Ferrari head to the United States intent on putting their Canadian disappointments behind them.
This weekend's race in Indianapolis comes just a few days after the Canadian Grand Prix and therefore represents the busiest ten days in the motor sport calendar for Ferrari in North America. The USA has given Formula 1 a mixed reception over the years, generally preferring the Indy and Nascar series in terms of popularity. Nevertheless, America has produced two world champions in the sport's blue riband category, the first of which, Phil Hill took his title at the wheel of a Maranello "monoposto" back in 1961. The other American title winner went by the rather Italian name of Mario, Mario Andretti that is.
Today, North America is Ferrari's biggest market in terms of sales, so these two weekends, having the team on site is evidently very important for the local markets. "For us, the US Grand Prix is part of the tradition on which Ferrari is based," says Maurizio Parlato, President and C.E.O. of Ferrari North America. "Its DNA is building and competing with racing cars and building road cars to support the racing activity which is the opposite of the way every other manufacturer is involved. The event in Indianapolis is therefore very important for US fans at a time when the F1 circus comes to America so the fans can see it up close and personal. There is a very strong F1 following among our client base and for them it is very important that there is a race in the States. Many of our clients attend this event and it is also important for our dealers of which we have 32 in the USA."
North America has been Ferrari's largest market for many years and there is a longstanding history of a relationship between Ferrari and America. In 2004, Ferrari celebrated 50 years of doing business in America and in many ways Ferrari would not be what it is without the American client base. Also some of the great names of Ferrari road cars come from the US, such as the Daytona, the California Spyder, proving there is a lot of history and heritage linking the company with its biggest market.
"In terms of statistics, we have had increasing sales in North America for the past fourteen years and last year we sold 1635 in the US and Canada which was a record, out of a total of 5671 cars globally and that is around a 30% contribution to overall sales," comments Parlato. "Both the Canadian and US Grands Prix are important for us with senior management and dealers in attendance, as well as clients and Ferrari clubs. It is a big event in every way. In Montreal, we also had the Ferrari Challenge which has been ongoing for the past 13 years in North America. It is very successful with 38 cars on the grid in Canada last weekend.
"We have six races in North America and it is a very important part of our marketing programme, as it involves customers fans and dealers. We also run driving clinics where Ferrari owners can bring their own cars for a concentrated weekend of tuition with the car in its natural environment on the race track. And this year for the first time some of the Challenge events will be televised and of course our guys come to the World Finals in Italy in October. The key to it all is that Ferrari believes in a one to one relationship with our clients. As we don't have so many we can have a close loyal and dedicated relationship."
In North America, the Prancing Horse clients are very loyal and the typical client has more than five cars and more than one Ferrari while more than two thirds of the clients are repeat buyers."
Repeating success is what Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will be hoping for this weekend. In the seven events held to date at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Ferrari car has emerged victorious on six occasions. With the championships so finely balanced, it is evident that this Sunday would be, to say the least, a good time for the team to return to the top step of the podium.