Editorial, November 1998

The reason for the distinctly Ferrari flavour to this issue is simple enough. This year marks not only the tenth anniversary of the Old Man’s death, but also the centenary of his birth; milestones like that should not go unrecognised in a magazine such as this. I never met the man as, at the time that he died, my duties in motoring journalism had rather more to with filing press releases than filing stories on one of the most influential figures in the industry.

In one way at least, I’m pleased. Having no first-hand knowledge of the man means I can conveniently ignore the gently swelling body of opinion which, emboldened by the fact he’s no longer around to defend himself, finds it fashionable to say he was as poor a human being as he was a great race car constructor.

And even if Enzo did pitilessly set driver against driver, I wonder how far any race car constructor progressed by campaigning on the good bloke ticket. My guess is, had he taken a less authoritarian stance with his staff, I would not be typing these words now.

Besides, if he really was that difficult, why did so many drivers stay at Maranello even after their dreams had been realised and why did so many more spend a sizeable chunk of their careers banging on his door? It follows that, whatever the man’s failings, the package more than made up for it. Besides, those who suggest Ferrari’s attitude to the lives of his drivers bordered on the cavalier need to ask why he bothered to build such strength into his cars that the incidence of drivers being killed or injured by bona fide mechanical failure is so uncommonly small. Being a nice chap is all very well but, in racing, taking the trouble and inevitable penalties of making cars that keep their drivers alive is a rather more admirable quality.

Regulars may remember that, a couple of months back, I took exception to a Rover hatchback doing the rounds with BRM badges glued to its sides. My point was that I thought it a shame that one of the great names from our heritage had been press-ganged into flogging mass-produced shopping cars. When, inevitably, the people from Rover called, it was not, to their credit, to accuse me of living on a planet removed from the commercial realities of the real world but, instead, to offer me one of these Rover-BRMs to stooge around in for a few days. I now report as follows: the Rover-BRM offers engaging transport, confident handling and fine performance; the outside looks great, the interior simply terrible. It’s a good car and an enjoyable one too. And it still doesn’t deserve to wear a BRM badge any more than I do.

While on BRM-related matters, I would like to recognise formally the lengths to which the V16s that were slated to race at the Goodwood Revival went to honour fully the racing heritage of the breed. If you were there for the race you will have seen one complete a couple of laps before retiring and the second fail magnificently even to reach the first comer. The real praise for fully entering into the spirit of the occasion, however, must be reserved for Nick Mason’s entry. The masterstroke of his V16 was to fail even to make it as far as the circuit. Quite brought a tear to my eye.