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Ferrari apologises for stunt damage

A bridge too far: A Ferrari promotion backfired when a 458 Italia left tyre marks on a Ming Dynasty monument after doing burnouts.

Anger in China after Ferrari publicity burnout damages historic 600-year-old wall

10 May 2012

FERRARI has been forced to apologise after a driver did a burnout on a 600 year-old wall in Nanjing, causing damage to the ancient monument.

The Italian supercar-maker has blamed a local dealership employee, who was caught on camera doing burnouts in a Ferrari 458 Italia ahead of a promotional event atop the Ming Dynasty-era city wall.

The Chinese public and authorities have reportedly expressed outrage over the stunt, hitting a nerve in a generally poor society where luxury cars – which are selling in increasing numbers – are a symbol of privilege.

City officials have claimed that Ferrari did not have permission to use the wall after reports emerged they had accepted about $12,000 for the promotion.

The Nanjing wall – a popular tourist destination – was closed for the day to celebrate Ferrari’s 20th anniversary in China.

Ferrari issued an apology for the incident, which left tyre marks on the protected landmark.

“Unfortunately, an employee of the dealership – not a Ferrari employee – took it upon himself to drive the car in the way that you will see in the video, with the very regrettable result that tyre marks were left on the ancient monument,” said Ferrari in a statement to the BBC.

“Ferrari SpA has unreservedly apologised to the Chinese authorities and local community for any damage and offence caused, and has promised to work with the necessary officials to repair any damage caused by the negligence of this individual.”

The incident is being used to highlight growing anger over a widening rich-poor divide in China, where brazen displays of extravagance and wealth are said to be attracting more and more criticism.

34 center imageFrom top: Gilles Villeneuve Jacques Villeneuve driving his father's Ferrari 312T4.

Only two weeks ago, Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa reported a 75 per cent increase in sales in China, retailing 500 cars, and announced the company would increase its dealer network from 15 to 20 by the end of 2012.

“Greater China is now the second most important market for Ferrari in the world,” said Mr Felisa at the Beijing auto show.

“This year we’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first car sold in Beijing. To celebrate this landmark a big permanent exhibition dedicated to Ferrari will open at Shanghai’s World Expo Park in the Italia Center in May.

“There we will present a special series of our 458 Italia model with a special livery, sporting the ‘longma’, the characteristic Chinese symbol, the legendary dragon-horse, the perfect symbol of Chinese culture and Ferrari.”

Meanwhile, Ferrari has also celebrated – in less controversial circumstances – the 30th anniversary of the death of one of it most popular Formula One drivers, Canadian Gilles Villeneuve.

Villeneuve died after crashing during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Zolder circuit on May 8, 1982 – a date etched in the memory of many thousands of his fans.

Ferrari staged a tribute to Villeneuve – perhaps the last driver who was close to company founder Enzo Ferrari – at its Fiorano test circuit in Maranello, which was attended by Mr Felisa, company president Luca di Montezemolo, vice-president Piero Ferrari, Villeneuve’s widow Joann, his daughter Melanie, famed engineer Mauro Forghieri and current Ferrari F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

The highlight of the day came when Gilles’ son, Jacques Villeneuve – who followed in his father’s footsteps to become an F1 star – completed a handful of laps in the Ferrari 312T4 in which Gilles won three Grands Prix in 1979.

While Gilles failed to win the world championship, Jacques claimed the title with Williams in 1997 – exactly 20 years after his father first joined Ferrari – and fondly recalled his childhood years following the F1 circus.

“The whole family always went to the races and we lived in the motorhome … it was much better than going to school,” he said.

“Most of the memories I have are from the race track, sitting down watching the races. So 90 per cent of what I remember of my father is him as a driver, not home very often, always on the go.

“I think I am lucky to be driving at a time when cars are safer, otherwise maybe I’d be dead too, given that like him, by nature, I tend to go always right to the limit.”

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