Mike’s role at Ferrari

His life at Modena was just as busy as it had been in England.  In a 1967 interview with “Motor Racing” he described his working hours: “My normal hours are from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon and then from 1.00 pm to 7.00 pm, plus 8.00 am to noon and often on to after 4.00 pm on Saturdays.  I don’t think anybody would work so hard unless they really enjoyed it, and although sometimes one has the most appalling problems, I believe that fundamentally people only do what they really want to.”
He explained his role as follows: “My work is divided into two clear-cut sections (as is the factory) concerning racing cars and production models.  I carry out development testing on the prototypes and F1 cars for the racing factory, and then race both of them [from 1966 onwards he also raced in Formula One].  I am responsible for the experimental department as well, and this entails being involved in a new production car right from where it starts on the drawing board to the point where the first prototype is made, developed and tested, and then when the first replicas start to come off the production line.   This also involves making spot tests of production cars to ensure that the standards established on the prototypes are being maintained in the production run”.  In those days the production car assembly line was almost a craft industry.  In 1963 the factory manufactured 598 production cars and the numbers only began to increase substantially from 1970 onwards, after Fiat came into the business.

One of his miscellaneous tasks was to demonstrate production Ferraris to illustrious clients – as a result he got to meet some celebrities, such as Marcello Mastroianni and the King of Belgium.  Sometimes they discovered that the excitement of a spin with a racing driver was rather more than they had bargained for.  On one occasion after a while his passenger said: “Would you mind stopping the car for a moment? I’d like to get out!” After descending from the car, as he closed the door he added:” Thanks, you carry on, I’m going back to Maranello on foot”.

On another occasion he went with Franco Gozzi to deliver a new Ferrari to the Shah of Persia, who was staying in Florence.   They were driving along the autostrada when Mike said to Gozzi: “What is the record for racing underground?” When they got to the two tunnels between Roncobilaccio and Barberino di Mugello, which are almost in a straight line, he went flat out, touching a speed of 279 kmh (173 mph).  They were received by the Shah in his suite at the Hotel Villa Medici, consisting of the whole of the first floor which had been temporarily redecorated in thousand-and-one-nights style.

Next: Life in Modena