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Published:  2012-10-13 Views:  739
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Published in:  Cruises
As part of some work for a recent project I’ve been working on, I’ve been required to do a little research in an area which, thus far, has never been one of my strong suits; motor racing. Specifically I’ve been delving into the history of some of the worlds’ most well-known sports car manufacturers, and the men who started them. In a word; fascinating. Going into the project I was under the impression that many of the men whose names now adorn sports cars (Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche et al) would be the equivalent of the modern-day, hyper-masculine, seemingly boorish clowns who seem to have an obsession with the speed and characteristics of cars they could never afford.

As you might imagine, this knee-jerk reaction was completely unfounded. I was astounded to discover a wide range of inventors, engineers, boffins and war heroes who had the knowhow and drive to make these vehicles a reality. For example, Lotus was founded in the early 1950’s by young aeronautical engineer Colin Chapman. At the time, most of the luxury sports cars available on the market focussed more or less exclusively on provided maximum amounts of horsepower from the engine to the road. Chapman and his team of enthusiasts at Lotus felt differently and intended to focus on aerodynamics and weight reduction. Indeed, Chapman was famously quoted as saying "Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere"

This drive and desire for innovation and change can be found as a driving force (pun pretty much intended) behind Chapman and many of his counterparts, not least the legendary Enzo Ferrari. Born in Modena in 1898 and after a stint working for Alfa Romeo before World War II, he began to manufacture cars bearing his name and the now-iconic prancing stallion logo only after the conclusion of the war in 1947. Motorsport victory came the very next year with a win at Lago di Garda. Ferrari was famous for his hands-on management style and signing all of his correspondence with purple ink, illustrating his propensity to disregard tradition if it produced a finer vehicle. More controversially, he was accused of pushing his racing drivers to the limit, even playing them off against one another to foster a competitive spirit between the team-mates.

Ferraris’ unique and brash management style had unexpected repercussions for the company. When Italian tractor magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini became unsatisfied with constant replacements of the clutch in his Ferrari 250GT, necessitating frequent trips to Maranello to have the vehicle fixed, he raised his dissatisfaction of the build quality and after-sales service with Enzo Ferrari himself and was dismissed by the notoriously proud man from Modena. Lamborghini considered that Ferraris were too noisy and uncomfortable to be ‘proper’ road cars, and after his disagreement with the company, decided to create his own luxury sports cars, starting with a high-performance modification of the troublesome 250GT that easily outperformed the stock models. A cunning businessman, Lamborghini created his own company, initially using parts from his tractors in his designs for sports cars. Lamborghini has gone from strength to strength since that time, and the name now carries as much weight as the company that led directly to its’ creation.

Inspiration can take many forms; the desire to create technically perfect and balanced vehicles, the need to create ever more powerful supercar or just a simple desire for a form of petty vengeance can all play a part in creating greatness. Each of these men had their own goals and their own motivations for starting their projects, none of which is any less valid than any other. And in truth, the past being the stubborn, unchangeable beast that it is, it could be argued that the starting point is immaterial if truly great things are achieved. As for myself, I just found it interesting that these men with now-legendary surnames were once just that: men. Same drives, same problems and the same motivations as anyone else, and look at what they have left behind for us. If that isn’t an inspiration, I’d like to know what is.

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