Thank You for the Days: The Day a Ferrari F1 legend stole my desk!

In a new series of features Sniffer remembers times past in the often bizarre world of Motorsport!

We’ve all had bad starts to the working-week haven’t we? Perhaps a late Monday morning commuter train? Some berk carving you up on the ring road? Or perhaps a cup-of-coffee cascading on to your brand new laptop?

One day in May, 2009, I had a very bad/surreal start to a working week. Actually, surreal is definitely the operative word!

Lola in May 2009 was an F1-fixated maelstrom of a company. But one which on the face of it, was seemingly under the control of ‘others’, of which we did not know! Spooky to un-refined and in-experienced F1 types like us, at the time!

The Lola F1 effort was very real, unlike say the USF1 debacle. Lola had employed ex-Super Aguri, Red Bull and McLaren technical talents; invested in a new assembly area and long since started an aero-programme. There was an air of quiet positivity at the place, but at the same time some apprehension existed, especially as to the magnitude of what was then taking place in Huntingdon. But, we were all up for it, and also relishing the prospect of taking it to Force India and Torro Rosso in 2010.

I was working on the communications plan for the F1 team. Along with a well-known F1 personality, who was drafted in to manage the commercial aspect, I was relishing the challenge of a lifetime. We had a Lola F1 website ready to go. But more importantly we were technically on target to test the car just before Christmas. We had at least 50% in place by May 2009. For the 2010 F1 season it looked good. Very good. Takuma Sato and Adam Carroll were mooted as drivers. That sounded good to me.

Monday 11th May was bright and sunny. The chassis ‘buck’ was being worked on for the ergonomics of the MB01 (in deference to Lola owner, Martin Birrane) and it seemed that Lola F1 was a shoe-in to be selected as one of the three new teams. I had heard rumours of extra staff arriving that morning and among them was a former Ferrari F1 team manager. Gulp!

So it was that I parked my bike, showered and freshened -up. I shovelled in some cereal and then marched through to the office and my desk, which I had frequented for almost seven years. I wiped a bead of post-shower sweat from my brow, adjusted my shirt collar and went to take my seat, as I had done over a thousand times before. Except this time someone was sat in my seat! “Odd,” I thought.

As I approached, the face I recognised glared back at me. Then, I recognised that the rumour which had been whispered to me in the corridors a week before might just be real.

“Jesus!” I muttered under my bran-flake breath. “Daniele Audetto is sat at my desk. What the hell do I do now?

And he was, he really was there, at my desk. All leather skin and ‘silver fox’ bouffant hairdo. What was the team manager of my heroes; Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve doing on an Industrial Estate in Huntingdon? And more importantly, what was he doing at my bloody desk?

Ciao Daniele! – Photo courtesy of Motorsport.com

“Ciao,” came the laconic, waxy voice.

“Or-reet,” I uncouthly retorted, Northern vowels naturally perplexing our tanned, urbane hero/anti-hero, or whatever he fancied being that day!

“You are Sam, no?”

“Yes sir (Sir, really?),” I know who you are, Signor Audetto,” I said, trying to play it cool and continental.

“Dan-yell-eeee, please,” he said with a flick of his satin vocal-chords.

“Pardon?”

“My name is Dan-yell-eee.”

A wretched and indescribable atmosphere hung in the air. I didn’t like it.

“Ermmm,yes. Have IT plugged you in yet,”?  I asked, with all the aplomb of a total oaf.

The conversation was stilted. Think Ian Hislop coming across Jeffrey Archer in a service-station. It was never going to go far this, was it?

I became moved; literally and figuratively. The ‘silver fox’ had already settled in to his ‘set’ and I went in to the placid-sanctuary of the Design Office, much to the mirth of my friends and colleagues.

In the kitchen at ‘play time’ a few of us giggled like schoolgirls about an ex-Ferrari Team Manager pinching my desk and the frolics that could follow. We knew that eventually our ‘down to earth ways’ would win the ‘silver fox’ over. He would swap Chianti Rufino for a pint of Adnams Broadside soon enough, wouldn’t he? Oh yes, we were going to be best pals and we would rub shoulders with an F1 legend in 2010. Surely?

We wouldn’t. Daniele didn’t return on the Tuesday. We didn’t know why. We were never told why. Theories abounded. ‘He was working for FOM and was Bernard’s eyes and ears’; ‘He was not impressed with what we had in facilities and instantly wanted out, etc, etc.”

In my mind he just probably didn’t like ‘Adnams Broadside’ after all?’

Whatever, he was gone. And it was before most at Lola had even met him and that was a shame. At least I had, albeit rather awkwardly. He seemed like someone you would grow to like and always respect. A shame.

Still, we had F1 to look forward to, didn’t we? No, we didn’t! That was A REAL SHAME.

Huge prospects and potential went unrealised. But that, as they say, is very much a different story to tell. And tell it I shall….in time!

 

Who is Daniele Audetto?

Daniele Audetto has been involved in motorsport since 1968. Initially a rally co-driver for Luca Di Montezemolo and others, Daniele rose through the FIAT ranks and became team manager of the Ferrari F1 team in 1977. He was promoted to the head of all FIAT motorsport activities at the end of 1977.

After 4 years with FIAT, Daniele branched out in to the commercial and corporate world, masterminding Ragno’s sponsorship of Arrows from 1981-2 and then became a major force at Lamborghini in the mid-1980. Overseeing Lambo’s V12 F1 engine programme he became a key figure in their emergence as a consistent points scorer in late-80’s F1 and with Lola as a chassis provider to Larousse F1, results were forthcoming.

A move in to Super Bikes in the mid-90’s with the Power Horse energy drink brand soon transferred the company to F1 firstly with Ligier and then Arrows, along with reigning World Champion, Damon Hill for 1997.

Daniele moved on to Arrows, Super Aguri and HRT before a bizarre cameo at Lola for one whole day (including a lunch of ham/cheese sandwich, crisps and a Golden Delicious apple, purchased from Tesco’s, close to Lola’s!).

With thanks to Joe Saward for background knowledge of DA. Follow Joe at www.grandprix.com

This entry was posted in Sports cars. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>