There are certain places in the world where motorsport and the passion for the automobile transcend the location itself. Quebec is one of these places. Not only has this Canadian province produced one of the most legendary names in the racing world (Villeneuve, in case you were wondering), it is also the permanent home of the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978.
With Quebec having such a historic bond with Formula One- it is no wonder that there is also a deeply rooted connection with Ferrari. Umberto Bonfa has the task of representing this brand in Eastern Canada as the President of Ferrari Quebec. GP Traveler sat down with Mr. Bonfa at the 2015 Ferrari Festival in Mont Tremblant to discuss cars, branding, and also a bit of history.
GPT: Tremblant is one of the great circuits, not only in Canada, but in the world…
UB: World renowned!
World renowned, yes… 1968, 1970, a lot of people don’t know that it was a Formula One track at one point.
The trucks used to drive up on dirt roads to get here with their race cars, imagine that!
So how important is this circuit in terms of motorsport culture in Quebec, and in Canada?
Without sounding too bias, I think it’s very easy to understand why this track is an important part of motor racing. Of course, being an original F1 track already gives you that heritage. How many legendary drivers actually raced here and risked their lives in the day for a championship. We’re really happy that it stayed a racetrack. This could have all been sold and turned into condos- I think there’s still some people in Mont Tremblant that want that to happen but as long as we stay strong and respect the environment this track is going to be around for a long, long time.
Michael Schumacher would come here and play with some cars… and he dubbed it as one of the best tracks in the world- the baby Nurburnring is what he actually called it. It’s one of those rare tracks that are in the woods, with elevation. Elevation tends to give you a whole other aspect of motor racing, it’s not just a flat track. There’s a lot of blind corners.
I think it’s really an incredible track, and it’s not only me saying it- you’ve got the racers that keep on voting and telling Ferrari North America, we’ve got to go back to Mont Tremblant. I think what also helps is the whole area. With all the beautiful hotels, the lakes, there’s a lifestyle here and the lifestyle that our clients have tends to the same lifestyle that Mont Tremblant has to offer- apart from the racetrack.
Can you tell us about the modifications that were done from the original track to the current configuration?
The important part was that it had to be FIA approved, so there had to have been some modifications done- just like a lot of older tracks, look at Monza for example. The cars got quicker, so apart from being quicker, it’s got to be safer, there needs to be more runoff, and so we had to adhere to those rules which I don’t think took anything away from the track, it’s just part of evolution. The cars got faster, the cars had to adapt.
This is sort of a home circuit for Ferrari Quebec and it’s clients. How important is it to get the clients here on this track?
This is the Ferrari lifestyle. i believe we’re probably the only dealership that has its own racetrack. We use it for customer events on private occasions. We have our clientele come up, we call it customer appreciation day. We have them come up with their cars, we have our instructors here, we have a full course in the morning. Then we do our lapping events. It’s all preventative driving, braking, slalom, corners. Once they’ve got to that point, after lunch we start doing the full circuit- and it’s amazing because everyone runs at their own pace. We split ourselves up in teams. It’s fun that you bought a 350,000$ Ferrari, and it’s fun that you went to the restaurant with it, but how do you explain the feeling of what you just bought and what that car is capable of doing on a racetrack. Then you could go home with the air conditioning on, 14 seconds later the roof opens, Bluetooth, and you’re home for supper. I think it’s better than going to play golf for the day.
It’s been a pretty good year for Ferrari in Formula One, compared to the year before that. Does the performance of the team in Formula One relate directly to sales?
Yes! Absolutely! Absolutely, it helps. You’re back in the newspapers, back in the news, back in the media. Maurizio Arrivabene is doing an incredible job. The drivers are amazing. The team is amazing. Maurizio said it in Budapest, ‘this is the team I wanted’. Do we want to be quicker? Yes. Do we want to win more races? Yes. There are other restrictions that can not be done in this year because of the engine freezes, but as a whole the team is now a team again.
We live in a world where brands are not sacred anymore, because of all the volatility in the marketplace, there is a lot of disruption. We’ve seen it in the service sector with hotels, an AirBnB come along and achieves as much as other brands that have taken decades to scale in the hospitality world. The same can be said for transit and a company such as Uber. Ferrari is an iconic brand, perhaps one of the most powerful in the world. Do you feel there could ever be this type of disruption in the automotive industry?
The automotive industry yes. For Ferrari, I believe that the people in charge understand what the brand is and what it signifies. I believe that as long as they understand, they should be untouchable.