Ferrari at 70: touring Britain in a 488 Spider and a vintage 166


Ferrari knows that McLaren’s reversal of fortune at the start of the 1980s was largely down to John Barnard and his carbonfibre McLaren MP4/1. It, and those that followed its lead, transformed the sport, and Barnard gained a reputation as an innovator the equal of Murray. Ferrari wanted him.

Problem was, Barnard didn’t want to go. He had a family and had heard enough of Ferrari politics to put him off a life in the Italian sunshine. Extraordinarily, then, Ferrari agreed that his F1 cars be designed not in Maranello, but in Guildford.

Cleverly, Barnard called it the Guildford Technical Office, so it was known at GTO to one and all. No championship winners were to be designed here, but it did result in the Ferrari 641 that set the pace all the way through 1990 until the penultimate race at Suzuka, where Senna deliberately drove into Alain Prost at the first corner, ruining Prost’s strong shot at the world title.

It was Barnard who brought Ferrari’s technical facilities up to date and, in a second stint with the Scuderia, laid the foundations for the Schumacher era that would start after his departure. As for GTO, it was sold to McLaren and thence to Murray, where ground-breaking design work continues to this day.

From there, it’s only a short hop to Ferrari’s dealership in Egham, at the famed art-deco Tower Garage. It’s not the first place Ferraris were sold in the UK, but no building in Britain is more readily associated with the brand. For that, thank Colonel Ronnie Hoare, who became Ferrari’s first UK distributor in 1960. His famous ‘Maranello Concessionaires’ team was one of the most successful private outfits to race Ferraris, good enough to hire the likes of John Surtees and Graham Hill, the latter winning two more Tourist Trophy races for Ferrari at Goodwood.

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An insight into the character of the Colonel is provided by the fact that at Le Mans in 1967 he put Piers Courage and Richard Attwood in the same car just because he was amused to have a car populated entirely by the alumni of Eton and Harrow.

The Colonel moved to Egham in 1967, coinciding with the start of Ferrari’s greatest road car era until the present day. With Daytonas and Dinos to sell, the business thrived, and Hoare stayed at the helm for a further 20 years before finally selling out in 1987. Today the site is owned by the Sytner Group, which itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Penske Automotive Group, so its racing roots are preserved.

Still on the racing theme, no walk along the British stretch of Ferrari’s memory lane would be complete without Silverstone. By 1951, Ferrari the car maker was still just four years old. In that time Alfa Romeo’s 158 had been almost unbeatable. With a 1.5-litre engine supercharged to produce 450bhp, it blew everything else into the weeds. In the inaugural Drivers’ World Championship in 1950, the Alfas won every single round, a feat still to be repeated.

But it had one weakness – thirst – and Ferrari spotted it. So Ferrari asked Aurelio Lampredi to design a 4.5-litre unsupercharged V12 that was a little down on power but would need to stop far less often for fuel. At Silverstone, Froilan Gonzalez scored Ferrari’s first pole, and because he needed to stop just once for fuel and the Alfas twice, he won the race, Ferrari’s first in what we now call Formula 1.

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