US GP Ferrari name generates passion for mechanics, fans

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2000 -- A Sherpa in Nepal grows up dreaming of guiding a climb up Mount Everest. A boy in the Bronx fantasizes about playing in Yankee Stadium. In Japan, a youth with size sets his goal on becoming a sumo...

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2000 -- A Sherpa in Nepal grows up dreaming of guiding a climb up Mount Everest. A boy in the Bronx fantasizes about playing in Yankee Stadium. In Japan, a youth with size sets his goal on becoming a sumo wrestler. In Italy? Driving for Ferrari's Formula One team is the ultimate. Second on that list is working for Ferrari's Formula One team. "There's soccer and Ferrari in Italy," said Claudio Berro, Ferrari's press officer. "Not auto racing but Ferrari racing." Scuderia Ferrari is in Indianapolis this weekend for Sunday's inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ferrari supporters, wearing red attire or carrying red flags with the yellow prancing horse insignia, can be spotted everywhere. German Michael Schumacher and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello drive the Ferrari cars. Schumacher wept after he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza two weeks ago as thousands of ecstatic and emotional fans celebrated in front of the podium. Ferrari's general manager is Frenchman Jean Todt and the technical director is Englishman Ross Brawn. But there are Italians, too, working in the new garages along the Speedway's main straight. Ignazio Lunetta is the team leader. Luca Baldisserri and Carlo Cantoni are the race engineers on Schumacher's and Barrichello's cars, respectively. There are others like Federico Bertazzo, Claudio Papaleo and Francesco Uguzzoni, who are mechanics on the two race cars and the test machine. Then there is Max Conti, 28. He grew up in the north-central city of Maranello, and his home was very close to Ferrari's operations. Today he is in Indy wearing the bright red Ferrari uniform working as one of the mechanics. Conti stood in the middle of the pitside garages as other mechanics busily prepared the cars for their drivers and talked - through press officer/interpreter Jane Parisi de Lima - about what it means to be Italian and work for Ferrari. "Mainly the speed attracted me and the mystical dream team since I was small," he said. "Yes, I wanted to be a driver." He idolized the late Ayrton Senna as he grew up. An engine roared to life in the garage. Conti paused until it was shut off. Parisi had explained that the team brought five cars to Indy, a spare for each driver and the fifth one available for spare parts. She said they never before had the garage space that was afforded the team at the Speedway. Parisi, incidentally, is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was quiet again, and the interview with Conti resumed. The partially assembled but shimmering No. 3 car sitting beside him was just waiting for Schumacher's foot to mash the throttle. "I am very proud to work for Ferrari," he said. "In Italy, it is a very important job. Oh, I am very lucky to work for Ferrari. "The name is known worldwide. The name is very famous. I am very proud. Wherever we are with our Ferrari uniforms, the treatment is different. People are kind to you." When Conti finished his schooling, he went to the Ferrari plant, filled out an application form and was hired. He first worked in production for Ferrari's street car. Then he was moved over to the racing division, a marvelous promotion for him. Currently, he is in charge of Schumacher's backup car. He sets it up. Conti owns a Ferrari 208 and at times takes it out, hits the accelerator and dreams he is Schumacher or Senna at the wheel of the world's most famous race car. "This is a passion," he said. "I race by myself." Another engine roars to life. Some mechanics jump back at the sudden blast of noise. Ferrari Racing and its sports cars are the legacy of the late Enzo Ferrari, who was born in 1898 and died in 1988 at the age of 90. He founded Scuderia Ferrari in Modena, Italy, in 1929 with the purpose of helping members compete in motor races. He was associated with Alfa Romeo, but later founded Auto Avio Costruzioni Ferrari and began designing a race car. His first two cars raced in the 1940 Mille Miglia. At the end of World War II, the company name became Ferrari and a 125 Sport 12-cylinder, 1,500-cc car was built. On May 11, 1947, Franco Cortese drove to victory in the Rome Grand Prix to begin the Ferrari legend. Ferrari today is the only constructor to have participated in every year of the Formula One World Championship series since its inception in 1950. The team has won nine constructors' titles and nine drivers' titles, with another possible this year. Last year brought Ferrari's first constructors' title since 1983; not since Jody Scheckter in 1979 has a drivers' title been won in a Ferrari. Now Schumacher trails McLaren's Mika Hakkinen by only two points heading into Sunday's race. Ferrari's hall of fame drivers have been many - men like Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn, John Surtees, Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve and Nigel Mansell. Now it is time for Conti to get on with his tasks. Parisi said to return after the second practice. Schumacher and Barrichello would meet the press at the cafe tables set up along the front of their offices behind the garages. They came as promised. Schumacher talked to the German press for 20 minutes, then answered questions again in English. Barrichello sat at another table and spoke to the writers. The centerpiece of each table was a vase containing two dozen roses. Ferrari red, of course.

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mika Hakkinen , Nigel Mansell , Alberto Ascari , Phil Hill , Ross Brawn , Mario Andretti , Niki Lauda , Ayrton Senna , Gilles Villeneuve , Juan Manuel Fangio , Jody Scheckter , John Surtees , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , McLaren