When I was a child, I had the privilege to shake Enzo Ferrari's hand. I didn't know who that old man was, but my father, who was born very close to Maranello, seemed to be very fond of him, and so I knew that he was somebody important. When I told this to Albert DeLauro, the Chairman of the Board of the Ferrari Club of America, he probably felt the same good envy, the one close to admiration and with no bad feelings at all, that I felt thinking about him being a Ferrari owner.
Ferrari is an Italian ambassador all over the world. To understand how much the Us are important for it, we just have to mention that when Stefano Domenicali resigned as Ferrari team principal a few days ago, he was replaced by Marco Mattiacci, former President of Ferrari North America. Let's hear from Mr. DeLauro what the Ferrari Club of America is, and why it is so important talking about Italy and the USA.
Mr. De Lauro, the Ferrari Club of America is the world's largest Ferrari club. Please tell us something about the history of this club.
Our history started a little over fifty years ago, in 1962, when eight Ferrari owners met in Fort Wayne, Indiana and decided to start a Ferrari Club. They got together as friends and began enjoying their cars as a group. This small group of friends founded the Ferrari Club of America.
In 1963, that club became legally formalized under US laws but soon was given written permission by Enzo Ferrari to use the Ferrari trademark, essentially the little rectangular nose badge from the car, the one with "cavallino rampante" and the yellow background. So in 1964 we were formally recognized by Enzo and the Ferrari Factory as the Ferrari Club in the United States and Canada.
From that very small beginning in Fort Wayne, Indiana the club spread across all of the United States and Canada. I believe we are the only international Ferrari club in the world, as we have officially have members in more than one country. We also have a very good relationship with the factory and of course with Ferrari North America which is the branch of the Ferrari Factory that is here in the US and Canada. This is a mutually beneficial relationship - we support them and they support us, it's a good partnership.
You are present in several States throughout America. How many regions, chapters and members do you have?
We have over 5,500 members spread across the two countries. Geographically we are broken into 16 regions and some of those regions are broken down further into smaller groups called chapters; currently we have 39 chapters. We are a car club, not a business; we are an organization for Ferrari owners and Ferrari aficionados; we have some members who are not Ferrari owners, but we think this is a good thing, because we know that as their careers continue and mature they will eventually become financial capable of becoming Ferrari owners.
Virtually all of our activities are done at a local (Chapter) level; for the National organization to try to organize events every week in every location in North America would be impossible. So the real organization of the club is from the bottom and it's all about local people organizing their own events; sometimes they gather with others to create larger events. We would expect the number of chapters to continue to grow, and we would expect our members to exceed 6,000 hopefully by the end of the year, and there's no reason that there can't be 10,000 to 20,000 members in the Club in the years to come.
We suppose that among them there are either Italian Americans and Americans of other heritages, are we right?
Well, obviously I am an Italian American, but we have to remember that virtually all North Americans came originally from other countries around the world. It is, of course, true that many of our members are of Italian heritage, actually a significant number, but equally so from other heritages across all Europe, Asia, Africa, Central/South America ... everywhere!
Is it possible to know, more or less, how many Ferraris are there in the United States?
We actually have done some research on this. There isn't an official number; however, we have worked with Ferrari North America to try to determine what is reasonable. As of right now, there are approximately 48,000 Ferraris across US and Canada, and that number grows by about 2000 per year. This number changes every year; historically, North America is the largest single market for Ferrari with approximately 30% of the annual production arriving here. In China, a very large market for Ferrari, it also continues to grow, but for now, their numbers are much smaller than the numbers for North America.
It is important to consider that these are not normal cars, so unless they are destroyed by an accident, and cannot be repaired, they continue to exist. So I would expect that this number will continue to grow significantly in the years to come.
Which is the State with the highest number of Ferrari? Maybe California?
Well, we do not know this officially. I would tend to think that California has a very significant number of Ferraris, but they are also in significant numbers on the East coast, Florida or any major metropolitan area like for instance Chicago or Dallas. I would guess that if California is not the number one, it would definitively be in the top five.
Is there a curiosity or a particular person in the history of the club, that is worth to be mentioned to our readers?
There are actually too many people of great impact in the history of the Ferrari Club of America to be able to mention just one as having the highest impact. But if I could extend that a little bit, I would say that the greatest point in our history has probably been our recent Fiftieth Anniversary celebration. This event had the name "Cinquant'anni di Passione": it was a one year long event that brought together, likely for the very last time, most of our founding members. While many of these guys are still alive, they are aging; however, they were able to join all of us who have come after them to celebrate our first 50 Years and welcome the beginning of the 50 years to follow. So rather than only one person, I would mention all of our founding members! They are John Delamater, Ralph Smith, John Lundin, Dick Merritt, Gerry Buhrman, Ken Hutchison, John Habach, and Larry Nicklin.
How do you follow the Formula One World Championship? Do you watch the race all together?
I do follow it and of course I root for Ferrari. Sometimes I watch the race with other members of the club. There is a group of viewers here in San Antonio, TX, organized with big screen televisions and we do it as often as we can. Several of the Ferrari dealers hold F1 viewing parties at the dealerships throughout North America.
Last February Ferrari has been declared the World's Most Powerful Brand for the second year running, by London-based experts Brand Finance. In your opinion, how much of this success is on account of the Ferrari Clubs all over the world?
With such a powerful brand it's difficult to quantify the impact of just one element, but one can logically think that the Ferrari Clubs all around the world must have an enormous impact on the spreading of the Ferrari brand. Ferrari makes the cars, that are really pieces of artwork, but the clubs are key means to create venues and situations where their owners can use them and more fully explore their magnificent capabilities. This is something that Ferrari North America has told us directly.
The clubs provide an opportunity to the company's clients to be able to use their cars more fully. They can be displayed in our "Concorso of eleganza" across the US and Canada; or if you prefer to drive your car, which I do, you can use it - as it was designed to be used - at race courses across US and Canada at events sponsored by the Club. All of these activities become easy to do through the clubs, which also provide camaraderie with other individuals with similar backgrounds and interest; all these things are facilitated by the clubs.
You can of course take your Ferrari down to the store to buy a cup of coffee, but through the clubs you can use your car at closer to 100% of its capability. You can even be taught on how to use it at higher than normally legal speeds (under safe conditions and not on public roads). We also have organized normal speed tours across all North America. We are a family; we all enjoy each other's company.
So both we and the Ferrari Company believe that the clubs do provide significant means to get the cars out into the public view and to be used. This is how we help to enhance the impact of the brand all around the world. Interestingly at the Ferrari Owners Club World Council meeting held in Maranello last year, Ferrari called the clubs the brand's ambassadors around the world and I suppose that is exactly what the clubs are.
Does the club organize trips to Maranello?
Not directly. What we do is work with Ferrari North America; if you are a Ferrari owner you can of course arrange a tour of the facilities in Italy. I have done so four times. Sometimes we have groups of people from the Ferrari Club of America who, as a group, organize through Ferrari a tour including Maranello but enjoying also other parts of Italy, which are fabulous - especially Emilia Romagna with its wine, its food, its music, and the endless romance of its fabulous cites and countryside.
In June you will have your International Annual Meet, this year in Leesburg, VA. What will happen during this important event?
As I mentioned, most of our events are organized locally, and in fact the local Regions and Chapters conduct over 800 events per year, throughout the United States and Canada. However, once a year, everyone in the Club has the opportunity to get together for a 5 day celebration of all things Ferrari – this is called our Annual Meet. It typically happens in the summer every year, but always in a different location, as we move the event around North America so all our members have a chance to attend at least every few years; this year it will be in Leesburg, Virginia.
Of the many significant events conducted within an Annual Meet, two are key. The first is a world class "Concorso d'eleganza" undertaken with the higher possible judging standards. These standards are so highly regarded that the Ferrari factory has actually adopted the ones developed by the Ferrari Club of America, even inviting to Maranello some of our senior judges for major events conducted by the Factory. If you are able to win a platinum award – the highest – that means that your car is really good!
The second major event over the week end is the opportunity to drive and learn more about your car by attending a driving school and when properly educated driving at speed on a famous race track, which in this case will be the world famous Summit Point Raceway.
In addition to the two major events, other smaller events will be organized: a market, a road rally through fabulous countryside, many opportunities to eat or drink, and also two competitions that only exist once a year, only in this event: "Coppa Bella Macchina" and "Coppa GT".
The "Concorso d'eleganza" is something that evaluates the car for its originality and its condition, so if you have an original car and it is in excellent condition, it will do well. The "Coppa Bella Macchina" is a competition for cars that have just won a platinum award in the "Concorso d'eleganza". The cars and the owners undergo an evaluation to determine if every single component of that car works correctly; it is so detailed that it usually takes a couple of hours to complete. That sounds really simple, but I can assure you that is not. Everything has to work perfectly and no defects are permitted. If so much as one thing doesn't work properly, even something minor like a little light in the glove compartment, you are disqualified. Everything is reviewed and examined, and of course the driver has to know how to use every single component of the car.
"Coppa GT" is much more difficult: it's a test of the driver. If the owner has achieved the Coppa Bella Macchina, he/she then has to go on track with the car to demonstrate that he/she can properly use the car to at least 70% of the capability of the car. A skilled evaluator rides with them. So if you have a modern car, say a Ferrari 458, 70% of the capability of that car means being able to drive very fast; it requires a very high skill level.
In the end, we ask you – as an Italian American - to describe us how do you feel about being a proud owner of a Ferrari ... what does it mean to you?
To own and enjoy a Ferrari is a wonderful thing, regardless of your heritage; but as an Italian American, it's a thrill to be actively able to experience an extension of my own heritage. When I am in my Ferrari, when I look at my Ferrari, I'm not looking at a car ... I'm looking at something much grander than that, more important; in my heart, "nel cuore", I feel good, sometimes as a little kid, because I have always dreamed about Ferrari: the cars, Enzo the man, and Maranello.
Don't forget that for an American child, Europe is far away, Italy – heritage or not - is far away, and so you can only read about it in a book, you can see it in pictures and television. So as kid, the fact that I would own one never crossed my mind, it was too fantastic; now, as an adult, to have all those dreams become real is so wonderful and defies all descriptions. I love my heritage as an Italian American, and there is no other heritage that I would ever want to have ... I have the best one.
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