Legendary Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri has passed away aged 87


Maranello has lost one of its giants. Mauro Forghieri, the Italian engineer whose creativity and inspiration helped Scuderia Ferrari to new heights, has passed away aged 87. He led a group of engineers that steered Ferrari to four driver’s championships, seven constructors’ titles, and 54 GP victories.

Legendary Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri has passed away aged 87

Mauro Forghieri, a lifetime for Ferrari, needs no introduction for those who know just a bit of Formula 1. He is one of the mythical characters of this sport and of the whole auto world. His life, before devoting himself to balsamic vinegar, golf and good readings, has been of adventure. Through his ideas, the most successful Ferraris from the ‘70s were born.

Forghieri was a true engineering all-rounder, creating innovations in chassis, engine and gearbox design. Under his guidance, Ferrari achieved 54 Grand Prix victories, won the driver's world championship four times, with John Surtees (1964), Niki Lauda (1975 and 1977) and Jody Scheckter (1979). Ferrari also won the F1 constructors world championship eight times.

He was born in Modena on 13 January 1935, the only child of Reclus and Afra Forghieri. His father worked in factories to support the Italian war effort during World War II. After the conflict, he took up work in the Ferrari workshop in Maranello. Meanwhile, Forghieri obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Bologna.

Despite his initial interest in aviation design, he accepted an offer from Ferrari, where he had been introduced by his father. He became part of the racing team in 1962, but these were turbulent times for Ferrari and following the notorious 1961 ‘Palace revolt’, in which a number of the top technical staff departed in acrimony, Forghieri suddenly found himself elevated to the exalted position of Scuderia Ferrari’s technical director after the departure of Carlo Chiti. He was just 27 at the time.

Forghieri's carrer at Ferrari

He took over and completed the design of the 250 GTO GT car. One of Ferrari’s most celebrated endurance racing cars, an example of which has since become the most expensive car in the world at auction.

Forghieri was the first engineer to put aerodynamic rear wings on a car, at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix, helping Ferrari driver Chris Amon to pole position, nearly four seconds faster than the next quickest car.

Ferrari's fortunes in F1 in the late 1960s faded as the Ford Cosworth engine came to the scene. But Forghieri's designs continued to have success in sports car racing, including the elegant 330 P4 that engaged in battles with the Ford GT40 that have gone down in racing folklore, and which recently featured in the Hollywood movie Ford v Ferrari.

Forghieri's first F1 victory as a designer came at the 1963 German Grand Prix, and a year later in 1964, Ferrari won the drivers and constructors championship, with Briton John Surtees winning the championship, prevailing in a close battle with fellow countrymen Jim Clark and Graham Hill.

Success in F1 began to return in the early 1970s, as Forghieri's 312 B designs took occasional victories, before a winless 1973 led to the reconstitution of the team under Luca di Montezemolo's leadership.

Ferrari returned to the victory circle in 1974 and in 1975 Niki Lauda won his first world championship in Forghieri's transverse gearbox, flat 12 engined 312 T design.

Lauda would have won the title again in the 312 T2 in 1976, only to suffer a fiery crash at the German Grand Prix that left him with severe burns. In one of the most courageous acts in sporting history, the Austrian was back behind the wheel 42 days later at the Italian Grand Prix in an attempt to fend off the charge of the Englishman James Hunt in the McLaren.

Lauda eventually lost out to Hunt after pulling into the pits and refusing to continue in torrential conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Another constructors title was Ferrari's consolation, and Lauda returned to win a second drivers crown in 1977, before leaving the team with three races still to go after falling out with Enzo Ferrari.

A third Ferrari drivers championship in five years followed in 1979 when South African Jody Scheckter led Canadian team-mate, Gilles Villeneuve, to a one-two in the 312 T4.

1980s era of ground effect

The advent of ground-effect aerodynamics saw Forghieri's famous and evocative flat 12 engine but because its low, wide design, it obstructed the under-car venturi tunnels crucial for maximum cornering performance. Therefore in 1981 he designed Ferrari's first turbocharged engine, four years after Renault pioneered the technology in F1, Ferrari became the first team to win the constructors title with a turbo car in 1982 and repeated the feat in 1983.

After a difficult first year with an uncompetitive chassis, Ferrari should have won another title double with 1982's best car, the 126 C2, but for accidents that befell both their drivers.

  • Villeneuve was killed in a horrendous cartwheel crash in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
  • His team-mate Didier Pironi was beginning to take control of the championship when he suffered a remarkably similar somersault accident in the pouring rain in practice in Germany two months later. The Frenchman survived, but his legs were badly injured, and he never raced in F1 again.

Despite missing the final five races of the season, Pironi lost out on the title by only five points but Ferrari prevailed in the constructors' contest, repeating the feat in 1983.

Forghieri left his F1 position in 1984, moving over to work on a concept road design, Ferrari's first four-wheel-drive car, the 408 4RM, his last task at Maranello.

Forghieri after Ferrari

After 27 years with Ferrari, he joined Lamborghini Engineering in 1987, where he designed a V12 F1 engine used by Larousse-Lola and Lotus, that almost powered Ayrton Senna and McLaren in 1993. Then came a stint as technical director for Bugatti, helping Romano Artioli reactivate the brand. In 1995, he co-founded the Oral Engineering Group, a design and research consultancy; one of its more recent tasks included converting the 1980 Ferrari Pinin four door concept to a working vehicle on behalf of its new owner.

The Italian followed Formula 1 closely and made it clear a few years ago that he didn’t like the current rules that allowed DRS:

“I don’t like the whole aerodynamics of the current cars. I don’t understand why it is not reduced to allow normal overtaking manoeuvres without DRS....... When your opponent is less than a second behind, you can only watch him pass. That can’t be right. A world champion must be able to overtake his opponent without help. Otherwise he is not a world champion in my eyes.“

Ferrari said in a statement.

"Legends last forever. It’s been an honor making history together. Ferrari and the world of motorsport will never forget you"

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