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Eddie Cheever Ferrari test drive


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#1 RStock

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:09

Someone has been telling me that Eddie Cheever was "Ferrari's test driver" for 1977. They also say he was called back in '78 for more tests because Gilles was "struggling" at Ferrari.

They use this obscure story as proof.


Courting sponsors is second nature to Cheever, 40. Born in Arizona, he moved to Italy at 4, when his father opened a chain of fitness centers across Europe. Little Eddie soon earned his racing stripes, winning the European and Italian go-cart championships at 15. His formal schooling ended two years later when he signed a $50,000 contract to test-drive racers for Ferrari.

http://www.businessw...41/e3599024.htm


As far as I know Cheever had one audition test in '77, along with Gilles and De Angelis but I don't know of anything further than that.

They also say Ferrari was looking to replace Gilles with Patrese after '78 and again in '79.

Does anyone know more on this?




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#2 Bruno

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:32

Someone has been telling me that Eddie Cheever was "Ferrari's test driver" for 1977. They also say he was called back in '78 for more tests because Gilles was "struggling" at Ferrari.

They use this obscure story as proof.




As far as I know Cheever had one audition test in '77, along with Gilles and De Angelis but I don't know of anything further than that.

They also say Ferrari was looking to replace Gilles with Patrese after '78 and again in '79.

Does anyone know more on this?




at Fiorano, Settember 1977
http://brunodaytona6..._cheever_1.html

http://brunodaytona6..._cheever_3.html


#3 Derwent Motorsport

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 12:49

The quote implies he signed the Ferrari contract when he was 17!

#4 Tim Murray

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 13:38

There were negotiations going on between Cheever and Ferrari, but it's not clear whether any contract was ever signed. It seems fairly certain that Enzo wanted Cheever to drive for him in the non-championship F1 race at Imola in September 1977, which was eventually cancelled. Some say that the negotiations broke down because Enzo was miffed that Cheever brought a lawyer with him to Maranello. Others say that a contract was offered by Ferrari but turned down by Cheever. A third group says that a contract was signed, but Cheever later withdrew from it. See these earlier threads:

Eddie Cheever (merged)

Ferrari 1977-78

When Enzo almost sacked Gilles to keep Lole

Non championship F1 races at Imola - 1963 , 1977 and 1979

It would be nice if we could now get to the bottom of this.

#5 john winfield

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 16:01

That would be good indeed as I believe there has been a lot of PR stuff going on around Cheever - mostly made up by himself, or whom for him - when he was in the minor formulae. He did some good things, but a closer scrutiny would show that both in F3 and F2 he was not at Patrese's and Giacomelli's levels, respectively. Or even De Angelis and Gabbiani the year later.


I always enjoyed seeing Patrese race the beautiful F2 Trivellato Chevron but, and I've done no scientific analysis, I recall Cheever outdriving Riccardo on several occasions in 1977. Rouen for example. Patrese may have proved the better long-term Grand Prix bet, but did he really outshine Cheever in Formula 2?


#6 D-Type

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 16:05

I gather that in respect of reportingh motor racing, and in particular events surrounding Ferrari, the Italian popular press tends to follow the dictum "Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story". I am therefore always very sceptical of any of these minor stories originating there. I suspect that the Business Week story may have its origins there - at least the 'talking up' of a straightforward young driver test into a $50 000 testing contract.

#7 D-Type

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 16:52

I agree with you - to an extent. The coverage in the British 'red tops' of stories concerning messrs Hamilton, Button, Mansell, Hunt, etc, or for that matter football anfootballers, has been, shall we say, 'creative' at times but by all accounts, this has not been nearly as 'creative' as the Italian press.

Who would have an interest in generating such stories? Not only Cheever , but anyone with an interest in selling papers - proprietors, advertisers and even journalists.

#8 D-Type

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 19:36

On what basis you say that is beyond me, as I have been living here in the UK for more than fifteen years and I can't a see a difference between the two press establishments, motorsport in primis. But if thinking that makes you feel better...

I have to admit that I am basing this on what others have written about the Italian popular press and not on personal knowledge.

And seriously - and here I finish as I have got to go - who cared about Cheever in 1977/78 in Italy or even Italian motorsport circles??

Maybe they weren't interested in Cheever, but surely the readership were interested in any news concerning Ferrari.

#9 jj2728

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 22:19

They also say Ferrari was looking to replace Gilles with Patrese after '78 and again in '79.
Does anyone know more on this?


I was living in Italy back then and I don't recall any talk of Patrese replacing Villeneuve and certainly not after either season in mention.

#10 RStock

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 22:58

Villeneuve, for what I remember, never had an one-off test with a Ferrari before he was summoned to Maranello and signed to replace Lauda.


Yes, I should not have included Gilles in the audition test drive. I have never heard that either. From what I know, he was signed straight from McLaren.

And thanks for the replies so far everyone. I knew Cheever had been given the one audition test, but was not aware of any more. And I was sure Cheever had never been a "Ferrari test driver".

It seems silly to me also that Ferrari would have considered replacing Gilles in '78. He had kept good pace with Reutemann even early on, plus made podium and won by years end.

To have considered replacing Gilles in '79 seems even more silly. He would have won the championship if not for Jody.

Oh, and as for "gutter press", from what I have seen, no country is any worse than the next. The US ranks right up there with any of them.

#11 Ralliart

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:21

Caption for photo in "Flat 12" by Alan Henry, "Eddie Cheever tests a Ferrari 312T2 at Fiorano on September 15, 1977 in anticipation of a non-championship Formula One race at Imola which, in fact, was not to take place that year after all. Cheever was subsequently offered a Ferrari contract, but declined it."

#12 Giraffe

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 06:32

When I interviewed Eddie Cheever at Goodwood lin 2011 for my project, he told me that he had signed a contract for Ferrari when he was 18 & "had it in his pocket", but that he rolled a car in a fairly minor saloon car race and smashed his hand as it went out of the window during the accident. When he went to test, he was still unable to drive and as the prognosis was that it would be some considerable time before he would be fit again, by mutual agreement, the contract was torn up. I recorded the interview, and will check it again ehen I return to the UK from New Zealand next month.

#13 RStock

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 20:57

F1 career-wise, he can’t have complaints, he had a fair crack of the whip and got what he deserved. He wasn’t a Regazzoni, a Watson or a Patrese who all could contemplate to win a WC if things turned the right way at a certain moment in time.



:lol:


Careful, that is what got this started for me. I said I thought Cheever was mediocre at best in F1.

So, after reading through not only this thread but those linked by Tim Murray (thanks Tim, just got around to them. I could find nothing in the search before I started this thread) it seems :


Cheever did have some sort of contract agreement with Ferrari, but it was ruled null and void by both parties (the first of many bad choices by Eddie)

Eddie indeed only had the one audition drive for Ferrari.

I don't see where he was ever "called back" to Ferrari in '78. Seems the relationship was well over by then.

Gilles was apparently on the edge in 78, but it had nothing to do with Cheever or Patrese.


And for the record, I liked Cheever, I just thought him mediocre in F1. I always liked him as a person. I still remember the concern in his voice for Stan Fox after their first lap crash at Indy, when it was obvious it was a bad one for Fox.

#14 garoidb

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 22:01

Gilles was apparently on the edge in 78, but it had nothing to do with Cheever or Patrese.


I hope I am not going too far off topic, but did Reutemann leave Ferrari of his own accord? When did they line up Scheckter? Was there any chance that Cheever or Patrese or DeAngelis would have driven alongside Gilles, rather than instead of him?

It seems odd to me that Reutemann would be replaced, so perhaps he left of his own accord? He drove for Ferrari, Lotus and Williams from 1977 to 1981 so he was in demand at top teams.

And for the record, I liked Cheever, I just thought him mediocre in F1. I always liked him as a person. I still remember the concern in his voice for Stan Fox after their first lap crash at Indy, when it was obvious it was a bad one for Fox.


I liked Cheever too, and I remember that Indy 500 interview too.

#15 Tim Murray

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 22:13

I hope I am not going too far off topic, but did Reutemann leave Ferrari of his own accord? When did they line up Scheckter? Was there any chance that Cheever or Patrese or DeAngelis would have driven alongside Gilles, rather than instead of him?

It seems odd to me that Reutemann would be replaced, so perhaps he left of his own accord? He drove for Ferrari, Lotus and Williams from 1977 to 1981 so he was in demand at top teams.

You obviously haven't checked out the threads I linked to in post 6. :p

When Enzo almost sacked Gilles to keep Lole


#16 garoidb

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 22:37

You obviously haven't checked out the threads I linked to in post 6. :p

When Enzo almost sacked Gilles to keep Lole


Ooops. :)

#17 RStock

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 20:24

First - correct me if I am wrong - the forum is a place where we try understand and put the historical facts right as much as possible, without prejudice. Sometimes we can get to a conclusion, some other times it remains open to interpretation for the very nature of the sport itself. There shouldn't be anything personal in this quest and I don't think there is in this case. I met Cheever once in Rome in the mid '80s, he's a very likable and articulate person. Maybe some could say that in hindsight F1 was a step too far for him, maybe not and I think he did everything with committment and dignity. Probably he could have been a very good sports prototype driver - something like Pirro ended up being - and I can't check now how he did with Jaguar. In any case all this is beside the point we are making in this instance.


Yes, Rega, agreed. I added the bit at the end of my last post just to make clear that this is not about some dislike I have of Cheever. I actually think he did quite well for himself hanging around F1 as long as he did, and he did have some talent. When I say he was "mediocre" that is more about his career accomplishments than his talent.

And the historical facts are why I started this. I knew when this person tried to tell me Cheever had been Ferrari's "test driver" and had signed a large contract with them it did not fit with what I knew. But I am also aware that I do not know everything and perhaps I had missed something.

The point I dispute here is whether he actually had "some sort of contract agreement with Ferrari", as RStock put it. For what I can see and remember [and I can't check my collection of Autosprint 1977] there is only his word and several contradictory versions of it [e.g., see Giraffe's post above, see Alan Henry quote, and several others in the public domain].

I am sceptical.


Yes, when I say he had a "contractual agreement", that does not mean he actually ever had a contract.

He may have tested for Ferrari, like others did. He may have signed an option, like others did with Ferrari [Patrese seems had something like that in 1978-79, only he didn't go around saying he "got it in the pocket", as matter of fact he has kept quiet about it ever since] or maybe not. My opinion is that whatever it was [one-off test, talk of a contractual option] he made too much of it, used it to promote himself [smart move with Enzo Ferrari...] and then began giving contradictory details [either that he declined the contract, or a solicitor went with him, that he was about to jump in the car and race, that he was paid $50k to test, etc etc], that makes the whole situation doubtful at best.
The only way to sort this out is for Cheever to produce the paper he says he had in his pocket at the time. If not, please keep quiet, because otherwise it is not helping the historical truth.
The truth is that Ferrari - like any other forward thinking F1 boss - always kept track of new talent and obviously the one growing closer at home was the easier to assess directly. Cheever was assessed and passed over. No shame in that, he then had plenty of time and opportunity to make Ferrari change his mind.


Well. I think it's pretty clear he was never paid $50,000 to test. And even if he did have a contract with Ferrari that was going to pay him that amount to stay with them it did not last even long enough for the ink to dry it seems.

I think he might have had some sort of offer, as he was supposed to drive the non-championship race, but nothing was finalized by signing or if it was signed it quickly was dropped.

I can see Ferrari having interest in him at the time, he had done well in Italian F3 and had lived in Italy most of his life which would be a plus. However I don't see anything showing Ferrari really wanted him that bad. It seems according to what Piero has said that it was Scheckter they really wanted above everyone else but had not to that point been able to get him. They were in need of a driver with Rega being gone and now Niki, so someone had to team with Lole. Ferrari looked at Cheever, de Angelis and even Mario. Mario wanted no part of it according to his own words if he was not going to be sole number one driver. So at that point it seems it left Cheever and de Angelis readily available. Gilles at that point I believe was still under contract with McLaren. I don't think Patrese was really in the picture at that point but I do recall Tambay's name coming up. Tambay reportedly told Gilles that he had signed with McLaren and that Gilles should pursue the Ferrari drive, they were said to be good friends so I can see that being true.

So what we have indicated here seems (to me anyway) that Gilles was the one they were really interested in between he, Cheever and de Angelis. If not, they could have had Cheever or de Angelis. I think when Ferrari found that they could have Gilles, Cheever and de Angelis became unwanted. The Cheever test happened in September but they were also talking to Gilles at that time. Cheever was perhaps the front runner for the Ferrari seat until Gilles became free from his McLaren contract.

So back to the Cheever "contract" with Ferrari. I don't think whether or not he signed it is relevant to the end results. It didn't happen regardless. I'm suspecting the truth is, Cheever knew when Gilles came along he was 2nd choice. I would not doubt Ferrari still had an offer to Cheever just to keep him "hooked" so to speak. If Cheever had seen language in the contract that did not guarantee Cheever would have the race seat, but could instead only be a "test driver" I can believe he balked at the offer. (I seem to recall something similar with another Ferrari driver, Amon? Ickx?)

Cheever seems to want it remembered it as him having turned down Ferrari, but other stories say it was Ferrari themselves that killed the deal. The truth is often somewhere in the middle, so my guess is, Cheever did have a contract offer. Even with Gilles there Ferrari were still interested in Cheever, but Cheever was not as interested when Gilles came into the picture. I think he saw he wasn't going to get the race seat but that Gilles was, and tried to make sure he had a contract naming himself as the race driver, which in turned killed the offer.

As you say, we try to establish historical fact here at this forum, but this might be one of those times you mentioned that things remain open to interpretation. This is my interpretation of what happened as we may never know if Cheever ever actually signed.

#18 GMACKIE

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 00:36

Thank you, Regazzoni, for that wonderful insight. :up:

Please excuse the pun........I admire a quieta chiever.

#19 GMACKIE

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 01:09

Careful with the language, Lucio......we don't want to be suspended by the proverbials. :rolleyes:

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#20 Tim Murray

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 13:14

I remember an interview with Gianfranco Brancatelli in one of the British mags in which he claimed that he too was being considered as a possible replacement for Villeneuve after GV's rather poor start to 1978. It would appear that Ferrari kept quite a few drivers hanging on thinking they might get a drive, when in reality there was little or no chance for them.

#21 king_crud

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 14:26

When I interviewed Eddie Cheever at Goodwood lin 2011 for my project, he told me that he had signed a contract for Ferrari when he was 18 & "had it in his pocket", but that he rolled a car in a fairly minor saloon car race and smashed his hand as it went out of the window during the accident.


After reading that I have this image of Cheever being at the Ferrari offices, agreeing a contract then as he leaves he thinks "Cripes, I've got that minor saloon car race today, I must get there!" Once he arrives he suits up, puts his contract in the breast pocket of his racing suit and steps in the car. During the race he has an accident and the contract flies free of the breast pocket, he reaches out in vain to catch it.....but it's too late, the contract has gone out the window. If only he'd wound the windows up!

Once the accident has finished and the marshalls free him from the car he start frantically asking them "have you seen my contract? HAVE YOU SEEN MY FERRARI CONTRACT???!!!!!". They shrug their shoulders. He frantically runs back to where the accident starts but there's nothing. The he realises all hope is gone. He slumps to his knees, looks at at the heavens and yells NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Then he bangs his fist into the ground.

And that's how he injured his hand..........

#22 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:04

And what had Enzo to say on this in Piloti che Gente (1983): "The Italian-American Cheever could be a member of an ideal team made of Alboreto, Baldi, De Angelis, De Cesaris, Corrado Fabi, Teo Fabi, Gabbiani, Ghinzani, Giacomelli, Patrese - all present Italian Formula 1 racers.
I did not manage to firm up an agreement at the beginning of Cheever's career, but I am pleased to say that he is confirming my impression of him on the track."
...."I sensed strong will in Cheever, and was one of the first to offer De Angelis the chance to drive a F1 one-seater at Fiorano. Years have past since, but I wish him on-going success now he has had the satisfaction of winning a Grand Prix."

"Patrese wavers between strong races and performances which his colleagues criticize. He is a very capable racer who will not back down to anyone in races or tryouts. He until now has had less success than he deserves, even on first rate teams."

#23 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:10

Villeneuve, for what I remember, never had an one-off test with a Ferrari before he was summoned to Maranello and signed to replace Lauda.

Ferrari had noticed Villeneuve when he drove the McLaren, but he also consulted Walter Wolf, Chris Amon and a Canadian friend.

De Angelis tested in January 1978 at Fiorano. Ferrari simply kept his eyes and options open at all times. Indeed he was not sure of Gilles at that time.


#24 RStock

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:21

And what had Enzo to say on this in Piloti che Gente (1983): ...

...I did not manage to firm up an agreement at the beginning of Cheever's career, but I am pleased to say that he is confirming my impression of him on the track."

...."I sensed strong will in Cheever"



That sounds like there was never a contract signed, but rather a contract offered, or just an agreement there would be a contract.

Also seems he thought highly of Cheever, but perhaps he was just being kind.

#25 RStock

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:24

De Angelis tested in January 1978 at Fiorano.



So de Angelis tested AFTER Gilles was there, not before?

Have you ever heard of Cheever being brought back for another test after his initial one in Sept of '77?.

#26 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:33

So de Angelis tested AFTER Gilles was there, not before?

Have you ever heard of Cheever being brought back for another test after his initial one in Sept of '77?.


Yes, and no, no more tests than that one for Cheever.
Note that also Ferrari knew that young talent particularly came from karting. After Peterson, he knew Cheever, Patrese and De Angelis had reached top 3 spots in WC karting mid-seventies. Ferrari was keen to find a new Italian champion, Eddie is semi-Italian, so...

#27 Tim Murray

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 20:37

Villeneuve, for what I remember, never had an one-off test with a Ferrari before he was summoned to Maranello and signed to replace Lauda.

Yes, I should not have included Gilles in the audition test drive. I have never heard that either. From what I know, he was signed straight from McLaren.

Ferrari had noticed Villeneuve when he drove the McLaren, but he also consulted Walter Wolf, Chris Amon and a Canadian friend.

According to the Donaldson biography Villeneuve did have a Ferrari test at Fiorano, on 21st September 1977. This was on his second visit to Maranello; he actually signed the contract on his third visit later that month.

Edited by Tim Murray, 24 January 2013 - 20:39.


#28 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 21:14

According to the Donaldson biography Villeneuve did have a Ferrari test at Fiorano, on 21st September 1977. This was on his second visit to Maranello; he actually signed the contract on his third visit later that month.

Of course, else why have a racetrack in your front yard?

#29 Ralliart

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 05:37

In one of my books is a passage, to the effect, Enzo telling a driver, "If Villeneuve makes one more mistake, the drive is yours." Wish I could think of the driver (it wasn't Cheever) at this moment but, point being, there was another driver who was in the loop in '78. Re: Cheever, one wonders how he's allowed himself, in some quarters, to be perceived. He was a very good sports car driver, a GP driver for quite a long time and won the Indy 500. Not a bad CV. During the '84 Portugese GP weekend, he was interviewed by ESPN's John Bisingano (sp?). He discussed what he went through at the start, careful not to burn the clutch, passing, etc. Very detailed and very interesting. He was articulate which may be the reason he got a gig as an on-air analyst.

#30 Ralliart

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 04:40

In, again, "Flat-12", "Back at Fiorano, the youthful Formula Two Ralt-Ferrari driver Elio de Angelis had been invited to do a lot of testing with both the Formula One cars and the 512BB Le Mans machines. Then he went down to Monaco and won the Formula Three race with a Chevron. Word had it that Villeneuve was on the way out. De Angelis: "I must have done about 1,000 kilometers testing both the T2 and T3 at Fiorano. The T3 struck me as a good conventional car, with particularly good brakes, although you must remember that I had not had any experience of Formula One cars at this point...The Old Man said to me, 'If Villeneuve crashes again, the drive is yours.'"
Someone asked about Reutemann's departure from Ferrari. The book had it:"Reutemann: (The British GP) was a really satisfying win for me for a number of reasons...The next thing I know is that Scheckter is ringing me up and asking how we'll work it in 1979, as teammates. That was the first time I knew that Jody was joining. But the Old Man never mentioned anything about it to me. I think he thought he could sell off Gilles' contract to Renault and keep Jody and I for the following year. Of course, it didn't work out like that!"

#31 RStock

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 17:01

In, again, "Flat-12", "Back at Fiorano, the youthful Formula Two Ralt-Ferrari driver Elio de Angelis had been invited to do a lot of testing with both the Formula One cars and the 512BB Le Mans machines.



I don't recall the Ferrari factory having much involvement with Le Mans by that time. Could he have been doing that testing for someone like Chinetti instead? There would still be a strong factory connection.

And I take these "one more crash by Villeneuve and the drive is yours" claims with a grain of salt. Sounds like more of a way to keep de Angelis on the hook. I'm guessing Ferrari's biggest concern with Gilles was that he could lose his license. But that said, the Old Man never did like seeing his equipment torn up. Either way, it was a rather small window, as Gilles upped his game after Monaco.

Edited by RStock, 26 January 2013 - 17:02.


#32 Joe Fan

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 21:37

I remember somthing along these lines. The old man Ferrari wanted American drivers more than they wanted to drive for him. Enzo saw American drivers as key people in helping Ferrari sales in the US. And Eddie Cheever was a much better driver than given credit for.

#33 D-Type

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 23:49

I remember somthing along these lines. The old man Ferrari wanted American drivers more than they wanted to drive for him. Enzo saw American drivers as key people in helping Ferrari sales in the US. And Eddie Cheever was a much better driver than given credit for.

Now, that makes sense to me.

#34 RStock

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 01:32

How did Missouri get into this? :drunk: :confused:

#35 Michael Ferner

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 08:27

Don't worry, "Know-it-all Clay" will have an explanation... :rolleyes:

#36 arttidesco

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 08:37

How did Missouri get into this? :drunk: :confused:


There is a small clue in post #46  ;)

#37 Michael Ferner

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 09:49

Sometimes arrogance can come over as elegant, even funny behaviour, but sometimes it's just plain annoying.

#38 Macca

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 12:42

Ferrari also talked to Alan Jones in 1977, as part of their efforts to get an English-speaking (sort of..) driver but then signed Villeneuve - Jones was p***ed off by this so when they phoned him in 1982 after Pironi's crash he wouldn't talk to them.

Paul M

#39 Joe Fan

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 16:41

In fact, he hired an Argentine, an unknown Canadian and a Springbok, instead of an American and and the 'new Italian champion' as per suggestions above in the thread.

If "Enzo" had to hire F1 drivers on the basis of boosting the sales in the US, there was only one driver he needed and that wasn't an unknown [in the US] American driver from Rome, Italy [as they put it in the US media]. One who was the proverbial American driver and also had 100% Italian blood!! I am sure the perspective on Ferrari sporting and commercial matters from Missouri was a privileged one, but please tell us another joke, this thread is becoming very funny now.

[BTW: nobody, and I mean nobody refers or, worse, called Ferrari "Enzo" in Italy publicly. Never mind, just a footnote]



My perspective on Ferrari--from Missouri--comes from being Masten Gregory's biographer, who by the way, is getting inducted into another Hall of Fame this year. Gregory was offered an F1 ride by Ferrari in 1957 as a 4th driver before Phil Hill but chose to race Maseratis for Scuderia Centro Sud instead because he would get to compete in more Grand Prix events. In addition to interviewing Gregory's family, I interviewed Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Bob Bondurant, etc. so I got a good idea of what it was like to deal with Ferrari as a personality and some of the reasons why American drivers didn't want to drive for him. Having Americans drivers race NART sports cars helped Ferrari sales in the US but Enzo liked American talent for his F1 rides for the same reasons. Unfortunately, American open wheel drivers had too many opportunities to make a great living racing in the US.

As far as Eddie Cheever, he was a European and Italian Karting champion as a young teen and I think I remember reading somewhere that he had a contract with Ferrari but mutually agreed to tear it up after Ferrari signed Gilles and being concerned about opportunities of working into a full-time ride. I have met Eddie Cheever and he didn't strike me as a personality who would BS about his past to elevate his status.

As far as your last footnote, we are not in Italy are we?

Edited by Joe Fan, 27 January 2013 - 22:24.


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#40 RStock

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 20:02

Well, seems my initial thoughts on the situation with Cheever have been confirmed, he was never Ferrari's "test driver" and I consider the contract issue moot as we will never probably know for certain if a contract was actually signed. I'm reasonably certain he was at least offered something though the $50,000 I still consider highly dubious and I am also reasonably certain he was never paid that amount regardless.

I'm more curious now however as to the situation with Gilles. I knew Piccinini was backing Pironi and that Gilles was considering leaving Ferrari at years end, but I am a bit surprised to learn there were those inside Ferrari that seemed to be against Gilles from the start. I'm suspecting the main one was Piccinini as from all I have ever heard Gilles was Enzo's, excuse me, Mr. Ferrari's man. It just seems Piccinini always "had it in" for Gilles from when he first signed.

So we have been from Maranello to Missouri, let's see if we can get back to Maranello by way of Kyalami. I knew I remembered Patrese saying something about all this, but couldn't remember what he said or where I found it, until I realized it was from a Motorsport "Lunch with" interview. Here is what Patrese said...

“After I had led Kyalami Ferrari summoned me to Maranello, and Enzo signed an option on me for 1979. Of course, as an Italian, it was my dearest wish to drive for Ferrari. Then Bernie
offered me a one-year contract for 1979, with a two-year option after that. But I was still hoping for Ferrari, so I said no to Bernie. I think some people in Ferrari wanted Gilles Villeneuve out
because he had a lot of accidents, but Enzo always liked Gilles of course, and then he won Montréal at the end of the year, so he carried on with Scheckter for 1979. Enzo paid off my option and I stayed with Jackie Oliver.”


I've underlined what I think is pertinent to my point here. It seems Gilles situation was a bit volatile from the time he first signed. I can understand some concern over his crashing, the situation with Reutemann and much of this just being the team trying to keep other talent close. However, I can't help but wonder if there wasn't more at play here. I also wonder if some of this started with Cheever, as he came along about the same time as Piccinini. I know there are always back room politics at play (I don't single out Ferrari in that) and seeing these others names constantly popping up, Cheever, de Angelis, Patrese and even Brancatelli leads me to believe these would be drivers that Piccinini backed. I don't think it would be because of their nationality, they were just drivers Piccinini knew of at that time and was perhaps more familiar with being a bit new to F1. Plus we also have Alan Jones in the mix and Scheckter was eventually signed then it was Pironi that Piccinini backed.

So I have to question if Piccinini felt he wasn't able to get the drivers he should have been able to place in the car and Gilles was the reason why. He never wanted Gilles from the start and couldn't get rid of him as Gilles was Enzo's, excuse me, Mr. Ferrari's driver. Perhaps he felt his authority was being undermined and it should be he who decides who drives the cars.

I know there was a lot of politics involved with the Gilles/Pironi situation. I'm not really looking to open up that can of worms, but am more interested if there was a situation all along between Gilles and Piccinini. We know it ended with Pironi but did it start with Cheever? Was there "bad blood" between Gilles and Piccinini all along? Who really wanted Jones and Scheckter? Was signing Scheckter a way to attempt to leverage Gilles out?

I sort of find the Scheckter singing a bit odd, as Gilles had won by then and had also settled down and paced Reutemann, even out pacing him at times. There is also the irony that Jody was seen much as Gilles early in his career, a crasher, even though he had settled down by the time he came to Ferrari. Was Enzo, excuse me again, Mr. Ferrari the only one who saw the same in Gilles? Was Enzo, excuse me once more, Mr. Ferrari just telling some what they wanted to hear but had no intention of dumping Gilles?

I don't know. It has just surprised me how it seems Gilles was on shaky ground from the start at Ferrari and seemed to be the entire time he was there. I know that is really no different from other drivers however and not just at Ferrari. Often even today you are only as good as your last race. It just seems there might have been more going on with Gilles situation than I ever knew, and as I said, I'm wondering if it started with Cheever.

#41 arttidesco

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 20:17

IIRC Scheckter was in the frame for a Ferrari drive since at least the time he was with Wolf in 1977, Wolf was even invited to test at Fiorano and the offer was taken up, of course Dr H Postlethwaite who designed the Wolf would eventually also spend time working at Maranello.

#42 scheivlak

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 20:43

In one of my books is a passage, to the effect, Enzo telling a driver, "If Villeneuve makes one more mistake, the drive is yours." Wish I could think of the driver (it wasn't Cheever) at this moment but, point being, there was another driver who was in the loop in '78.

That could have been Patrese, you can find hints at that in several interviews with him on the http://riccardopatrese.net/weblog/ website.

#43 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:37

Thank you all for your input so far.

Arjan, that is quite a bit naive, if I may.

That Ferrari was keen to find a new Italian champion is news to most of us who lived there through the second half of the '70s (after Merzario) and hoped to see the local talent given opportunities.


Well Ferrari always had a special eye for Italian talent and arranged small meetings with many when they were emerging in F3 or just entered F1 (e.g. Pierluigi Martini). Foreign drivers mostly got his attention when performing in F1 or other top level racing, not sooner. Second half of the seventies F1 was crowded with (foreign) top drivers. Italy at the time had a large young generation upcoming that had to wait a few years.

I don't recall the Ferrari factory having much involvement with Le Mans by that time. Could he have been doing that testing for someone like Chinetti instead? There would still be a strong factory connection.

The 512 BB/LM was a mutual effort, Pininfarina for instance offering wind tunneling.

As far as Eddie Cheever, he was a European and Italian Karting champion as a young teen and I think I remember reading somewhere that he had a contract with Ferrari but mutually agreed to tear it up after Ferrari signed Gilles and being concerned about opportunities of working into a full-time ride. I have met Eddie Cheever and he didn't strike me as a personality who would BS about his past to elevate his status.


Ferrari certainly considered he was an american from Rome, but his talent/potential came first. Boost sales in the US? Well look where Cheever is now? If Cheever would have won races it would certainly have helped, and the US Ferrari operation may have used it at least slightly. It were also different times then, not a streamlined operation as it is nowadays.


I'm more curious now however as to the situation with Gilles. I knew Piccinini was backing Pironi and that Gilles was considering leaving Ferrari at years end, but I am a bit surprised to learn there were those inside Ferrari that seemed to be against Gilles from the start. I'm suspecting the main one was Piccinini as from all I have ever heard Gilles was Enzo's, excuse me, Mr. Ferrari's man. It just seems Piccinini always "had it in" for Gilles from when he first signed.....
..............I've underlined what I think is pertinent to my point here. It seems Gilles situation was a bit volatile from the time he first signed. I can understand some concern over his crashing, the situation with Reutemann and much of this just being the team trying to keep other talent close.

Gilles came in at Ferrari as a blitz, surprise to many, many also inside Ferrari. But a decision made by Mr. Ferrari. His first performances were not confirming trust, so Ferrari simply kept on the outlook for replacements. Later Gilles started to win which of course reassured Ferrari (the man). Inside Ferrari, or better: around Ferrari (Enzo :-) ) it was all politics, games and tricks. Many would have been trying to get their position improved and/or promote another driver. Difficult to unravel. That said by mid 1978 Villeneuve was not at the same level as Scheckter and Reutemann for whom Ferrari chose for 1979.

IIRC Scheckter was in the frame for a Ferrari drive since at least the time he was with Wolf in 1977, Wolf was even invited to test at Fiorano and the offer was taken up, of course Dr H Postlethwaite who designed the Wolf would eventually also spend time working at Maranello.

Baby Bear and Ferrari had first contact in 1973.

Edited by Arjan de Roos, 28 January 2013 - 09:08.


#44 JacnGille

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 03:21

I just happened to grab the July 2006 issue of Motorsport and guess what I found on page 90? "The Most Stupid Thing I Ever Did" by Eddie Cheever. The entire article is about this very subject! He says he got a call from Ferrari after the Enna round of the F2 Championship in '77. Eddie says the first meeting was in secret at a cafe near the factory. He says he attended a "multi day test at Fiorano". This led to "signing a contract for a lot of money for a 19-year old". He says he "was expecting to make his F1 debut at a non-championship race at Imola that September". However, the race was never run. Eddie subsequently wrote off his Junior Team BMW 320i at Vallelunga, breaking his hand and elbow. Eddie says he received a get well telegram from the "Old Man" which also contained a promise "that they would put me back in the car as soon as I was ready". Before this happened He says he he read in Gazzetta dello Sport that Gilles had signed with Ferrari. Eddie "recalled, I was so mad that they had taken Villeneuve that I wanted out of my contract". He says he made three trips to Maranelo before Ferrari finally saw him. Cheever says "he told me that I was young and needed more test miles, but I still wanted out".

#45 Tim Murray

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 06:14

Cheever's story doesn't add up. Gilles signed for Ferrari at the end of September 1977. Cheever's accident at Vallelunga happened during the weekend 21 - 23 October 1977.

#46 RStock

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 15:42

Cheever's story doesn't add up. Gilles signed for Ferrari at the end of September 1977. Cheever's accident at Vallelunga happened during the weekend 21 - 23 October 1977.


True. Gilles first race was on October 9th. In fact, Gilles was driving his 2nd race for Ferrari the weekend of the 23rd.

#47 Joe Fan

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 21:05

Cheever's story doesn't add up. Gilles signed for Ferrari at the end of September 1977. Cheever's accident at Vallelunga happened during the weekend 21 - 23 October 1977.


Since they first met Eddie secretively, mabye neither Eddie or Gilles knew that they both had signed contracts with Ferrari around the same time. The Old Man was pretty good about playing head games with drivers to get the most out of them.

Edited by Joe Fan, 11 February 2013 - 21:07.


#48 Tim Murray

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 06:30

Cheever would have known about Villeneuve's signing. The news received much media interest, especially in Italy, and Gilles was besieged by reporters when he turned up at the US GP at the beginning of October.

#49 Ralliart

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 06:38

The Old Man seemed indiscriminate in his head games. He told Regazzoni that, as far as he was concerned, he'd be back in '77. Regga turned down some offers, eventually was shown the door and then found that, like in July, Ferrari had decided to replace him (with Reutemann). Reutemann and Scheckter had a meet at a roadside and I think Reutemann was surprised that Villeneuve was being replaced only to find that he himself was being replaced.