Although my passion and love of motor racing was born in Italy—at Monza during the 1969 Italian GP—my first real introduction to the sport was at Goodwood Racing Circuit, in England, a few years later. In Italy, at that time, we lost many things, including our identity, with motor racing. Yes, we have Ferrari, but no opportunities like England. It was a big decision for me, but I was following my dream. At the station, I called my father. I told him I was in London, he didn’t believe me and said, “Don’t be so stupid, come home.” I tried to convince him where I was, we had a fight over the phone, he was not happy with me. As I say, I had to follow my dream. Eventually, he came to understand. In this world there are drivers with money, but do they have a passion? Perhaps not. There are still openings for drivers who are passionate. I believe if you want something bad enough you can get it. Yes, we lose some drivers through a lack of money, but do they lack passion too? You have to ask that question. I believe if you have determination to succeed and make the necessary sacrifices, whatever your walk in life, you can succeed. Motor racing doesn’t just ask the question, how fast are you, it also asks how committed are you and how strong is your character?
My motor racing took a natural step from the lower formula cars and slowly climbing the ladder, obviously the aim, as for every young driver, was Formula One, especially driving in my home Grand Prix at Monza; but you have to remember that there are only 22 drivers, or so, on that Formula One grid during any year. It was the same in my day. Along my journey, I must admit to making some mistakes, probably many. I was also meeting some of the worst people in motor racing, as well as some of the best. One of the people who I was able to meet and race for was Rocky Augusta, of the famous Italian Augusta family. We formed a great bond and a relationship over a number of years and were like brothers. It was amazing to see how he dealt with financial issues around his motor racing, in that £50,000 was no problem for new gearboxes, or engines, but ask for £15 for expenses and there’d be a three-hour meeting! I was put in charge of the Augusta Racing Team and Rocky gave me full control over the day-to-day running. I wore many hats in that role—team manager, PR, sponsorship organizer, driver, driver coach and many more. Our dream year was 1996 racing in the BPR Championship organized by Stephane Ratel and the S2 class of the SCCA World Challenge. Our car was a beautiful 6.3-liter V8 Callaway Corvette, just a super, fantastic car with a normally aspirated engine rather than turbocharged. It had been a very long season having to split my time between America and racing in Europe. I’d had a couple of wins and podium places throughout the season and I was in the mix to become champion. To this point, it had been a very rewarding championship because it was so difficult to achieve. Going into the last race I was very nervous because I had everything to lose. I was very aware of the points battle throughout the race, but my crew kept me informed of my championship position over the radio. Like the beginning of my career, I just took my time and was patient. So, finishing 3rd won me the 1996 World Challenge S2 class Drivers Championship title, as well as the Red Line Oil Rookie of the Year Award. That car was just a dream to drive all season, and the final race of the season at Sonoma, California was so very special.
Become a Member & Get Ad-Free Access To This Article (& About 6,000+ More)
Access to the full article is limited to paid subscribers only. Our membership removes most ads, lets you enjoy unlimited access to all our premium content, and offers you awesome discounts on partner products. Enjoy our premium content.