Classic Car Capital

N.A.R.T. Rivalries at Saratoga Fall Ferrari Festival

Story and photos by Leigh Dorrington

Saratoga N.A.R.T. PanelThe recent Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival honoring Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team also hosted a discussion among former N.A.R.T. participants, inspired by Bill Warner’s famously animated vintage racing discussions each year at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Participants included Luigi Chinetti Jr., former team manager Dick Fritz, drivers Denise Mcluggage, Gaston Andrey and Sam Posey, mechanics Francois Sicard and Roger Colson and photographer Tom Burnside. Master of Ceremonies Ed Lucas moderated the discussion.

N.A.R.T. entered over 100 drivers in races between 1958-1982 including Americans Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Richie Ginther, Dan Gurney and Sam Posey who got their earliest international experience in N.A.R.T. Ferraris. Other famous N.A.R.T. entrants included Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, World Champions Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt, Masten Gregory, Bob Bondurant and Mario Andretti.

Those in the audience came hoping to learn more about the storied N.A.R.T., who was Ferrari’s official entrant in North America and also entered Le Mans and other major European races—and they did.

Most learned N.A.R.T. was not the formal organization it appeared to be. N.A.R.T. operated as more of a family business, ably directed by Luigi Chinetti and his wife Marion. Often times, drivers knew only that they had agreed to race for Luigi Chinetti. They might learn what they were driving—and who they were co-driving with–only when they got to the track. This led sometimes to some interesting intra-team rivalries.

Dick Fritz, whose job was to manage all of the N.A.R.T. entries, described how N.A.R.T. entered six cars in the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona, including five different types of cars. Midway through the long race, one of the mechanics approached Fritz to tell him parts were disappearing from the pits. A financial backer of one N.A.R.T. driver wanted to be sure there were enough for his man to finish, and was stowing parts in the back of his rental car.

<strong>From left, Sam Posey, Roger Colson, Tom Burnside, Denise Mcluggage, Francois Sicard, Luigi Chinetti Jr., Dick Fritz and Master of Ceremonies Ed Lucas.</strong.
From left, Sam Posey, Roger Colson, Tom Burnside, Denise Mcluggage, Francois Sicard, Luigi Chinetti Jr., Dick Fritz and Master of Ceremonies Ed Lucas.

Another time, also at Daytona, Masten Gregory and Luigi Jr—known then as Coco—were sharing a car, and Gregory’s girlfriend as well. Fritz watched as the car sat overlong in the pit road following a driver change before storming out to see what was the matter. “He won’t give me the trailer key!” howled one protagonist, “And I’m not leaving until I have it.”

The team enjoyed its share of successes, including winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1965 with a Ferrari 250LM driven by Gregory and Jochen Rindt, followed just a week later with a victory in the 12 Hours of Reims in a Ferrari 365P2 driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guihet. Both of these Ferraris were on display at Saratoga.

Of all the N.A.R.T. accomplishments, however, it was clear that one stood above the others, and everyone seated at the table nodded when it was mentioned. In spite of their limited resources—N.A.R.T. entries were oftentimes criticized for appearing to be poorly prepared—not one driver was seriously injured or killed in a N.A.R.T. race car.

[Source: Leigh Dorrington, Saratoga Fall Ferrari Festival]

Show Comments (4)

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Great story and it seems that NART was campaigning Ferrari’s during the magic period of Long Distance Racing. It was interesting that he was the only team to field a formula one car in the 1960’s but it was for a short period of time. I hope more will be written about the Chinetti Family and their relationship with the Ferrari Factory as they did so much for marque.

    1. Frank,

      David Bull Publishing is currently developing a book on N.A.R.T. history, working closely with Luigi Chinetti Jr. Given the quality of DBP’s recent Ferrari and Porsche books, this is something to look forward to.

      Leigh Dorrington

  2. Does anyone at “Sports Car Digest” have any idea about how I might be able to contact Luigi “Coco” Chinetti ? Some years ago I painted a picture of the Ferrari Daytona that he and the late Bob Grossman drove at Daytona. The two of them signed an edition of prints of the car. I used to run into Coco at races and we would have a great time together. However, I have lost track of him and would like to contact him. If you have any leads, I would certainly appreciate your help. My e-mail address is: [email protected]
    Thank you,
    Tom Bucher

  3. “…not one driver was seriously injured or killed in a N.A.R.T. race car.”  However, did anyone ask about spectator deaths?  In 1966 at Sebring Mario Andretti was driving the #26 NART Ferrari 365 P2/3 on the warehouse straight when he began to downshift for the Webster Turn.  The shift gate broke throwing the car from fourth to first locking up the rear wheels at 140 mph.  Andretti began spinning on and off the track.  Don Wester in his Porsche 906 was right behind Andretti and tried to pass him but was struck and he also went into an uncontrollable spin that took him off the track and into an area where spectators were NOT supposed to be.  Unfortunately there was a father with his two sons and a mother of three in that area and they got clobbered by Wester’s Porsche and killed.  Andretti told me personally that he felt that the failure of the shift gate was due to lack of preparation of the car following the grueling 24 Hours of Daytona.  One week before the 1967 Sebring race Andretti, Wester and NART were sued by the family of some of those killed.  They were asking for $1 million.  Ferrari did not show up at Sebring in 1967 even though they came in 1-2-3 at Daytona in January.  Luigi Chinetti, Sr. was quoted as saying that he feared a “writ of attachment” if a lawsuit were filed that might prevent him from removing his cars from Florida until the suit was settled.