D he visit to the Ferrari restorer Uwe Meissner from Modena Motorsport is a bizarre contrast program: a rather dreary industrial hall in Langenfeld near Cologne is the first address when it comes to top-class Ferrari Formula 1 cars. In the lobby there is a boned body shell, behind a plastic curtain, sinfully expensive series oldies are waiting for the caring hands of the mechanics and restorers.
At the age of 23, Meissner founded Modena Motorsport
The real surprise, however, followed in an adjoining hall. It goes across the courtyard, past a mountain of exhaust systems, then sharp left through a narrow passage: an inconspicuous sheet metal door - and behind it the Ferrari racing world, from 1972 to 2000. Formula 1 racers by Jacky Ickx, Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi and several Michael Schumacher models, all of them winners and costing at least one million euros each.
Uwe Meissner is Ferrari from the bottom up. At Auto Becker he was already working on Günther Netzer's Ferrari as an apprentice. After the master's examination, he founded the first company with the support of a Ferrari collector: Modena Motorsport. Meissner was just 23 years old. In 1996 the resourceful mechanic bought the first Formula 1 racing car in Maranello, a former Gerhard Berger model. And eleven more followed in the next few years.
Not for himself, because the Cologne resident had long since recognized: You don't get rich from screwing alone, more from doing business. Meissner not only sold the racing legends to wealthy customers, he also waited for them - and organized the first events at which his wealthy clientele could step on the gas. Of course, the activities in Cologne did not go unnoticed in Maranello either. Jean Todt liked the business model. Instead of founding further Formula 1 bases in America and Japan, the F1 Clienti business branch was established at Ferrari itself.
Formula 1 racing cars built from 2000 onwards are serviced by Ferrari themselves
Meissner's company is also officially allowed to wear this logo, which is limited to racing cars up to 2000. The factory maintains the new models itself. Meissner's customers even come from far-away Japan, and a Russian woman recently bought a Formula 1 from him. And his clients come from all industries: They trade in real estate, own publishing houses or set up wind turbines.
In addition to the owners, ex-professionals at Modena Motorsport also use the wheel. AsJacky Ickx, who actually didn't want to race anymore, but then started for Meissner in Spa in 1999. It was raining in the Ardennes. Ickx weather. The main stand was full. And the former Formula 1 vice world champion from 1972 reeled off his program like in the old days. Meissner recalls that the ex-champion took up to 17 seconds from the rest of the field in one lap. Ickx drove a few more races in the Cologne stable, won the Shell Historic Challenge - and a racing community became friendship. Meissner revealed his big dream to the ex-star: He once wanted to drive on the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco.
Ickx let his relationships play out. And the old Formula 1 Ferraris have been driving at the Historic Grand Prix in Monaco for three years now. 22 cars are at the start for such a demo run. 'And the boys drive really well,' reveals the restorer. 'This is not a flower parade.' Because his squad gave a lot of gas, Meissner was allowed to pick up a ruffian from the race management.
Driving is not as great as it used to be, at least the speed limit has been reduced by around 1,000 revolutions, but a spoiler can break. The men’s drivers put their feet on the gas, but sometimes the Ferrari technicians allow themselves a joke after reading the black box and write down the current lap times from Michael Schumacher - the aha experience is great.
Meissner's favorite Ferrari is Nigel Mansell's 91st model
Meissner himself, who drove virtually all Formula 1 Ferraris from 1990 to 2000, prefers the older types, those without traction control . His favorite: Nigel Mansell's 91 model. Alain Prost once compared it to a clumsy truck - which didn't exactly win him the sympathy of the Ferrari leadership. 'You really fight with the car', Meissner underlines his choice. 'If you raid the curbs with this Ferrari, you'll bruise your hands.'
Problems with the steering wheels were a big issue at the Modena racing team. Three were stolen in one race. No trivial offense, because steering wheels with paddle shifters and various adjustment options are not available in the accessories trade. In any case, the customers were really angry, Meissner recalls. The valances reappeared in the offer of a parts dealer in Monaco. This was how you found out about the thief and secured at least two. The third steering wheel had already been sold to Canada.
The fact that the ex-Schumacher Ferrari was still able to race at the start was due to the ex-world champion himself: He loaned Meissner a steering wheel from his own Ferrari collection. If you add up the cars that Meissner and Schumacher have accumulated between Cologne and Kerpen, you can confidently say that there is the world's largest concentration of Formula 1 Ferrari cars there. Amazing.