Whenever Ferrari got on the blower to Cliff Allison to invite him over to test, Brough’s finest would jump in his car, drive to Darlington, climb aboard the Kings Cross express, catch a coach to London Airport, fly to Malpensa, north of Milan, where he was (sometimes) greeted by Ferrari people who would often have to explain that the car was not ready and ask if he would mind coming back next week. When Michael Schumacher tests for Ferrari at Fiorano, he stays in a purpose-built flat at the track, enjoys a hi-energy, hocholesterol breakfast, then walks the few yards to the car, which will have been dutifully warmed up by his army of mechanics.
Aspects of the sport we love and Ferrari have clearly changed, but it is all stitched together by Enzo’s red cars. Driven come and go; the passion that is Ferrari is constant. Did Cliff kick up a stink? No, he booked into a Modena hotel and waited. After all, this was Ferrari. Just seven years after Froilan Gonzalez, all bulging biceps and fearsome demeanour, had defeated the Alfettas at Silverstone, the marque’s mystique was already layers deep, verging on the religious. Cliff would have hopped to Modena if necessary.
The irony, of course, is that Cliff should have stuck with Lotus or any of the burgeoning British teams that would put motor racing’s Godfather in the shade for the majority of the next 40 years but he was not the first driver, nor the last, to heed the Scuderia’s siren cry.
His Ferrari career was ended by a barrel roll at Monaco in 1960; Schumacher’s Ferrari career was gilded further by Monaco win number five in 2001. But there’s more to life not masses in motor-racing terms, I admit than winning. When, in 40 years’ time, we approach Michael to ask if he’d like to reacquaint himself with his old Ferrari F2001, will he say yes? Will he dash to Kerpen railway station? Perhaps. It is hard, however, to imagine him enjoying the occasion more than Cliff did when he climbed aboard a Lotus 12 for us this month.
He didn’t hop to Mallory Park, his stiff-legged walk a result of a 1961 Spa shunt (in a Lotus 18), but the 250mile drive the trains aren’t what they used to be from Brough was cheerfully undertaken. And this time the car was ready. True, there was no works drive at the end of it, but it didn’t matter the day was about smiles, not miles, per hour. Ferrari is not just about winning either. Its position in racing folklore has as much to do with losing. But there have been plenty of highlights. For sure you will not agree with our selection of their top 10 victories, but such interest, debate and contention is another of the threads that holds the sport’s fabric together. It’s what allows Allison and Schumacher two men seemingly cut from different cloths to be interwoven. Cover: 1981 Monaco GP, Gilles Villeneuve’s unwieldy Ferrari 126CK on its wory to victory