This photograph was taken in May 1949 on the Via Abetone Superiore which runs from the center of Maranello up into the hills southwest of the town. The lower part of the same road the, Abetone Inferiore, runs directly past the main entrance to the Ferrari factory. In the early years at Ferrari the Abetone Superiore was used for a quick road test for Ferrari sports and racing cars. Even though important tests moved to the Aerautodromo in Modena beginning in 1950, the Abetone was still used for tests by the racing department and even today is sometimes used for road tests of production cars. The Abetone road itself is steep with a number of slow corners, typical for a narrow country road which runs up into nearby hills. At the time this test occurred the road was paved with cobblestones in the villages as can be seen here – very slick when wet as well.
Standing next to the car in the white cap is Enzo Ferrari with his designer Aurelio Lampredi to his right. Although the early Ferrari V12 had been the work of Giocchino Colombo and was a brilliant design which endured successfully for two decades, Colombo had returned to Alfa Romeo not long after his design work at Ferrari and Lampredi had been hired in 1947 to carry on both chassis and engine design work. In Ferraris words Lampredi was “Ferrari’s most prolific designer.”
The driver in this racing car appears to be Franco Cortese – seen at left rounding the same corner – who often drove for the Scuderia in the first few years and had several important successes in an early Ferrari car in 1947. Cortese’s racing career had begun in the 1920s and continued through 1940 until the war years forced him to stop. But he picked up again in 1946 and continued, many times driving Ferraris, until the late 1950s.
The car seen here is most likely a 166 Corsa, a two liter V12 Formula 2 car, although it could also be a 125 Corsa with a supercharged four camshaft 1.5 liter V12.
When visiting Ferrari, a drive up the historic Abetone Superiore to Serramazzoni is not to be missed.
Photos from the Archivio Corrado Millanta ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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