Back in the day, the Ferrari Owners' Club in Los Angeles held monthly dinner meetings with invited guests as speakers. One of these was Franco Lini who, at the time, was the manager of the Ferrari Formula 1 team. Talking with him afterwards, I made mention of the fact that I would be at Monza for the Grand Prix of Italy. He said, "Come see me when you are there", which was all I needed to hear.
Fast forward to September. The Saturday was sunny and warm and though I only had tickets for the race on Sunday, what better way to spend the day than to visit Franco Lini during practice for the Italian Grand Prix? I called a cab and instructed the driver to take me to the Monza autodromo. He knew the way. When we got there, the driver wanted to drop me off, but I had other ideas. At the first gate, I told the security guard, "Franco Lini mi ha detto di venire" (Franco Lini told me to come). The man couldn't get the gate open fast enough. Incredulous, the driver drove through towards the pits. "Non c'è bisogno di fare i biglietti?" (Don't you need tickets?), he asked me. We'll see about that, I told him.
We approached a second blockade and, though I suspected I would be turned away as we were very close to the action now, I repeated the magic words, "Franco Lini mi ha detto di venire" and the gate was practically shoved off its hinges. There was one last obstacle in the form of a pedestrian gate into the paddock and pits compound. I left the taxi driver to decide for himself whether to stay and watch the Formula 1 cars practice or return to his duties and approached the security man who was restricting traffic through the gate and who I could see was nobody's fool. After I threw him the line his demeanor changed, the gate opened and, if my eyes didn't deceive me, he saluted (!!).
Now I'm in the paddock. There is John Surtees going into the office, Jackie Stewart going out in the March, Jo Bonnier arriving in his Mercedes. Too much to take in all at once. I make my way to the Ferrari pits where, believe it or not, Franco Lini remembered who I was. This surprised me more than anything else and he seemed delighted that his name had served as an all-access pass. Not wanting to impose any further, I left him to his work and took up a position where I could watch the cars from above as they accelerated out of the pits onto the track.
Later, I found myself standing in the paddock again wondering what to do next. I am peripherally aware of someone staring at me. I look at him and he continues to look at me. He is a familiar figure and my first impression is that he is someone I know. Then it dawns on me I am having some sort of nonverbal communication with none other than Enzo Ferrari himself. I'd heard he didn't attend races, but later learned that he did come to Saturday practice at Monza. In any event, there he was and he kept looking at me. I took this as an invitation and approached him.
I said, "Buon giorno. La mia GTO mi piace molto" (Good day. My GTO pleases me very much) to which he responded, "Sì" as if to say "How could it not?". He was curious about how I'd come to own a GTO, being little more than a teenager at the time, and as we spoke, Juan Manuel Fangio walked up and joined us. He smiled at me and listened politely as Ferrari and I conversed.
After a time, I took my leave and wondered at how easily this encounter with two of the greatest figures in auto racing had come about. The taxi driver would never have believed it.
They say you can fool some of the people all of the time. Accordingly, I think we should concentrate on this group initially. We can move on to the people you can only fool some of the time at a later date if we deem it necessary. I hope to hear back from my agent about this as soon as he's out of rehab, as I don't think my messages have been getting through."
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!, Episode 1
Ignorance is Bliss by Stephen Mitchell
Kindle or Paperback versions
Exerpt from Ignorance is Bliss
"Out of the corner of his eye, Martin saw Martha shift in her seat. She leaned forward, as though something was about to be decided. This caused her breasts to push up against the neckline of her dress in a way that couldn't be fully appreciated out of the corner of one’s eye. So, Martin turned his head to look directly into the abyss of her cleavage. He was vaguely aware that Murray was talking again."
Carrera Panamericana (1950-54)
Click on poster to buy the poster and DVD
Ferrari GTO 3987
Elysée Wednesday TV
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!
“You ought to meet Steve. The two of you have the same kind of Ferrari.”
Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso
One evening, I was enjoying a John le Carré novel and a glass of Bordeaux...
L'art de l'automobile
My first Lusso prior to restoration
It was only after Sinatra was gone...
Once upon a time...
Meeting Enzo Ferrari
I came across this on a late night stroll in Paris near the Louvre.
Simone Kussatz interviews Stephen Mitchell
(Click on photo)
(Interview) version française
Natasha Loizeau (Interview) version française
Stevie Williams (Interview)
David Gritten reviews (Interview)
At Cannes with Priscilla Lingenheim who taped a segment of (Interview) version française
Rebel, Rebel by Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 'Breadvan' trivia
Stephen interviews Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 250GTO by Stephen Mitchell
Ferraris on Mulholland
Ferrari GTOs at Willow Springs &...
Ferrari GTO in Paris
Kenny Lombino's 16M Scuderia
Stephen Mitchell talks with General Richard Wilmot (part 1)
In 1980, Stephen founded an entertainment industry think tank in the guise of a repertory company for film and
television labeled The New Hollywood Studio System. In 1985, Stephen pioneered a unique application of product integration in branded entertainment with his cable TV series (Interview). In 2006, Stephen authored a protocol for the management and marketing of business executives. He is currently producing a documentary on the Ferrari GTO, one of which he owned for several years.