Steeped in motor racing history, Tuscany played host to the start of one of motor racing’s greatest-ever rivalries in the early 1960s: Ferrari vs Lamborghini.
Words – Joe Bradley
Images – Lamborghini
Where else in the world would you rather be at the beginning of European Spring than in the Tuscany region of Italy? I'm sure this was a huge contributory factor when CREVENTIC was deciding where to start its European season.
The majestic lines of the Mugello Circuit certainly capture the ambience of the rolling Tuscan countryside. The circuit is quite a challenge for drivers and engineers, given that it has slow sections that require accuracy and focus, and fast sections where you need to gather even more focus just to stay on the track.
Plus, if you stand trackside and take a deep breath, you can actually feel the rich motorsport history in these very hills. A part of the world where one of the greatest rivalries in motor racing started six decades ago.
It was 1963 when Ferruccio Lamborghini, an extremely successful tractor manufacturer, found himself disappointed with his recent purchase of a Ferrari sportscar. A clutch that continued to break just too easily and frequently is what drove Lamborghini to take the journey to the front door of Signore Ferrari in the neighbouring village of Maranello.
No surprise that the meeting was a very short one, but would change the fate of supercars forever. Signore Lamborghini offered constructive critique and explained that the clutch was just not up to the job. He also offered an engineering solution on what Signore Ferrari, for not much cost, could do for the clutch to last much longer.
Enzo Ferrari, not known for accepting criticism of any sort, did not take this friendly advice too readily. After all, who exactly did this Lamborghini fellow think he was? Signore Ferrari had some advice of his own and offered those now-famous words: “Let me make cars. You stick to making tractors.”
Ferruccio Lamborghini drove home. Furious. Instead of being accepted as a fellow engineer with some friendly constructive criticism, he had been rejected out of hand and insulted. The insult was painful. His tractors, after all, were the best in Italy. On that drive home, with these professional insults flying around in his head, he made the decision that he too would also build sports cars. He would build them to be faster and better than Enzo Ferrari's. Soon he had set up a small factory in Sant'Agata, and in 1964, the very first Lamborghini, the 350 GT, was presented at the annual international car show in Turin.
But how was it possible for Lamborghini to build and finish a car in just four months? Turns out there was a sub plot to this story, one that proved crucial to Lamborghini's success.
Two years earlier, five people had demanded a meeting with Enzo Ferrari at Maranello. Among the five was Carlo Chiti, the company’s chief engineer, and legendary development manager, Giotto Bizzarrini. They were unhappy that Enzo's wife, Laura Ferrari, had been interfering and even making important decisions on the factory floor, and were adamant that the unqualified Laura should stop interfering with production.
Furious at this, and in a bizarre twist of fate, Enzo Ferrari went against his key members of staff, and instead of correcting his wife's interference, dismissed all five of them on the spot. The now-former key personnel at Ferrari immediately started a competing business in Bologna, a design agency for racing and sports cars called ATS. And it wasn’t long before Signore Lamborghini, with plans for his first-ever supercar already well under way, came knocking at their door.
The first car – the 350 GT – was quite well received, with 13 examples bought at the Turin Auto Show itself and 120 sold over the next two years. All of which, 59 years later, are now priceless. The Ferrari-Lamborghini rivalry continues to this day on race tracks around the world, with perhaps none more fitting than here in the Tuscan hills surrounding Mugello.
Seriously, where else could the 24H SERIES’ European season opener possibly be held?
You can also check out Joe’s column in our magazine for the 2023 Hankook 12H MUGELLO, available for download below.
TEAM ACP - Tangerine Associates
Razoon-more than racing
12H MUGELLO, 2022
12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, 2022
12H HOCKENHEIMRING, 2022
24H PORTIMAO, 2022
24H BARCELONA, 2022
12H KUWAIT, 2022
24H DUBAI, 2023