Ferrari Racing Days at Suzuka Circuit, March 17-18, 2012
Report and photos by Len Clarke
The first-ever Ferrari Racing Days event in Japan attracted a bumper crowd of more than 21,700 fans to Suzuka Circuit over three days, with an estimated 600+ Ferrari owners in their predominantly red mounts turning the paddock parking area into something very impressive visually. Amazingly, this figure represents a mere 5% of the 12,000 Ferrari owners in Japan.
The occasion featured a number of firsts, including the world premiere of the 599XX EVO, part of the marque’s Corse Clienti XX Programme, which also includes the mighty Enzo-based FXX. From the brand’s F1 Clienti side, private owners of Ferrari formula one cars were also given the opportunity to take their machines out on the famous circuit.
It was also the first time the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific one-make series visited the country, Japan playing host to 28-car grids of specially prepared 458 Italias for the opening rounds of what promises to be a very healthy season ahead in this burgeoning regional series.
On the guest driver roster, former Scuderia pilot Mika Salo was clearly the star of the weekend, the Finn taking the wheel of one of the Challenge cars for both of the 30-minute races held on the Sunday. He also took the reins of an aurally intimidating F2008 F1 car, thrilling the crowds in the grandstands and around the circuit with his demonstration run.
Italian formula car specialist and double Superleague Formula champion Davide Rigon was also on hand, as were scores of mechanics, engineers and team personnel, all brought over from Maranello in support of the Challenge series.
In addition to the wide range of on-track action, there were plenty of activities for owners and fans alike in the paddock area, among them the sight of ‘Ferrari Only’ parking lots with literally hundreds of examples of the fabled marque, including a truly impressive array of models from over the years.
Piquing everyone’s interest was the Supercar area, where a brace of six F40s lined up next to a lone F50 – all facing an equal number of 599, and a correspondingly lone (matte black) Enzo.
The height for many who arrived by car had to be the impressive number of “Sport and Cool Drive” sessions, where helmeted owners of road-going Ferraris were let loose on the 5.8km (3.9-mile) track that’s home to the Japanese Grand Prix. Passenger rides were also a feature, with many potential buyers climbing aboard a brace of professionally driven examples of 458 Italia and California.
Looking back at Ferrari’s unique place in automotive and design history, the Concorsa d’Eleganza by HUBLOT featured eighteen rare and important cars, the main attraction of which was a completely non-restored 250 GTO (Chassis Number: 4219 GT), which appropriately took the “Preservation Trophy.”
Equally impressive were early Ferrari examples, particularly the 340 America Vignale Spyder (1951), voted most popular, and the 195 Touring Berlinetta from 1950. However, it would be remiss to leave out even a single car from this impeccable grouping. From the imposing beauty of the 1957 250 GT TdF to the Best of Show-winning 250 GT SWB from 1961, the 250 GT California Spyder, 365 BB, 400 Superamerica, 365 GTB/4 Daytona, its predecessor the 275 GTB/4, and all of the remaining eight cars on display were equally worthy of mention.
Unfortunately, inclement weather kept the cars out of natural light – though this did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the onlookers. Another award winner among the group was the Ferrari Classiche-restored 206 Dino from 1968, as good an example of the model as one is ever likely to set eyes upon.
During Saturday’s press conference, Ferrari Asia Pacific President and CEO Herbert Appleroth announced that his company’s relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan last year had already raised over 80 million yen (approx. $1 million U.S.). Ferrari has focused its activities on the town of Ishinomaki, one of the most severely hit in the region, and a sister city to Ceviche Vecchia near Rome. Concentrating on the well being of children in the affected area, Ferrari’s contributions have already built two after-school care centres in Ishinomaki, with further developments planned. The company’s goal is to have raised 100 million yen by the end of the year.
Upon hearing of Ferrari’s charitable activities, the president of Swiss watchmaker HUBLOT Mr. Jean-Claude Biver immediately donated one of his company’s latest and most valuable timepieces to the cause. The item was auctioned off in that evening’s gala dinner, with 100% of the proceeds going to the relief effort.
In addition to what was a heavenly event for any car aficionado, the warmth and kindness of its chief protagonists was a reminder that it’s not just design and aesthetics that makes these brands so powerful; there is also an emotional and entirely human element that draws us.
Ferrari Racing Days Suzuka 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)