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Not bad for my first Ferrari! Driving the 375 Indianapolis at Goodwood

by Quirina Louwman
9 July 2021 4 min read
Not bad for my first Ferrari! Driving the 375 Indianapolis at Goodwood
Photos: Dominic Fraser

The Ferrari 375 Indianapolis is one of only four ever made. That rarity makes it valuable, in the historic sense – the 1952 machine played a part in one of the most humiliating defeats in motorsport for Enzo Ferrari.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I line it up at the start line of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and wait for the signal to roar up the hill. Oh, and did I mention; I’ve never driven the 375 before? Or any Ferrari, for that matter.

But before I let up that clutch and feed the V12’s power to the rear wheels, let me explain how I come to be sitting on the green-cord chair, one hand on the alloy-topped gear lever, the other on the wood-rimmed steering wheel.

Queenie Louwman drives the Ferrari 375 at 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed
Queenie Louwman takes the first corner during her first-ever drive of the Ferrari 375

I inherited my passion for cars from my grandfather, Pieter Louwman. He was fascinated by cars, so much so he turned his passion into his life’s work, starting to work in the automotive business Holland, before World War Two, and going on to become a national importer of certain car brands, and was collecting cars from the ’30s. My father, Evert, built on grandfather’s foundations, forming partnerships with more car companies.

Growing up, cars were in the blood, so to speak. Motorsport, in particular, thrilled me, but my father wasn’t keen on me racing. So I did what all good girls do, respected his wishes right up until the point I boarded a plane to America, where I signed up for the famous Skip Barber Racing School and learned the fundamentals and finer points of race driving.

I’ve since driven at events including The Le Mans Classic, Monte Carlo Rallye Historique, Silverstone Classic, Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hour meeting and Goodwood Revival. The cars have included the Lotus 15, Alfa Sprint GT, Jaguar D-Type, Aston Martin DB3, Maserati 4CM, Alfa Romeo 8C Le Mans and even the Darracq “Genevieve”.

And I have been honoured to judge at concours events around the world, including Chantilly, Zoute GP, Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach and Quail Lodge.

Ferrari 375 Indianapolis cockpit and steering wheel

But there is something special about the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I’ve driven at all bar one, when the new Louwman Museum was being opened over the same weekend, and like everyone else, I was sad to see the Festival postponed, last year.

Now here we are, and my goodness it feels good to be back. The special magic of the Festival of Speed is that it brings together the community. People that love cars and bikes can get so close to the machinery, the drivers, and all the talented team members who ensure the cars and bikes run like clockwork. You can smell the cars, ask about the history, have technical features explained – it’s a great atmosphere for a petrolhead, and this year I have even seen school classes visiting the event, which is wonderful.

The Ferrari 375 Indianapolis attracts its fair share of attention – especially when the engine is started and warmed through in the Brooklands Paddock!

From 1950 to 1960, the World Championship of Drivers included the Indy 500 on the calendar. Enzo Ferrari, ever-eager to grow Ferrari’s stature, saw a chance to put Ferrari on the map in America, and with the help of Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari’s importer, a plan was hatched.

Ferrari 375 Indianapolis at the 1952 Indy 500
A Ferrari 375 at the 1952 Indy 500. Photo: Ferrari

The 375 F1 would be adapted for running at Indianapolis, with the technical side led by Aurelio Lampredi. Its chassis was lengthened, the 4.5-litre, V12 engine was fitted with three new Weber carburettors and power climbed to around 380bhp.

It was an impressive amount of power for a car that weighed just 780 kilos. But at the 1952 Indy 500, the so-called ‘Grant Piston Ring Special’ failed to do the job. Not one of the three privateer entries managed to qualify for the race. The original driver of the car you see here, Johnnie Parsons – who won the 1950 Indy 500 – felt that Scuderia Ferrari wasn’t putting its weight behind the privateer teams, and walked away from his drive after the second qualifying session, switching to another team.

The one car entered by Scuderia Ferrari, and driven by Alberto Ascari, qualified in 25th place, with an average lap speed of 134mph, a good 5mph slower than the pole position lap time. Ascari failed to finish the race.

And now all that power is at my disposal.

Queenie Louwman at the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed
Queenie Louwman steels herself for her first drive of the Ferrari 375

I’m delighted to find that I fit the cockpit like a glove – I’m obviously just the right height for a 1950s racing driver! It’s also pleasing to find that the clutch and steering weight are all perfectly manageable, as I pull away from the Brookland Paddock and head to the assembly area for my first run on the day, and first drive of the Ferrari 375 – or any Ferrari, for that matter. It’s not bad for my first Ferrari!

I’m used to the brake and throttle pedal arrangement, which are the reverse of modern cars, with the brake to the right and throttle in the middle. The Ferrari pulls so smoothly off the line. It’s surprising to find how willing it is, how tractable the V12 is, and of course, it makes a heavenly noise – like music. 

My favourite sections of the hill climb are the start line and the finish line! Everything in between you need to be wary of, especially Molecomb Corner and the flint wall. So naturally I treat the Ferrari with the utmost respect, but am pleasantly surprised to find it is far from intimidating.

The 375 may not have performed well at the Indy 500 but it forms a significant part of Ferrari’s motor racing history, it’s an honour to be able to share that story with enthusiasts, and needless to say the car will put on a great show at Goodwood.

After that first run, I have a skip in my step. I’ve hugely enjoyed my Ferrari initiation. The 375 Indianapolis is wonderful thing, and I’ll enjoy running it through the weekend. I hope you enjoy the show.

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