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Angry at Laura

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Who?

Phil Hill

What?

ATS 100

Where?

Spa

When?

1963 Belgian GP

Why?

Stop press: Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Michael Schumacher and Luca Badoer have left Ferrari to join the new Toyota outfit. They could no longer stand the presence of that Agnelli puppet Montezemolo prowling the paddock and interfering with race business.

Ludicrous scenario? We might agree with you there. But that's not far from what happened in 1961, the first year of the 1.5-litre era, which Ferrari dominated with its radical sharknose 156.

With the results coming in it should have been a happy season for the Scuderia but in typical Ferrari style the joy was clouded by internal fights and politicking. And come to that, by tragedy. All season Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, Giancarlo Baghetti and especially Wolfgang von Trips had been calling the shots on the track. Very much unlike today Ferrari did not interfere in the battle between its drivers so the championship took some time to get settled between Hill and Trips. In the end it would become a home affair, with the championship about to be decided at Monza, which seemed appropriate. It all turned into a nightmare, however, when on lap 2, approaching the Parabolica, "Taffy" tangled with the Lotus of Jim Clark, the Ferrari careering into several spectators lining the track. Safety measures were about as strict as on a seventies rally special stage - and fourteen of them were killed. So was Trips. Hill drove on to a hollow title.

For team manager Romolo Tavoni the death of Wolfgang von Trips was not the first he had to endure during his time at Ferrari. His career at the Ferrari race team had begun with death before he had even been to a race: in 1957, almost immediately after he was appointed, Eugenio Castellotti died in a practice crash at Modena. Shortly after, Fon de Portago and several spectators were killed at the Mille Miglia. That was a bit too much for Tavoni, who in fact asked Ferrari if he could go back to his old job at the factory. But the boss insisted that he stay on.

In 1958, two more race casualties had to be mourned: Musso getting killed in France in a race won by Hawthorn, and then Peter Collins was lost to the world only a few weeks later at the 'Ring. The press writing on Hawthorn's victory at Reims was heavily critisized by the magazine CiviltÓ Catolica: it said the win meant nothing because it was built on dead men. These cruel words really got to Enzo Ferrari who went to see a priest on his intention to quit racing. He was told that "God gives each of us a way - sometimes it is difficult, sometimes it is easy. You have chosen the difficult way - you must have the courage to follow it."

Collins' death totally shook up the Commendatore. The Englishman had been very close to Dino Ferrari and to Enzo it felt like he had lost a son. On the brink of another World Championship he was willing to dismantle his Grand Prix team there and then and merely continue with GT racing. It was through Hawthorn that Ferrari decided to continue, the Champion-elect taking a hardline approach to the job. "I am responsible for myself and I know the risks. If I don't have a Ferrari I will race another car, but I want to race a Ferrari for the rest of the season." It all came good at the last race, with Mike taking the title from Moss at the last gasp but sadly only enjoying his glory for a short amount of time, getting killed in a road accident a couple of months later.

In the light of the events of 1958, Tavoni was shocked by Enzo Ferrari's attitude towards Wolfgang von Trips' death three years later: it was totally opposite from the anguish Ferrari had felt when Collins died. Tavoni had good reason to believe Ferrari was faking his grief over Trips: a few days after the Monza tragedy Tavoni was ordered not to attend the German's funeral. The team manager was terribly upset by this unusual request as he had liked Trips enormously. Instead, Laura Ferrari - Enzo's wife - and Franco Gozzi should go.

This was pouring oil on a fire which had started to feel really hot during the season.

In the presence of respected team members such as Tavoni and Carlo Chiti, the 156 designer, the L-word had become an unmentionable curse. The L-word, if you didn't get it, was Laura. And she had this effect on you that comes to pass in episodes of Dallas or Dynasty from time to time. Having the Mrs mess with business affairs is never a sound proposition, soap operas invariably tell us. So to no one's surprise, that is exactly what the 1961 season turned into for Ferrari - a soap opera, with glory, betrayal and death all in one season. Swap oil for cars, add some Italian spice and you have Enzo "Jock Ewing" Ferrari and "Miss Ellie" Laura headlining Maranello The Soap Opera: Of Days Gone By. What happened?

For years Laura Ferrari had been a major shareholder in Ferrari SpA. But during the 1960 season she began to take interest in the Scuderia and came to visit the races. As it seems, she started to impose her shareholder value to the team management, questioning some of their decisions. Romolo Tavoni later revealed to Doug Nye that Mrs Ferrari spoke harsh words of him and Chiti to her husband - this of course didn't go down well with the crew.

Tavoni remembers: "In October we had big difficulty after her return from the funeral in Germany. We had a big discussion and we were all so unhappy that we wrote a letter to Mr Ferrari asking that Mrs Ferrari should stay out of the factory. He was very offended and at our weekly meeting he said: 'If this is how you feel, there is the door, here is your money - OUT!' This was typical of Ferrari, who found it impossible to admit that we were right."

And the World Champion had his own view of the entire affair. Yes, it's that soap opera again: "The whole Trips thing was a big trauma. I was with Ferrari for days afterwards, and there was all this 'Oh, what are we going to do?' kind of stuff. You can't imagine what it was like. It seemed like everybody in the damn country was milling around Maranello, and there's Enzo Ferrari, with three days' beard growth, and wearing bathrobes all day - he'd been through it lots of times, and I always felt he regarded his drivers like a general thinks of his soldiers. Insofar as he was fond of any driver, I guess he was fond of Trips but... Ferrari was a great actor, you know. Did he go to the funeral? No, he didn't. He sent the old lady..."

In the end, eight key members of the team walked out. It didn't take long before a consortium of businessmen, headed by Count Giovanni Volpi (of Scuderia Serenissima fame), signed on Tavoni and Chiti to form the SocietÓ per Azioni Automobili Turismo e Sport Serenissima. Along the way there were some temperamental hiccups as Volpi bowed out and took the Serenissima name along. The name was changed to Automobili Turismo e Sport.

It didn't bring any change to the challenge which was to build a car that would take on the all-conquering Ferraris. Although the car was unveiled late 1962, looking sleek and smart, the team missed several races before the ATS 100 finally appeared at Spa in 1963, in the hands of Ferrari refugees Hill and Baghetti.

By that time, the original challenge had become null and void. Ferrari had committed suicide by throwing out the brains of the Scuderia and were totally leapfrogged in 1962, while the Tipo 100 itself was outdated come 1963. The Monaco organisation surely didn't expect that as they gave Hill and Baghetti starting numbers 1 and 2 before the team withdrew...

During the spring of 1963 an extensive but generally fruitless testing programme was carried out by Jack Fairman before Hill and Baghetti could muster the opposition in cars with a distinctly sloppy finishing. The result of that brief investigation was that the British Climax-powered teams were way up ahead on the road and that the 100, with its sleek nose and notably high engine cover, was a disaster.

Less than two years after his Championship, Hill saw his F1 career grind to a halt, the same applying to Baghetti after you have replaced the word "championship" with "mercurial rise to fame after winning his first three F1 races". The ATS team fell apart in September 1963, a handful of months after Spa had proved that their 1962 homework had been poor.

As disasters always come in two, the world wasn't done yet with the ATS 100. Wizard mechanic Alf Francis acquired Baghetti's example and turned it into a Frankenstein monster called the Derrington-Francis. But that's another story...

Reader's Why by Robert Blinkhorn

When you read the title "World Champion" what does it tell you about the man? It usually goes without saying that the guy is quick. There is also normally a feeling that the man knows his way around an engine or a chassis. Does the word 'smart' pop into your head? Not always. The case for the defence is made even harder when they make decisions to drive machines that turn out to be as god-awful as the ATS 100.

Perhaps I'm not being fair. After all when Phil Hill made the decision to join the newly formed ATS team he thought he was getting a good deal. On paper the outfit looked very impressive indeed. At the helm sat the renowned engine designer Carlo Chiti - of 'shark-nosed' Ferrari fame - and former Ferrari team manager Romolo Tavoni. The cash was from the coffers of some of Italy's wealthiest families. Add to that mix a whole host of ex-Ferrari men and it soon begins to look like we are getting a team that could soon cut Ferrari down to size.

How different the real world is from the paper version. 1961 had ended with Ferrari on top of the world. Phil Hill had just secured the world title, the red cars were the envy of the rest of the field and the British outfits of BRM and Lotus were still struggling to get to grips with the new regulations. However all was not well in the fiefdom which is Maranello. Many of the staff had grown used to dealing with the hot-bed of intrigue and the political machinations of the various factions and although they didn't like it, they were willing to endure it.

Things finally reached a head when Laura Ferrari began to stick her nose into the business. Some of the top men delivered an ultimatum to Il Commendatore - 'Let us work in peace or we quit'. In typical dictatorial fashion Enzo ignored the problem and so at the end of the season six of Ferrari's top men quit to form a new team. Societa per Azioni Automobili Turismo Sport Serenissima was born.

Chiti immediatley set about designing an F1 car. The aim was to be ready by the end of 1962. When that was completed they would build a GT machine which would also storm towards world domination. That was the theory. In typical Italian style the gang fell out very quickly and as a result one of the backers, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misturi, quit and took the name Serenissima with him. It would re-emerge a few years later as an engine supplier to McLaren.

Unthwarted by the financial setback Chiti soldiered on and at the end of 1962 - totally on schedule - he unveiled his machine. It was lovely. Small, compact and looking very much like a Ferrari the ATS 100 looked as if it would actually carry out the threat to challenge Enzo's team. That threat received greater credibility when it was announced that Hill and rising star Giancarlo Baghetti would drive for the team. Surely Enzo must have experienced a few sleepless nights as the new season grew closer.

The normal convention of F1 teams of the day was to spend the first few months of the year contesting non-championship races to hone their skills and test the reliability of their machinery. This didn't happen with ATS. Nor did they attend the opening race of the season in Monaco.

When the team finally arrived at a circuit - Spa - the cars raised a few eyebrows up and down the pitlane. Instead of the highly professional machines seen previously they were a mess. Badly painted aluminium had replaced the neat bodywork and most of the various panels seemed to be held on by little more than chewing gum and good luck. It was soon apparent that all the work during the closed season had been to little avail and when the cars took to the track Hill was the quicker of the two, but he was some 11 seconds off the pace. Neither car survived beyond half distance.

They didn't do much better at the next race at Zandvoort. The team opted to skip the next two races, to continue their development, but when their transporter crashed en-route to the Nurburgring they also missed out on the German Grand Prix. The cars weren't seen again until Monza where they actually finished the race although Hill was 11 laps down in 7th place while Baghetti was four places and a further 14 laps behind his team mate. In the last two races of the year the car both retired with all sorts of problems.

As a result of their poor showing Chiti and his boys elected to call it a day and the team was wound down. One of the cars did appear once more on a GP circuit when it was entered under the name Derrington-Francis at Monza in 1964. It lasted just 24 laps.

As for Chiti he went on to achieve some success with Autodelta, the sporting arm of Alfa Romeo in both sports car and Grand Prix racing. As for the drivers; Hill got himself a works drive with Cooper for 1964 but both he and the Cooper Car Company were beyond their best by then. A final effort came at Monza in 1966 when he failed to qualify one of Dan Gurney's Eagles. He is still around the motoring scene today and can regularly be seen attending the Goodwood and Coys Festivals. Baghetti fared little better finding himself with Scuderio Centro Sud for the 1964 season. By 1967 the promise he had shown with his victory in France in 1961 had simply evapourated. Eventually he moved into journalism and spent the rest of his life photographing beautiful women draped across lovely cars.

Maybe he was the smartest of the bunch.