Luca Di Montezemolo’s 5 Greatest Moments and 5 Greatest Cars at Ferrari
Luca di Montezemolo has become a legend in the automotive industry. He was the man that helped lead a failing Ferrari into record profits, unsurpassed sales, and record-setting Formula One performances. Now after 23 years as the president of the Prancing Horse brand, Luca is stepping down next month. Thanks to differences between him and Sergio Marchionne, the head of Ferrari parent company Fiat, Luca has decided that his time with the Italian automaker needs to come to an end.
To celebrate what he has accomplished, I have compiled a small list of some of the memorable things that happened to the company while he was at the helm, as well as looking at five of the greatest cars that Ferrari produced during his tenure.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts on his leaving the company, your favorite Ferrari from the Montezemolo era, as well as your favorite Ferrari memories and moments. Let’s send this great man off with a celebration of what he has accomplished.
You will be missed.
1974 - Manager of Scuderia Ferrari F1
Luca’s first major position at Ferrari was as the manager of Ferrari’s Scuderia racing team. He took over this role in 1974. Just one year later, Ferrari took home the Formula One World Championship with the help of Driver Niki Lauda. They would repeat the feat again in 1977. From there, he left Ferrari to become the senior manager of Fiat. Two F1 World Championships and a significant promotion seem like a healthy start to a career.
1991 - Return to Ferrari; Righting the Ship
Enzo Ferrari stepped down from running the road car division of his company in 1971, and he passed in 1988. During this time, Ferrari had begun to struggle in both road cars and racing. Luca di Montezemolo went back to Ferrari as he was appointed president of the Italian company in 1991.
His first goal was to bring a Formula One World Championship trophy to Maranello. He immediately appointed Niki Lauda as a consultant and promoted team engineer Claudio Lombardi to team manager. Montezemolo also began a turnaround of the road car company, taking them from large to debt to a profitable business in just a few years.
1996 - The rise of Michael Schumacher
During the first few years of his presidency at Ferrari, Luca’s F1 team was only able to secure 3rd and 4th place finishes in the Constructor’s Championship. With the road division once again profitable, Ferrari had extra money for driving talent and research-and-development costs for its F1 cars.
The team hired the explosive and upcoming talent of Michal Schumacher. In his first year at Ferrari, Schumacher finished third in the driver’s championship and carried Ferrari to a second place finish in the Constructor’s standings. In 1999, just three years after signing Schumacher, Ferrari was once again the F1 Constructor’s World Champion. It would hold title continually until 2004, a new consecutive record.
After Schumacher retired, Ferrari would win two more World Championship titles in 2007 and 2008.
2000 – New Models and Massive Sales
Starting around the year 2000 Ferrari’s road division started cranking things up. Over the next few years, Montezemolo would oversee some of the company’s greatest road cars of all time. This surge of new and exciting cars would also see sales skyrocket. It is estimated that Ferrari as a brand has only sold around 130,000 cars in its entire lifetime. More than half of that number, nearly 79,000, have been sold since the year 2000. Ferrari had finally returned to its place as the kind of the automotive world thanks to the vision and guidance of Luca di Montezemolo.
2012 – The LaFerrari and Limited Sales
Luca’s last great moment in Ferrari history started in 2012. After more than a decade of sales increases and supercar domination, Luca makes that decision that Ferrari needs to start limiting its production to save the brand’s exclusive nature. In 1999 Ferrari sold 3,775 cars. By 2012, that number had nearly doubled to 7,318. Luca saw this is a recipe for disaster as the unique and exclusive nature of the Ferrari badge was being watered down by market saturation. To combat this, Luca declared that Ferarri would begin capping yearly production to just 7,000 units.
During this time, Ferrari was also preparing to release its most powerful and fastest road car ever, the LaFerrari. As Luca steps down from his position next month, Ferrari is the most valuable brand the world, has the most exclusive customers in the world, and it makes some of the most powerful cars in the world.
That is one hell of a legacy.
During his tenure at Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo oversaw the release of dozens of powerful and exotic machines that proudly wore the Prancing Horse on their noses. This is a look at five of the most important.
It may not be the prettiest, the fastest, or the most well-known Ferrari out there, but the 456 GT was important for one main reason. It had a V-12 engine crammed into its nose. The 456 was the first front-engine car that Ferrari had made since the 365 GTB4 in 1968. It had an aluminum body and styling by Pininfarina. This car is the reason we have machines like the Ferrari F12berlinetta today. For that one fact alone, it earns a spot in our list. Moreover, it was also the birth of an all-new V-12 engine. Ferrari had not developed a new twelve-cylinder unit since the flat “boxer” twelve of the 1970s.
If the 456 GT revived the front-engine GT Ferrari, then the 360 redefined the mid-engined Ferrari. The 360 Modena was more than a replacement for the F355. It debuted an entirely fresh and new style that dictated the brands visual trajectory for more than a decade, and it was the first Ferrari to be built completely from aluminum; the body, chassis and suspension was all made from the alloy. That meant the 360 was 40-percent stiffer than the old F355 and it weighed an astonishing 28-percent less. This car pioneered the extensive use of aluminum that Ferrari uses today in every one of its road cars.
The mighty F40 was the last car created that Ferrari Enzo himself had any input. It was launched just before his death, and it set a new world benchmark for performance, speed and exotic material construction with its carbon-fiber body. It came with a 6.0-liter, V-12 engine mounted behind the front seats and driving the rear wheels. It had 651 horsepower and 485 pound-feet of twist. It would hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and boasted a top speed of 221 mph. It was the fastest and most powerful street legal machine Ferrari had ever created. Only 400 were made, making them very rare and valuable today.
It also served as a base for many cars that were to come after. It was the backbone for the FXX racing car program, it served as a blueprint for the Maserati MC12, and it was used by Ferrari collector James Glickenhouse as the platform for his custom Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina.
The GTO badge is a very sacred set of letters that Ferrari had only used twice in its past. It is used to designate a homologation version of a racing car, and every car that has worn it was essentially a road legal racer. The 599 GTO was based on what Ferrari learned with the 599XX prototype cars. It used a modified version of the engine from the Enzo with 661 horsepower, but it was not quite as quick as the mid-engined monster that supplied its engine. The 0-to-60 sprint took 3.3 seconds and the top speed was only 208 mph. Still, this was a track car, so its forte was handling. It would make it around the Ferrari test track more than one full second faster than the Enzo could. For that, Ferrari called it “the company’s fastest ever road car.”
Ferrari made only 599 of these machines with about 125 coming to the States.
The LaFerrari is a car that needs no real introduction. It is one of the last cars to bear the Luca di Montezemolo seal of approval, and it is easily the most impressive machine that Ferrari created during his 23 years as chairman of the company. It is a modern hybrid supercar that makes use of a HY-KERS energy recovery system like the one used in Formula One cars. The KERS unit itself is only good for 161 horsepower, but that unit is bolted to a 6.3-liter V-12 that makes 789 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. When they are working in tandem, the total power output of the new LaFerrari is 950 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. Ferrari claims the 0-to-60 takes less than 3 seconds and the top speed hovers in the 220-mph range.
This car is essentially a rolling science experiment of F1 technology. The carbon-fiber monocoque was designed by Ferrari’s F1 technical director, and it features the third-generation E-Diff electronic differential.
As it stands, the Ferrari LaFerrari is the fastest and most extreme car ever to roll out of the factory. I don’t want to see Luca di Montezemolo leave, but the LaFerrari sure makes an impressive swan song.