A Perfect Dance: Clay Regazzoni's Ferrari F40

Photos by Davide Saporiti

Three fascinating, terrible and for better or worse, unforgettable days…

We came together this Ferrari F40 and I. We each drew the scorn of the other, and then we found peace. I didn’t drive this F40 – I only photographed it. Given the chance to get behind the wheel, I would still have declined. Clay Regazzoni was the owner, and I wouldn’t have dared drive this machine without a closer bond to his family. But believe it or not, the passenger seat was good enough. Witnessing her power and precision through the lens as she slices through the air in the most sensual ways drew more than enough emotion from me.

I first discovered the F40 in the early 1990s, when she was new on the scene and I was just a kid. Fiercely red, that imposingly low center of gravity, and those huge 335 rear tires. Bonnet grills opening up to the sky to reveal the complex innards of a thirsty machine, lusting for petrol and speed. 25 years later, I visit the Clay Regazzoni Memorial in Lugano, Switzerland. It’s an underground garage, a cozy and modest nest, a precious sanctuary that collects the legendary driver Clay's efforts and emotions, without fanfare and without fireworks.

There is a mixture of awe and bitterness: it welcomes fascinating relics - vintage helmets marked by battles on the track, countless trophies, memorabilia - but it is so different from any other museum, so "homely" that it really feels like visiting the garage of Clay; it is not just any other museum with cars as perfect as models and the life of a person freeze-dried in the text of an exhibition panel. Regazzoni's own cars are still there, as if he left just yesterday and still hadn't had time to prepare them for the guests. And his death was so sudden, absurd and unjust that you can't blame him.

Although he was paraplegic, Clay did not give up the pleasure of sitting in his F40, having her spit blood from the exhaust: he had turned to Guidosimplex to modify his cars with controls that could only be carried out with the hands. Thus, he realized the dream of returning to driving.