Italian motoring journalist and test driver Davide Cironi talks to Jonny Edge about cars, driving, and life.
Not long ago we stumbled across Davide Cironi’s Drive Experience, quite simply the perfect YouTube channel for anyone with petrol in their veins. Presented by somebody who is surely one of the most passionate men in motoring, Cironi has driven some of the most stunning cars in the world, and in his channel’s lovingly engineered videos, he simply oozes his love and obsession for cars. When he speaks, you can’t help but stop and listen, so we thought we’d get him to sit down us.
JE: Ciao Davide, I’ve been waiting to speak with you for a while! You’re an incredibly vibrant personality and you express very heartfelt views in your videos on ‘Drive Experience’. With that in mind, I wanted to start by asking you something a little philosophical; as I think we are similar characters. Do you believe a car is more than the sum of its parts? I mean, is a car something bigger and more sentient than the entirety of its mechanical components?
DC: Ciao Jonny. Obsession – that is the perfect word. I’ll answer you with what I wrote for my Giulia Quadrifoglio review.
“If it’s true some cars have a soul, and I think it is, it is not the set of materials composing a car to have a soul, but in that sum of materials, work, investments, disappointments, and dreams. In a project, inside a finished automobile, all of these things, all of those people are inside the car”.
So many different people, different circumstances, different food they eat and wine they drink, different women they make love with, different air that they breathe, different blasphemies spoken while working on the prototypes – these are the things that combine to give the different souls cars will have. A beautiful Ferrari 275 GTB/4 has inside her soul of the woman Pininfarina was thinking about, the wine Mauro Forghieri was drinking during those years, the determination of Enzo Ferrari above everybody else, the air of Emilia Romagna and its morning fog. A timeless Miura has inside her the soul of the challenge, the youthful enthusiasm of Dallara, Stanzani and the secret lovers who Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted to impress. Marcello Gandini designed a perfect, willowy, lithe, sinuous woman. In the Bugatti EB110 there is hidden the mood of Campogalliano’s workers. Loris Bicocchi, who tested it for the first time, when it was only a bad prototype, the continuous fight between president Artioli and engineer Stanzani for the chassis and the looks. Then there is the will of power from a quad-turbo engine, four-wheel drive supercar to beat the rest of the world. There is also the pain and sorrow of bankruptcy when you look into the eyes of an EB110.
And then there are Porsches, Lotuses, Alfa Romeos -so many stories of the women and men behind those screaming engines and designs. How can someone say they have no soul?
JE: I couldn’t agree more, and you’ve found the words to express something that is enormously difficult to accurately describe – the blood, sweat, and tears.
You are now, in your twenties, in a wonderful position where you can – and have – driven many of the most famous cars in the world. But, I’d like to take you back to your younger years, your earliest memories of cars. When were you bitten by the bug? And, what are your earliest memories of cars?
DC: I’m now 28, and for the last 28 years I swear I’ve never stopped thinking about cars for one day. I’m daily driving my dream cars, some of them I could never imagined, like the brutal Alfa 155 DTM or the incredible Pagani Huayra. But, I have to say I’m not that surprised when I sit behind those amazing wheels, I always knew I will… it’s just I didn’t know how!
As a kid I was crazy for the F40, and I knew one day I’ll drive one. The question was, how?! So, today I finally know how, and I’m preparing my mind and body to experience that without crying.
My early memories are all about cars… So I can’t say which was first of them. It’s always been my first and last thought during the day. I have a perfect picture, a frame from my first birthday party video, with my grandfather putting me inside a small plastic Testarossa (as seen on my Testarossa video) and maybe that was the beginning of everything. Look at my face while grabbing the plastic wheel!
My family never had passion for engines and sports cars, so for me that amazing world was out of reach. That wall I’ve always seen between me and my dream has been the push to work harder and harder until today and tomorrow, and then after. I’m lucky to know the meaning of my life.
Oh, and just for fun, in 1995 when the F50 came out, I saw one on the highway (last time I saw one on the road) and I went totally nuts jumping inside my father’s car and yelling like the Devil’s child.
JE: It was the same for me, but because the motoring world seemed so out of reach, I didn’t find a way to be involved in this incredible profession until the last few years or so. We are the same age, but my family seems to be similar to yours too, where there’s no history of any motoring passion. It seems like maybe we were chosen to do what we do. Or, we chose it.
Many of the cars that are your heroes come from your homeland of Italy. It could be argued that Italy more than any other nation has managed to capture the joy of driving within its vehicles, how important is it for you to promote, praise, and celebrate the cars from the country of your birth? For me, with British manufacturers and their cars, I feel it is important to show what we do best, especially for younger people – not that we are old yet!
DC: Absolutely very, very important to me. I have a pure love for our Italian cars and roads; I can’t hide this even during my work. But, I actually own a Porsche 911, so I’m not a car racist.
I was talking with an old friend just today about English cars, saying they are my second love. McLaren, Lotus, Jaguar, Caterham, Aston Martin, wow. When I see a ’94 F1 and think about Gordon Murray, I can’t breathe. Lotus Elise Mk1, Jaguar E-Type and XJ220, Aston Martin DB9, these are just the first to come into my mind now. But Italy, you know…
JE: It seems like you need to come and drive some of our cars over here then! I’m sorry to admit I’ve not visited Italy yet, and haven’t had a great deal of time in Italian cars, but that is something I’m trying to put right. I’ve always been in love with Italy from afar, so soon I’m hoping to finally meet her!
You mention you own a Porsche 911 now, have you owned many cars in your life to date? What goes through your mind when looking to buy a new (or another!) car? Does it all come from the heart, or does your head have a big role in choosing your car? My first car was a lowered Peugeot 106 with a 1.4-litre petrol engine and big tyres. It almost never worked, but when it did was bloody good fun.
DC: I purchased this 2001 911 Carrera 2 in black dress when I had to sell my Alfa Romeo GT 3.2 V6 24v for track use. God, I miss that sound. With that amazing engine you could have the rest of the car for free, great deal! The 911 was for sale at a ridiculous price, and it was broken – as all the 996 series engines seem to be – but I renewed it within two years. Still paying the engine though! Every time I drive it, it feels special. It’s actually my mum’s dream car and I bought it on her birthday 4 years ago. I’m still in love, and have just ordered (from UK) a very ‘outlaw’ straight pipes exhaust (because I miss my old Alfa V6 scream). My 911 is incredible fun to drive, but so quiet. Not anymore!
My first sports car was a 156 2.0 Twin spark when I was 18, it died on track, poor baby. Lots of small Fiat 500s, all ‘Abarthized ‘(I had my first one at 16 years old, long story, you can see the one in yellow eventually became red). However, the love of my youth – my all-time best car until now – was my Alfa GT Junior with the 2.0-litre engine. This is the car I’m constantly crying for now I don’t have it anymore (I sold it for founding the “Drive Experience”).
I always buy cars with just my heart, never head – but never mind! Like you, I once had a Peugeot 106 900cc for a few months at 18, I jumped with that once!
JE: The Alfa looks beautiful! I love the Abarth 500’s; I’m actually considering something Italian my next car. I’ve not yet owned an Italian car, so I feel it’s a box I need to tick. It’s a real shame your GT Junior had to be sacrificed, but ‘Drive Experience’ is really worth it. It’s pretty difficult to get into this business, how was it for you? And, how long did it take you to become a recognised motoring journalist? Did you have to make many other sacrifices along the way? Most of my sacrifices have been financial!
DC: Many sacrifices. People envy me and keep saying this, but I don’t think most of them would be ready to renounce their social life for three years or pay for working instead of doing a normal job and be paid. My GT Junior was sold to invest, and I invested the whole sum in this project. Now I can say I’ve been good, I did the right thing.
First two years have been exciting but destructive, I lost my girlfriend (thank cars!) and my old job on the same day – before driving the SZ. Lots of responsibilities for a young man, fighting with the big guys, lots of hard choices and above all: 24 hours a day working on 365 days a year. It’s more strenuous than when as a kid I was a baker, or a bricklayer, or a waiter, or a warehouse worker, or a night guardian. But, now I wake up in the morning with a huge smile.
Today I’m the first name for YouTube Italian spoken videos (for sports cars and vintage, not commercial cars) and I’ve been online with my staff since 2014. That’s really impressive and I still can’t believe that people from all around the world, from Australia to China, to the States, and of course, all over our Europe are so kind to me and the “Drive Experience”. Good news – I don’t like my videos, I think we didn’t begin to do things quite the way I’d like. The staff are great, but it it’s me that isn’t enough. I’m going to be so much better in 4th season, 2017! A better driver, a better boss.
JE: The sacrifices are pretty big, and you mentioned a relationship there. I think relationships are more difficult for us because, in a way, the women in our lives have to kind of accept that we are already married to our passion! I think it is hard for them to grow closer to a guy who’s often travelling and busy, with the lack of security we have in our position also. Since you began to invest yourself into this full-time, have you found relationships – and not just romantic ones – have been more difficult? For me, it sure puts a strain on family and friendships also.
DC: My previous social life was pretty different, maybe easier. Women have always been fascinated by men with a passion, especially a dangerous one, so I find easy to get close to women, but very hard to stay there. Having a burning passion, as this one is, condemns you to be alone for the most of the time. I was speaking about this just yesterday on the phone with my master and friend Loris Bicocchi – the man behind Zonda C12, Bugatti EB110, Koenigsegg, Veyron and Chiron. He was telling me again about my book “The Black Miura diaries” (to be translated into English next year, already well known in Italian petrol society) and he told me that our work, this incredible passion for fast cars, invariably leads us to a lonely life, but beautiful in many ways.
Lots of people tell me “I’d love to do what you do” and I think it’s fair enough but, who would actually leave all behind as I did for having this life?
JE: I can only ask you to forgive me for this last question I’m about to ask you now, as it puts you in a hugely difficult position. The environmentalists have taken over the world, and all of the world’s cars are to be destroyed, but the leader has granted you permission to save just one car from the crusher. What do you choose to represent humanity’s era of petrol? Do you choose something that’s a personal favourite of yours, or something that is more important on a human history level? The power is in your hands, Davide!
DC: Nothing easier – F40. Fuck the world!