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Ferrari and Pirelli:
A Long History of Victories

On 12 March 1947, engineer Enzo Ferrari fired up the 12-cylinder engine on his Ferrari 125 S: the first model built by “his” car manufacturing company. That unique road sports car – bright red, with a “barchetta” body – was in practice the Ferrari company’s official birth certificate, paving the way for a history of motor racing that, over and over again, would cross paths with Pirelli and its “victory tyres”. The first 125 S roadster was indeed immediately followed by the racing version, and the path towards the racing circuits of the world had now been traced out. The drivers Franco Cortese and Nino Farina took the 125 out onto the track for the first time on the Piacenza circuit on 11 May 1947 – and this was immediately followed by the Caracalla circuit for the Rome Grand Prix. This brought he first victory, with Cortese at the wheel. In July that year, it was the legendary Tazio Nuvolari who took the Ferrari 125 S to victory, paradoxically bringing about its end, for it was soon replaced by the 125 F1, which in 1948 ushered Ferrari into the elevated spheres of the Formula Grand Prix, which is to say what a couple of years later, in 1950, would become known as Formula 1. With Raymond Sommer at the helm, the 125 F1 posted an excellent result in the 19th Italian Grand Prix on 5 September at the Parco del Valentino in Turin: the great pre-war antagonists, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, were now within striking distance.

These were the glorious years of Pirelli Stella Bianca tyres, which for over two decades had placed Italian cars on podiums around the world, from Europe to South America. These were the “victory tyres” that would naturally accompany Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, and Maseratis in the new world of Formula 1. In 1950, the Ferrari 125 F1 racing cars came with a trio of drivers – the veterans Gigi Villoresi and Raymond Sommer, accompanied by a promising thirty-two-year-old named Alberto Ascari. It was Ascari who took the “Maranello Red” to second place that year in the Monaco Grand Prix: it was beginning to become quite clear that the history of Pirelli in motorcar racing would still have many chapters to write. Another success, a second place behind Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo, gave Ascari and Ferrari a place on the podium that naturally left room for more to come. The 1950 season brought to an end the Ferrari 125 project: the car was sold to a private individual, Peter Whitehead, who remained faithful to its Pirelli Stella Bianca tyres and continued to race in F1 also in the following season. Ingegner Enzo Ferrari was already looking to the future when Ascari came in second in Monte Carlo: his mind was on a brand-new 12-cylinder model with an engine of more than 3 litres. This was to be the 275 F1, which made its debut in Belgium in 1950, again with Alberto Ascari at the wheel. A fifth place at Francorchamps – with the drivers Fangio, Fagioli and Farina, the “three Fs”, always in the top three places in their Alfas – was in any case encouraging. The career of a Ferrari, the first Ferrari of all, came to an end and that of another scion of the Prancing Horse was about to begin. For Pirelli, yet more cups to put on a shelf already stacked with trophies.

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