How Forghieri helped shape the Ferrari world
Mauro Forghieri’s stint with Ferrari as technical director and chassis and engine designer lasted from 1959 to 1987, and he is credited by the team with participating in 54 Grand Prix and nine World Championships.
The fact that he has survived for nearly three decades in an organization known for inner turmoil and a revolving door to senior staff says a lot about his close relationship with Enzo Ferrari. They did not always agree, but the leader held a great deal of respect for the younger man, usually supporting his vision.
Forghieri was born in Modena in 1935. His father, Recluse, was a mechanic and mechanic who worked for Enzo Ferrari at Alfa Romeo in the 1930s, and again since the early days of the new Ferrari brand after World War II.
The younger Forgheri studied mechanical engineering at the University of Bologna, and in 1957 he entered some kind of apprenticeship at Ferrari. At one point, he considered moving to the United States to work in the aircraft industry, where aircraft was a great passion. Instead, when he graduated at the age of 24 in 1959, he stayed close to home, joining Ferrari full time.
Initially working under fickle technical chief Carlo Chitti, Forgheri was involved in developing the 1.5-liter Formula 1 V6 engine. Thus it was part of the team’s shocking 1961 season with Sharknose 156 in which the death of Wolfgang von Tripps at Monza overshadowed Phil Hill’s world title.
In October of that year, Chetty and his key lieutenants were fired after a major fallout with Ferrari, leaving Forghieri as the most qualified engineer at Maranello. Ferrari has made the bold decision to appoint the 26-year-old in charge of the entire racing division. Ferrari had a nice place with the youngster, thanks to his long relationship with Forghieri’s father and family origins in the Modena region, and together they worked well.
In honor of Forghieri last week, Enzo’s son Piero described what it was like at Maranello in those days.
He said: “When I joined the company in 1965, I shared an office with Cavalier Giberti, Ferrari’s first employee, while Mauro Forgerie, who had taken over a few years earlier, was nearby. So we were separated by 10 years and a window. We saw each other all day every day.
Forgerie exchanges notes with Surtees, pictured here in a Ferrari 156. He took his successor, the 158, to the 1964 world title.
Photo by: Motorsport Pictures
“Forghieri was energetic and passionate about everything he did. He was an optimist and I remember that in many of those endless meetings in Gestione Sportiva, which started in the evening and continued into the night, I mediated between him and my father. I know my father valued his tireless work ethic and he knew That any mistakes were made just by trying to do something better and looking forward.”
One of Forghieri’s first projects was to sort the legendary 250 GTO, and over the years he’s overseen the development of a series of classic GT cars and sports cars.
But his main focus was Grand Prix racing. The team was having a tough season in 1962 with the now outpaced Sharknose, but the format was chosen after John Surtees joined in 1963, as the Englishman won the German Grand Prix with the updated 156. In 1964 he designed the new 158 chassis, which would That competes with both the V8 and the Flat-12 engine.
Surtees won the Nürburgring and Monza and, aided by a string of strong podium finishes, clinched the 1964 title in the Mexico final. Ferrari also won the constructors’ championship.
The team slipped back to fourth place in 1965, the final year of the 1.5-liter formula, and failed to win the race. Ferrari also faced stiff competition from Ford in sports car racing, recording its sixth consecutive Le Mans win – and its last to date – that year with the 250 LM.
For F1’s transition to three-liter power in 1966, Forghieri designed a 312 chassis and a new V12 engine. As the competing new projects struggled to get up to speed, Ferrari had the potential to win the title. But after winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, Surtees fell out with team principal Eugenio Dragoni and left. The opportunity was lost.
The death of Lorenzo Bandini following a fiery accident in Monaco in 1967 was a huge blow to the entire team, and in that season there were no race victories. The final years of the decade were tough for Ferrari. In 1968, Chris Amon took up several poles and raced regularly with the 312, but the only success was Jackie Eckx in France. That year Forghieri piloted experiments with the rear wing and convinced his boss to let him use a full-size wind tunnel in Germany, with a new focus on aerodynamics on a team where engine performance had always been the priority.
In 1969, Ferrari completed the sale of a stake in his company to Fiat, and invested some money in rebuilding the F1 team after another unsuccessful season. Forghieri has been given breathing space in the new advanced studies office in Modena, away from the factory. There he devised a new Flat-12 engine that provided valuable weight-distribution advantages and was a much better overall package than the V12.
Forgerie worked on the engines and chassis for the 1969 Ferrari 312, driven by Chris Amon in Monaco
Photography: David Phipps
The nimble 312B chassis it was attached to in 1970 proved very competitive in the hands of Ickx and Clay Regazzoni, as the Belgian won three races and finished close to second to the late Jochen Rindt in the title fight. There would be more wins for Ickx and Regazzoni in 1971-72, despite some issues making the cars run on Firestone tires, while Forghieri’s 312 PB proved successful in sports car racing.
The Office for Advanced Studies moved from Modena to the newly opened Fiorano test track in Maranello, but in 1973 and with Ferrari ill, Forghieri was switched aside within the company by Fiat. Without him, the F1 team got lost, failing even to score the podium.
Forghieri was called into F1 duties by the retriever Enzo at the end of the year and would have played a key role in a stunning recovery in fortunes. Another crucial move for Ferrari was the signing of Niki Lauda, who made a good impression at BRM in 1973. The young Austrian came along with the returning Regazzoni, who left Ferrari at the end of 1972 but is still favored by the team boss.
Lauda and Forghieri quickly established a good relationship, and the engineer appreciated the newcomer’s willingness to test whenever necessary and provide unfiltered feedback. Not since the Surtees have hired a driver with a keen interest in technical matters.
Lauda later wrote: “The fact that I was able to audition regularly at Fiorano made real progress possible.” “This means that Forghieri can be encouraged to experiment and eliminate deficiencies.”
The new 312B3, a heavily modified version of the unsuccessful 1973 machine, proved very competitive in 1974. Lauda scored his first win in Spain and added another success in the Netherlands, although the results did not reflect his true pace since he scored nine poles. Rigazzoni won in Germany, and the renewed team jumped from sixth to second in the constructors’ championship.
For 1975, Forghieri designed the highly revised 312T, which featured a transverse gearbox ahead of the rear axle as he sought more benefits from optimal weight distribution. The charismatic machine propelled Lauda to five GP wins and a title that year, while the team also took home the constructors’ crown – both successes being the first since 1964. Lauda later wrote that the 312T was “a permanent monument to the skill of Mauro Forgheri, the jewel of the car”.
Lauda was the dominant force in early 1976, and was heading for the title with a reworked 312T2 when he crashed at the Nürburgring. He returned to the cockpit a few weeks later, but eventually lost to James Hunt in the famous Fuji Final. The constructors’ championship has provided Ferrari some compensation.
Forghieri’s Ferrari 312T allowed Lauda to go to the 1975 title
Photography: David Phipps
Lauda came back to win his second title with 312T2 in 1977, while the team recorded their third consecutive constructors’ title. But by then, he had grown tired of Ferrari’s arguments, and he moved on at the end of the year.
The brand new 312T3 was competitive in 1978 and won five championship races in the hands of Carlos Rotemann and Gilles Villeneuve, but was quickly overtaken by the Lotus 79. Forgieri was forced to design a ground-effect car for the 1979, but wide, flat. -12 engine did not fit the concept.
However, despite the tough competition, the 312T4 proved to be good enough to secure both titles. Jodi Schecter beat teammate Villeneuve to claim the final drivers’ title in the Forghieri watch, and the team’s last for 21 years.
After a harrowing season of 1980, the team switched to the turbo power of 1981 with a V6 engine under Forgerie’s direction. Villeneuve battled the tough 126CK to claim two famous wins in Monaco and Spain. By then, Enzo Ferrari decided the chassis department needed some outside knowledge, and he hired Harvey Postlethwaite to design the 1982 car under Forghieri’s direction.
The 126C2 represents a huge step forward. He was supposed to win the drivers’ championship that year, but Villeneuve was killed at Zolder, and teammate Didier Pironi was badly injured at Hockenheim. The team has at least won the constructors’ title, a feat repeated in 1983 with Rene Arnault and Patrick Tambay driving the car.
For now, F1 is no longer all about having one man in charge of an entire project, and Forghieri had less hands-on involvement in the later turbo machines. In 1984, he was transferred sideways to road car projects, and in 1987 he finally left the company, just a year before the death of his friend and mentor Enzo.
Forgerie joined former Ferrari team principal Daniele Audito and worked with Chrysler-backed Lamborghini on the V12 F1 engine to be used by the Larrousse, Lotus, Ligier and Minardi teams in 1989-1993, which was also tested in one stage by McLaren. He also had a direct role in the Lambo 291 for Team Modena driven by Nicolas Larini and Eric van de Poel in 1991, which rarely qualifies.
He left Lamborghini that year and worked for a time on Bugatti’s supercar projects, including the EB110. In 1995, he co-founded Oral Engineering, a research, development and design consultancy that has worked with several manufacturers, including Ferrari.
Forghieri was of great interest to colleagues at Ferrari and did not leave until 1987
Photo by: Motorsport Pictures
Mattia Binotto, current F1 team boss, noted last week that Forgerie was a great motivator with a charismatic personality: “He was appointed team principal at a young age and, thanks to his brilliant vision, was one of the last all-round engineers in the motoring world.
“I met him on various occasions and each time he was something special. He was, to the end, a truly charismatic person. His revolutionary ideas, combined with his vibrant nature, and abilities as a great catalyst, meant that he played a very important role in some of the most important moments in the history of Ferrari, and he has done the most to fuel the legend of the Prancing Horse. We will all miss him.”
Forgieri’s former teammate Piero Ferrari added: “We have lost a part of our history, a man who has given so much to Ferrari, and to the racing world in general.”
Forghieri was an important cornerstone in Ferrari’s history of Formula 1
Photography: David Phipps
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