Friends and colleagues


Mike had a considerable circle of male friends, both in England and in Italy.  Apart from a few friends from his schooldays, such as John Nunn and Harold Dawes, virtually all of them were engineers, other racing drivers or people linked in some way with the world of motor racing.   His English engineer friends included Tim Fry and Peter Nott, his colleagues at Rootes, Alec Issigonis, Alex Moulton, Michael Christie, David Fry, and Geoff Williamson.  The English friends he met through racing included Tommy Sopwith, Col. Ronnie Hoare, Jack Sears, Graham Hill, David Piper and Dick Wilkins.  Among the drivers those he frequented most off the track were Ludovico Scarfiotti, Umberto Maglioli, Lorenzo Bandini, Chris Amon, Jean Guichet, Jonathan Williams and Willy Mairesse.  His other Italian friends included Gino Finelli and Ludovico di Cossato, who had helped him buy the Beechcraft Baron.  Other important people in his life were those he worked with: the mechanics, testers and engineers at Ferrari, his secretary and friend Brenda Vernor, the car body stylist Sergio Pininfarina, the Modena coachbuilder Scaglietti, Mike’s staff at Scuderia Filipinetti, his colleagues at Lancia and the drivers of the Lancia Rally team.  Given his hectic lifestyle, always moving around, it was actually quite difficult to keep in touch with people and meet up with them regularly, but when he could fit it in he loved to get together with friends over a meal.

He also had quite a few girlfriends, over the years, who turned up in Modena from time to time.  In fact, this was a constant subject of banter from il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari.  So long as he was still racing, Mike did not feel it was right to burden a wife with the stress of living with a racing driver; in any case, he enjoyed being totally free to do what he wanted when he wanted.  Towards the end of his life, when he was leading a more settled life in Turin, he came round to the idea of marrying and in fact at the time of his death he was engaged to Penelope Dowson, whose father George Dowson had worked with Alec Issigonis to develop the “lightweight special” during the 1930’s and 40’s.

His favourite blonde was his Labrador dog,  Fred (Federica really –she was female), which he acquired in England after his accident in 1967.  Fred became his inseparable companion – in the office, in his plane, and on trips to other European countries (but not England, because of quarantine requirements).  After a few years he got a second Labrador, Whisky, also cream-coloured, as company for Fred.  He was amazed by Fred’s navigational abilities: when flying back to Modena, she always knew when they were nearing home, and would perk up and start looking out of the window of the plane.