Did you know ? Ziv Knoll, famous right-hand man of our Editor-in-Chief Pierre Van Vliet on F1i TV, is the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind car: the Ferrari F355 GTS specially designed for a certain Michael Schumacher when he arrived in Maranello in 1996 We discovered it during a “nostalgia” day on the Circuit de Mettet, in Belgium. Engine running!
Mettetsouth of the Belgium. On this early summer morning, the sun is already generously pointing the end of its rays as we take the direction of the Circuit Jules Tacheny.
This track, less known than Zolder Where Spaunwinds its narrow strip of bitumen over 2.3 kilometers in the heart of the green pastures of the region of Namur. The ideal playground, whose technicality requires rhythm and concentration, for a discovery day driving a a bit special model…
Riding in Schumacher’s Ferrari
You read correctly… We are not talking here about race caralthough its pedigree feel good about speed and heated rubber, but from an Italian like we don’t do anymore with her 3.5 liter atmo V8 of 380 hp and his 6-speed manual gearbox. In a word: the Ferrari F355 GTS or “targa”.
The one we take in hand in the video below is neither red nor white, much less yellow. She is blue. But not just any blue. A livery “Le Mans Blue” expressly requested by a certain… Michael Schumacher in 1996. So let’s go back in time and memories in the company of Ziv Knollits happy owner since 2004.
A one-of-a-kind car
« This F355 is the first company car that Michael Schumacher received from Ferrari », tells this great automobile enthusiast to F1i. “Let us remember that in 1996, the Scuderia came out of a long crossing of the desert in Formula 1 and began to build his ‘dream team’ around Schumacher, expected as the messiah. This car was therefore born at a pivotal moment. Its symbolism is very strong. »
« I liked everything about this car », continues the one who also officiates as a specialized journalist. “I was able to buy it in 2004 during a sale at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Just sitting in it, I said to myself ‘this car is mine’. Love at first sight was immediate. »
« It was sold to me in immaculate condition, with barely 21,000 km on the odometer », he specifies. “I also received the service book, which was given to Schumacher with the first entry from his then agent Willi Weber. But also a letter from ‘Cavallari Monaco’ attesting that the car had been maintained for two years for Schumacher, who also signed the back of the driver’s seat. »
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It was prepared to measure for “Schumi”
But the uniqueness of this Ferrari does not only reside in its accessories. « What struck me were its rear tracks, wider than on a classic F355 », says Ziv Knoll. “By scratching a bit, I learned that Schumacher had filmed at Fiorano with a ‘mule’, in reality a red GTB. At the end of these tests, he had given instructions to the engineers of Ferrari. »
“First to obtain a Targa version, the GTS, with a manual gearbox, which is rather logical, a very sharp engine, its compression is also quite exceptional for an F355, with a special color. And it’s Luca di Montezemolo himself [le président de Ferrari à l’époque, ndlr.] who gave him the keys. »
> Embark here for a passionate ride in the Ferrari F355 GTS of Michael Schumacher
But why an F355 GTS?
A brand like Ferrari not being stingy prestigious modelsopt for one with relatively modest contours like the F355 may surprise. Beyond a certain business logicwho better than a star pilot to promote a new range, Ziv Knoll enlightens us on the motivations of the one who was « only » two-time F1 world champion.
« Let’s not forget that the F355 was the descendant of the 348, considered a bit of a ‘lame duck’ at the time », he explains. “There was therefore a desire to turn the page by creating a more attractive line, inspired by different nods to the famous Dino 246 GT of the 1960s and 70s. »
“Its format also gives it excellent weight distribution. Thanks to this, but also its lightness [seulement 1 350 kilos à vide, ndlr.] and a block of just under 400 horsepower, the weight-to-power ratio is ideal, which makes it very efficient on the circuit. And as Colin Chapman said [le fondateur de Lotus, ndlr.]‘Light is right’ [‘la légèreté, c’est la clé’, ndlr.], which pleased Schumacher. »
Schumacher: “This Ferrari was my first love”
By way of conclusion to our interview, the question burns our lips: did Michael Schumacher know what had become of his first working Ferrari ? « I had the opportunity to tell him in person », launches Ziv Knoll, his eyes sparkling. “It was a bit of a magical moment at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. I ran into him in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock. He walked with a firm step, the type that didn’t want to be disturbed. I still launched with a sentence, ‘Michael, I own your first Ferrari’ [« Michael, je possède ta première Ferrari », ndlr.]. »
“That was enough for him to stop dead and we started talking. He remembered it very well, he loved this car. I joked that it was in better condition than when I bought it in Monaco, which made him laugh a lot. Then he told me ‘This car was my first love’ [‘cette voiture était mon premier amour’.ndlr.], which only moderately pleased his wife Corinna [rires, ndlr.] ! »
« In a few minutes, I had the chance to see a more open Schumacher », he remembers. “He had this reputation of being quite distant in the world of F1, but it was quite the opposite in the private sector. The fact of reminding him of the good memories of this car broke down all the barriers. A beautiful moment…”
Discover here our exclusive report behind the wheel of the Ferrari F355 GTS by Michael Schumacher