Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Italy

My boyfriend has very kindly written a short piece on his time at Italian racetrack Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. His enthusiasm has sparked my own obsession, not only with Formula 1, but also for the history of motorsport and cars in general. What makes it even more interesting, though, is the travel aspect that encompasses the sport, as it gives people the opportunity to visit countries all over the world while enjoying the Grand Prix, and they get a taste of culture along the way.

This particular track takes precedence this weekend, however, because of the tragic events that occurred 22 years ago. The deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna shocked the world in 1994, and the legacy, especially that of Senna, live on in the drivers who race today. Since I was forced into watching Asif Kapadia’s biographical film about Senna, I have admired the man. It was his personality, passion and philosophy that captured my interest in Formula 1, and I really hope I can visit this racetrack one day, so I can pay my own respects to one of the greatest drivers in history.

In May 2015, I visited Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari as a guest of Peter May, who is a friend and talented Motorsport photographer, mostly on the Sportscar scene. This time around, the European Le Mans series was in Central Italy for the third annual 4-hour race.

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The track is generally referred to as ‘Imola’, after the nearby town, and is widely remembered as the setting for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the black weekend which saw two drivers die, another injured, and two further incidents causing injuries to mechanics and spectators. I was ten years old, and had only started taking an interest in Formula One racing at the end of 1993 so this was one of my earliest Motorsport memories. Despite hosting the race without incident for a further 12 years, I never warmed to it, but saw the invite as a chance to put my negative feelings to bed.

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Firstly, Imola is located around 25 miles from Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy boasting some beautiful rolling countryside and vineyards. The local architecture is classically Italian, oh, and it’s not located in the Republic of San Marino; the relationship is a bit of artistic licence as Italy already had an established Grand Prix.

On a warm Friday evening, I took a walk with the teams and drivers around the 3-mile circuit. The elevation changes, the views, the wooded areas, the houses, hotels, and farms surrounding the track  make this a “proper circuit” worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of the much-loved Spa in Belgium.

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Early on the Saturday morning I walked alone into the wooded area where the bronze statue of Ayrton Senna sits in reflective head-down pose on the inside of the Tamburello corner where he died at the age of 34. The sun crept through the trees while only the sound of birdsong broke the silence where I stood. There are masses of flags, tshirts, messages, and photographs pinned to the catch fencing for the 3-time World Champion. At the Tosa corner, the Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger, 33, lost his life less than 24 hours before Senna but in powerful contrast has a solitary fresh rose tied to the gate in front of his memorial.

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Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of that fateful weekend that turned Imola into a dirty word for a generation of fans, including myself. Formula One has now been absent for a decade, but I for one would now welcome its return.

Peter Greaves

Posted in Europe, Travel.

19 Comments

  1. I had no idea this happened. I don’t know much about racing, so I’m glad to know that there are still fans who honor the memory of those who loved the sport so much. I hope, in time, Imola will become a happy word instead of a dirty one.

  2. It’s so nice to see the memorial to Senna, and how so many fans still honour his memory. I didn’t know that there was another death the day before, which I guess is echoed in the differences of their memorials. It’s a sad fact that not everyone is honoured the same way in death.

  3. I had no idea about this story. I have only watched Formula 1 off and on, if someone in my family was watching. It’s beautiful that the town has a memorial to honour those affected in the accidents in 1994. It’s a sad tragedy, but hopefully one day Formula 1 can return to Imola on a much more positive note.

  4. My husband is also a motorsports fan but he is into motorbikes not cars. We haven’t been to a race yet overseas but he has visited aphillip Island (Victoria Australia) many times. It would be a dream to get to Italy and see a race as well as all the other sights on offer.

  5. As a complete newbie to racing, this is the first time I’ve heard of these tragic deaths, so thanks for sharing. While I do find it a bit sad to see the contrast between the two memorials, it’s still heartwarming to witness the affect that Senna has on fans to this day.

  6. I remember seeing a documentary about the tragic accident that happened there and the life and death of Ariton Senna. He was a big name in the Formula 1’s history. I think that visiting the autodromo always has an emotional part, due to his death.

    • Yeah, the documentaries about him are really, really sad! Especially the movie doc that I discussed in the post.

  7. Im not familiar with Formula One but it was interesting to learn more about the sport and it’s affects ok it’s fans. I thought this was written very well and I too hope the memory of Formula One can actively & positively return.

  8. I have not much ideas on racing but heard great things about Formula One – of course. It is really sad to know that something bad as death happened almost at same time. Getting to know about such a tragic event after 20+ years is really sad. I also hope Formula one comes back and I may also get to experience its craziness.

  9. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about car racing in Italy but your post was certainly enlightening. I think a visit to the track could be very exciting. Is it expensive?

  10. I’ll hold my hands up and say I know nothing about Formula 1. I do know a bit about Senna, and now would like to watch the film you mentioned. I’m in Italy frequently, but haven’t heard of Imola or this track, really sounds cool to visit!

  11. Although I am not a motor racing fan as such, I certainly appreciate the thousands of people who are and the legacy of a icon like Senna. While his death (and that of Roland Ratzenberger) was terrible, it is at least good that they have been recognized and that the sport still attracts a strong following in various locations.

  12. I have never been into racing too, but reading about your post has prompted me to keep an open mind about it. I have watched races on TV but only did so casually. I think it might be more interesting to watch live on the race track since you can really feel the excitement and thrill of high-speed racing!

  13. I had no idea this had happened. I honestly dot follow car races but I do understand the excitement behind them. Next time I am in Italy I should look for this place to read more and experience it on my own.

  14. We aren’t much into sports or car races so have no much idea about the story but reading through your post was a heart touching experience. We would love to explore much of Italy countryside on next visit.

  15. This sounds like an interesting place to visit – it’s fascinating to hear the history of the place. I love visiting places that teach me something new too. I would like to experience car racing one day!

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