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Talking to Ivan Capelli

NEWS STORY
02/09/2014

Whilst Monza, quite rightly, has a place in the hearts and minds of fans and drivers alike, what with its legends, its ghosts, it's long, often tragic, history, the fact is that it is struggling.

Even the most die-hard fan will agree that many of its facilities are archaic, whilst financially it is under intense pressure not just from the 'blinged-up' monstrosities constantly being added to the calendar but closer to home.

Add to this Bernie Ecclestone's threat to take the Italian Grand Prix elsewhere - a thought that should horrify any serious F1 fan, even if the circuit has been somewhat emasculated over the years - and you have a serious problem, for, as we have seen so many times in the past, there is no room for sentiment in the multi-billion dollar show that is F1.

So step forward former F1 driver turned TV pundit Ivan Capelli, who is charged with putting the legendary circuit back firmly on the map, re-establishing its unique brand.

Just days after his appointment as President of ACI Milano, a role that includes responsibility for the Autodromo, I had the good fortune to talk with him.

Italian F3 champion, Monaco F3 race winner, European F3 champion and International F3000 champion, since then Capelli's life has been almost entirely entwined with F1. Rated one of the most promising young drivers in the early '90s with Tyrrell, March Judd and Leyton House he then endured a highly unfortunate season with Ferrari which put an end to his career. In 1998 he became a much appreciated F1 anchor-man with Italian TV and even voices one of the characters in the Italian version of the Disney movie Cars.

We began by discussing his motivation to run for a role substantially different and seemingly more complicated than his other jobs in the motorsport sector.

His answer is simple and straightforward, as is the remainder of the interview: "I was perceiving too many bad feelings about the Autodromo, too much immobilism, as if everything was due simply because Monza has a history and a tradition".

The watershed moment was the Coppa Intereuropa Storica one of the numerous events held at the Autodromo over the course of the year. Ivan recalls the 2013 event, when the paddock "was almost a desert", while the year before a police car had to be used as pace car in consideration of the high number of participants.

Following a long period of soul-searching, the awareness that his unique experience might be useful in "revamping" the Monza brand, combined with the support of a new management group, eventually convinced him to make the great leap.

He recognizes that the years spent with Italian TV have given him a unique chance to gain a global vision over the many countries where F1 runs today: seeing the birth of Turkey and Bahrain, for instance, was educational.

On the other hand, being well known, and also a very much 'an available' person, could be a problem:

"I'm aware of being a kind of catalyst of the expectations of all the people looking for novelties and innovation at Monza," he admits. "For example, during the Hungarian Grand Prix it took me almost two hours to move from the paddock entrance to the opposite side, two hours of people mentioning problems, problems, problems".

There no preconceived organizational model for the new ACI Milan: "It's too early and I'm still learning," he admits. In any case, Capelli does not believe in a 'one man show'. "It's important to build up a good team and get it working effectively," he says, "it's almost like an iceberg, where you just see the 20% of it above the surface".

As of today, a key role in the new ACI Milan team will be played by Andrea Dell'Orto, President of the Industrial Association of Monza e Brianza, with a long family tradition in motor parts manufacturing (carburettors). He has been appointed President of SIAS, the company which directly manages the circuit and the racing activities in Monza. He will grant a managerial approach and a consistent liaison with the economy of the territory.

There have been rumours of (former Ferrari team boss) Stefano Domenicali becoming part of the team. According to Ivan, "he's a desiderata, because I'm aware that any role I may offer to him can be quite reductive in terms of prestige and also of the money we can't pay… nevertheless, he has confirmed his availability in terms of contacts and experience to be a real ambassador for the circuit".

But a good team is useless without a clear working agenda; Ivan's objectives: "to give back to Monza the central role that it deserves (starting with a calendar consistent with its past); to increase the number of the ACI Milan associates, through a wider range of services and targeted promotions and to re-open the traditionally difficult dialogue with the public institutions in Milan and Lombardy".

He is fully aware that the long history of Monza is no longer enough to get "credit" from the various race organisers, especially these days when the competition among circuits has dramatically increased. "When you lose a race from the calendar, to get it back it's an almost impossible task. See the case of the Superbikes which will run in Imola in 2015 or the WTCC which asks for an entry fee".

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1. Posted by White Lightning, 02/09/2014 22:51

"Best of luck Ivan.

Sadly, I imagine similar articles were written 15 years ago proclaiming the difficult in imagining an F1 calendar without a French Grand Prix."

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2. Posted by DoctosDad, 02/09/2014 8:24

"Bravo Ivan!"

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