Fernando Alonso in Winter Testing 2013

Happy Birthday, Enzo Ferrari

I have drawn similarities of events that have happened on the same date in different years in history in the past, like the list of negative world events that have happened on 30th January over the years, and the 18th February is one of those dates.

It has been a day for war and war related events over the years; the Sixth Crusade saw Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II sign a ten year peace treaty with al Kamil in 1229. In 1332, Amda Seyon I, Emperor of Ethiopia, started his campaign against the southern provinces, and in 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, was executed at the Tower of London for treason against his brother, Edward IV.
In 1797, Sir Roger Abercromby and a fleet of ships invaded Trinidad, and in 1814, The Battle of Montereau was fought in the Napoleonic Wars. The Galacian Peasant revolt started in 1846.

In 1878, John Tunstall was murdered by Jessie James, starting the Lincoln County War. 1900 saw one of the incidents known in the world as Bloody Sunday, this time in the Second Boer War at the Battle of Paardeberg. In 1991, the Provisional IRA detonated bombs in Paddington and Victoria stations in London.

However, the other thing that marks the 18th February in history is innovation and invention. In 1911, the first official Airmail flight saw 6500 letters delivered. In 1930, Clive Tombaugh identified Pluto, considered to be a planet for many years. That very same day, Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly in a fixed wing aircraft, and the first cow to be milked in an aircraft. In 1977, the Space Shuttle had its debut flight on top of a customised Boeing 747. It also saw the first Iron Man triathlon the following year, on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii.

It has seen the births of the philosopher Leon Battista Alberti (1404), astronomer Jacques Cassini (1677), physicists Alessandro Volta (1745) and Ernst Mach (1838), and Sheffield born Harry Brearley, the inventor of Stainless Steel (1871). Even Dr Dre has a birthday today (born 1965).

However, there is one inventor in particular who has given his name to a brand that is synonymous with luxury and glamour. In 1898, in Modena, Italy, Enzo Ferrari, il Commendatore, was born. Apparently he decided to become a racing driver after seeing a race at the age of 10, and when he returned after serving in the first World War, suffering from the flu pandemic that claimed millions of victims in 1918, he found that the family business had collapsed. He got a job at a small car company called CMN, and moved to Alfa Romeo. In 1923, when racing in Ravenna, he was given the emblem of Francesco Baracca, Italy’s leading fighter pilot of WWI, by Baracca’s mother. It was a prancing horse. Nine years later, Ferrari added it to a car rather than a plane. He started to manage the racing arm of Alfa Romeo, and found drivers like Tazio Nuvolari to drive for them, with Scuderia Ferrari being the racing team. The factory in Modeno was bombed in the second World War, when production moved to Maranello.

Ferrari became the racing company we know today in 1947, and in 1950, joined the newly founded Formula One world championship, with their first win at the British Grand Prix of 1951, and the first constructors title delivered with the help of Alberto Ascari in 1952.

The team grew from strength to strength, including giving drives to many of the great names in motor racing. In 1974, Ferrari named Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as sporting director.

It was not all plain sailing. Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castellotti, Alfonso de Portago, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Wolfgang Von Trips, and Lorenzo Bandini all were killed whilst driving Ferrari racing cars. Enzo Ferrari was charged with Manslaughter after the death of de Portago, but the case was dropped in 1961. 1982 saw the death of another Ferrari driver, the incredibly talented Giles Villenueve, and Didier Peroni, their other driver, had his career cut short with an accident in Hockenheim. He was leading the world title at the time, but without competing in the remaining races, seeing Keke Rosberg becoming World Champion with a total of one career race win in Formula One under his belt at the time.

After glory years through the 1950s to 1970s, the 80s were fallow years for Ferrari. Enzo died in 1988, at the age of 90, and shortly after his death, Ferrari claimed a 1-2 at the Italian Grand Prix, with Gerhard Berger and Michele Alberto taking the top two steps on the podium, the only race not won by the dominant McLaren team that year.

Good times returned to the team with Michael Schumacher leading the team to glory in each year from 2000 to 2004, and again with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

After all these years, the name Ferrari is still a strong contender in F1 world championship.

However, motor racing is still not completely safe. Today would have been the 22nd birthday of rising talent Henry Surtees, son of John Surtees, the only motor racing world champion on two wheels and four. Henry raced in Formula Three when he was 17, with a win and a second place at Donington Park. In 2009, he was signed for a drive in Formula Two, and was having a good season there until a race in July of that year when a loose wheel hit him on the head, causing the death of this rising talent in motorsport.

When we remember the innovation and tenacity of Enzo Ferrari today, let’s also remember Henry Surtees and all of the other drivers who have lost their lives in the sport.