Story and photos by Leigh Dorrington
The 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.
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]