Legendary Ferrari designer Forghieri dies aged 87

Legendary Ferrari designer Forghieri dies aged 87

Mauro Forghieri left Ferrari for Lamborghini in 1987

Legendary Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri has died at the age of 87.

The Italian was an iconic figure who oversaw four Formula 1 drivers’ championships and seven constructors’ titles during his 27 years with the team.

Forghieri was a true engineering artist who created innovations in chassis, engine and gearbox design.

He designed some of Ferrari’s most famous cars, including the 312 T series which won three drivers’ and four constructors’ titles from 1975-79.

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 second fastest car.

And he designed Ferrari’s first turbocharged engine. Introduced in 1981, four years after Renault pioneered the technology in F1, Ferrari became the first team to win the constructors’ title with a turbocharged car in 1982, repeating the feat in 1983.

Ferrari marked his death saying: “Legends last forever. It has been an honor to create history together. Ferrari and the world of motorsport will never forget you.”

Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali said: “I am very saddened to hear the news that our friend Mauro Forghieri has passed away. He was a huge part of F1 and Ferrari and leaves behind an incredible legacy for us all. My thoughts and prayers is with his family and friends at this sad time.”

Forghieri joined Ferrari in 1960 and within a year was in charge of the design program at the age of 27, after key people left the team in 1961 in what was known as “the Great Excursion”, leaving him as the only engineer left on staff.

He was soon appointed technical director of Scuderia Ferrari, a position he held until 1984.

He took over and completed the design of the 250 GTO GT car, an example of what has since become the most expensive car in the world at auction.

Mauro Forghieri
Mauro Forghieri was responsible for the design of several championship-winning Ferraris

Forghieri’s first F1 win as a designer came at the 1963 German Grand Prix, and a year later Ferrari won a double driver and constructor title, with Briton John Surtees victorious in a tight race with compatriots Jim Clark and Graham Hill.

Ferrari’s fortunes waned in F1 in the late 1960s as the Ford Cosworth engine came to the fore. But Forghieri’s designs continued to enjoy success in sports car racing, including with the sleek 330 P4 engaging in battles with the Ford GT40 that have gone down in racing folklore, and recently featured in the Hollywood film Ford v Ferrari.

F1 success began to return in the early 1970s, with Forghieri’s 312 B design taking occasional victories, before a winless 1973 saw the team rebuild under Luca di Montezemolo.

Ferrari returned to the victory circle in 1974, before Niki Lauda swept everything before him in 1975 in Forghieri’s transverse gearbox, flat 12 engine 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 bravest acts in sporting history, the Austrian was back behind the wheel 42 days later at the Italian Grand Prix in a bid to fend off the charge against Englishman James Hunt in the McLaren.

Lauda eventually lost out to Hunt after retiring to the pits and refusing to continue in difficult conditions in 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 remaining after falling out with Enzo Ferrari.

A third Ferrari Drivers’ Championship in five years followed in 1979, when South African Jody Scheckter led Canadian teammate Gilles Villeneuve to a one-two in the 312 T4.

The advent of ground-effect aerodynamics revealed Forghieri’s famous and suggestive flat-12 engine as its low, wide design obstructed the under-car venturi tunnels essential for maximum cornering performance, and it was replaced by a turbo in 1981.

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

Villeneuve was killed in a horrific carriage crash in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

His team-mate Didier Pironi began to take control of the championship when he suffered a remarkably similar rollover accident in the pouring rain in practice in Germany two months later. The Frenchman survived, but his legs were badly damaged, and he never competed in F1 again.

Despite missing the final five races of the season, Pironi lost out on the title by just five points, but Ferrari won the constructors’ championship and repeated the feat in 1983.

Forghieri left his F1 position in 1984 and moved to work on a concept road design, Ferrari’s first all-wheel drive car, the 408 4RM, his last assignment at Maranello.

He joined Lamborghini in 1987 and designed a V12 F1 engine for them used by the Larrousse-Lola team in 1989 and by Lotus in 1990.

Forghieri moved to the resurgent Bugatti road car company in 1992, where he was involved in the development of the EB 110 and 112 road cars, before co-founding Oral Engineering Group, a mechanical design company, with which he remained active until his death.

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