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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
By Jonathan Welsh

Wall Stre


By Jonathan Welsh

Wall Street Journal

MONZA, Italy – Kevin Crowder walked out to the famed race track in this Italian town, climbed into a Ferrari F2000 racer and circled the course with a Grand Prix champion.

Crowder, a Texas businessman who earned more than $20 million when he sold a software company he co-founded, isn’t himself a professional driver.

He’s a customer for one of Ferrari SpA’s latest marketing concoctions: the F-1 Clienti program, under which Ferrari resurrects old race cars that would otherwise be headed for the scrap heap.

Instead, it sells them for $1 million or more, along with the chance to drive them with a professional pit crew’s help. Crowder and his fellow multimillionaires get to appreciate all the thrills of owning a Ferrari racer, from $100,000 engine changes to sudden course spinouts.

Ferrari has long built its business around exclusivity. It limits production to about 4,500 to 5,000 cars a year for $180,000 and up. Some customers pay further to race these street cars against fellow owners at company-sponsored “Ferrari Challenge” events.

The 4-year-old F-1 Clienti adds a superpremium service by giving people a chance to drive the same Ferraris used in Formula One, a series of auto races that are especially popular among Europeans.

The program gives customers “an experience they can’t get elsewhere,” Ferrari spokesman Jeffrey Ehoodin says.

It’s a long way from the days of Enzo Ferrari, who founded the company in 1940 and produced his first car in 1947. Ferrari used to destroy his used race cars to keep their technical secrets from rivals. Several models of interest to car-history buffs were lost forever, such as the model 156 “Sharknose” that American Phil Hill drove to the championship in 1961.

After Ferrari died in 1988 at age 90, the company began selling retired race cars to defray the cost of fielding a Formula One team, which now exceeds $100 million annually. But without the help of expert mechanics and a place to drive the cars, collectors could only display them as museum pieces.

Fanatics such as Crowder wanted more – which is why he was tooling around the Autodromo Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix, on a recent Saturday afternoon. As he headed into a sharp left turn, his rear wheels locked. The car spun out of control and into a gravel trap.

The car wasn’t badly damaged, but Crowder said he wanted to be ready for the weekend’s highlight the next day: a parade lap with five other Formula One Ferraris, including one driven by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Poring through computer data, Andrea Galletti, a longtime Formula One mechanic who oversees the F-1 Clienti program, said he thought Crowder might have pressed too hard on the brakes.

Ferrari’s success at capturing the leisure dollars of the superwealthy has been a rare bright spot for Fiat SpA, which owns 56 percent of Ferrari. Fiat’s own cars for the mass market have been consistent money-losers. Ferrari, meanwhile, has expanded its empire by taking control of the Maserati line of sports cars. Maserati fans now have their own amateur racing events.

Crowder, 49, bought his first Ferrari in 1989 and raced successfully in the Ferrari Challenge series for street cars. In 2000 Ferrari introduced F-1 Clienti, and last year Crowder paid slightly more than $1.5 million for the car that Schumacher drove during his championship 2000 season.

Together with his earlier Ferrari racing and maintenance for the new car, Crowder estimates he has spent about $5 million on his hobby.

(Message edited by f512m on February 08, 2005)
 
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
We saw him in Lousiana......an

We saw him in Lousiana......another Houstonian software guy!

It takes about five guys to start his car!

I'd never get that many friends together at one time! LOL!

How long 'till you get your million$$$$$$$, J.?
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm on my second million a

I'm on my second million at the moment. They say the first is the hardest to make, so I started on the second..

JL
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I did have the Mayor of Housto

I did have the Mayor of Houston pat the top my helment, once........before a race.....
 
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