laminate desk, with a closed-circuit television to one side, which showed the Fiorano pit area. There are the low-slung brown leather sofas flanking the fireplace, in front of which was always a TV where Enzo watched races. The walls are adorned with large black-and-white photos marking great moments in Ferrari's competition history: Daytona 1967, when Ferrari took first-second-third; the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona with Lauda and Regazzoni; the Nrburgring with Fangio in 1956, the year he won the world championship for Ferrari; a 125S in Ferrari's first race in 1947.
Enzo Ferrari's passion for Formula 1 explains why this car should bear his (full) name. It is, in Montezemolo's words, "very close to Formula 1 in idea, in concept, and a little bit even in design."
That design was done by Pininfarina, with a directive to "do something outside the crowd." We'd say that goal was achieved, although you'll notice Montezemolo didn't say anything about doing something beautiful. But we can attest that in person the car is exotic and striking--you appreciate it more as a machine than as a work of art. The Enzo comes in red or yellow livery, although in the factory we also saw a particularly sinister-looking one in black, a color that may be added to the palette.
Another part of Montezemolo's design directive was "no showy wings," which necessarily placed additional importance on aerodynamics. Besides going wingless, a functional goal was to have increased downforce at medium to high speed (about 140 mph), so, for example, the Enzo could take a bend at 143 mph that the F50 could do only at 137 mph. This was to be done while preserving a top speed of at least 217 mph.