The general assembly of the Grand Prix Drivers Club took place last week based at the Hotel La Ruota in Pianfei, Piedmont.
Though the main business was the annual general meeting of the club there were the usual additional “events” one of which was a visit to the Ferrero factory in Alba as well as the traditional competitive event held this time at an outdoor kart track used for championship events.
Keeping the members company at dinner was an immaculate 1936 Maserati 6CM that was raced by the Maserati Brothers the year before they sold the company to Adolfo Orsi in Modena. It had been raced that year by Piero Taruffi and Luigi Villoresi. The car is owned by a friend of the club who delivered it into the hotel dining room. and most of the drivers took turns to try it for size including Mika Hakkinen who was fascinated by it all.
We were particularly happy to welcome member Guy Edwards who had come all the way from Ireland for the event. As most members know Guy is now wheelchair-bound following a stroke and he arrived in great form with his two carers and took part in all of the activities save the karting. We had a good contingent from the Antipodes with Vern Schuppan and his wife Jenny, Tim Schenken, his wife Brigitte and his daughter Natalie, who was in Europe on vacation from her normal morning tv programme Sunrise at Seven in Sydney, and of course President Howden Ganley with Joy MacDowel. We also had a flying visit from one of our new members Mika Hakkinen who gave the club a presentation on his latest project with his business partner Sami Raisanen.
One of the highlights was the karting event where both members and guests took part and for the second year running the competitive event at the General Assembly was won by vice-President Emanuele Pirro. Last year he won in the downhill soapbox derby event and this year on a regular kart but again he was challenged all the way by Membre d’Honneur and past head of BMW’s Formula 1 activities, Mario Theissen and former vice-President Teddy Pilette in third place. As usual, there were always the excuses, that Emanuele was too light and so had an advantage but with fourteen karts on the track at one time there were plenty of spins to illustrate that even when retired from racing members are still competitive.
The visit to the Ferrero Rocher factory was an eye-opener as the company is now the third largest chocolate producer in the World and their Alba factory is huge with the latest high-tech robots producing not only the familiar Ferrero Rocher after-dinner delights but the entire of Kinder chocolates and even Tic Tac mints. And to indulge even further we visited the La Poiana cheese factory at Castelmango an area which produced its own specific type of local cheese and the Marchisio family business in Pianfei that produces a wide variety of typical Italian salami.