Dallara – It’s a beautiful story

Cesare Fiorio, Frank Williams, Mario Andretti, Jean Todt (and other racing drivers and managers) describe not one but several beautiful stories, all of them referring to Giampaolo Dallara.
Frank Williams (several Formula 1’s world championship winner) thinks that Giampaolo Dallara is very similar to his technical director (“He’s a Patrick Head-type of engineer to whom the fundamentals of physics and mechanics are sacred”) while Mario Andretti (Formula 1 world champion and Indy’s winner) remembers that Dallara “also succeeded where even Ferrari failed: he’s won at Indianapolis”.
First winning in Indianapolis 500 miles has curious roots: future winner Eddie Cheever cannot pay a Dallara chassis and his sponsor cannot help him (“they had lots and lots of potato chips but very little money”). Cheever calls Caterina Dallara (Giampaolo’s daughter and the real push that moved Dallara to USA) “hat in hand”, and Caterina gives immediately the best support he could ever dream (“don’t worry about paying for it [the chassis] until after Indy”). Cheever found the budget thanks to Menards (a Cheever’s team competitor…) that eventually agreed to buy the truck loads of potato chips.
From 1998 to 2019 Dallara chassis won almost all Indy 500 (only two are missing), while from 2005 all Formula Indy’s chassis have been designed and produced by Dallara. Amazing results reached in a very competitive market (“USA does not offer any second chance if you have made a mistake”) against teams used to race in 300 Km/h oval circuits. Do not be surprise if Dallara is not in Indy’s role of Honour: Indy’s rules offer the chance to name racing car with its own main sponsor (it looks like in Formula 1 Mercedes was branded Petronas or Ferrari was named Ray-Ban).

Before reaching these amazing results in USA, Giampaolo Dallara has developed great supercars (once for all: Lamborghini Miura), several world championship winners (Lancia Stratos, 3 times world champion, and Beta Montecarlo turbo, 2 times world champion), single seated that won European and national championships, international category events (not only in Formula 3).
In 1980 Dallara won his first Formula 3 italian championship, two years later having introduced a car with engine stressed, first time in Formula 3. Twelve years later Dallara started in Formula 3 british championship: competitors (Reynard, Ralt, Chevron, March) were soon beated and Dallara won 20 in a row championship (no more because championship has been terminated and does not exist any longer). In order to understand how Dallara was successful in racing championships that lead their own best drivers to Formula 1, consider that almost all drivers in the 2010 Formula 1 Worlds has driven Dallaras (only Schumacher and Massa did not).
Formula 1 is the unique championship where Dallara did not obtain the results he deserved: Iso-Williams team always suffered of poor budget, BMS Scuderia Italia never had good engines, De Tomaso stopped his activities after Pier Courage’s fatal crash, Honda terminated his racing program after Harvey Posteltwhaite’s (designer of Hesketh 308 driven by James Hunt, Wolf WR1 by Jody Scheckter and Ferrari 126 C2 by unforgettable Gilles Villeneuve) death.
Even if in Formula 1 results are not good, all other Dallara’s projects are several championships’ winners (Lancia LC1 and LC2, Ferrari SP 333), Olympics winner (bike that Alex Zanardi used in London) or most desirable niche cars (Bugatti Veyron, Maserati MC12, KTM X-Bow, Dallara Stradale). Stradale is the first regular production car made by Dallara: two seats, 400 horse power and less than 900 kilos (Porsche 911 Carrera S has 50 horse power more but also 600 kilos more…). All of these results have been reached by a company founded In 1972 in Varano, (a 2.000 souls village not so far from Parma) where Dallara has his roots.



Dallara as manager is as good as Dallara as racing cars designer: he decides to refuse the offer caming from Cesare Fiorio to take the role of technical director at Ferrari (and Fiorio often asked himself how the history of Ferrari as well as Gianpaolo’s own and his own, would have developed if he’d accepted his offer that day), say no thank you to good offers (“big car marques have wanted to take us over but they would not guarantee us our freedom or that we would stay rooted locally”), understand that his company needed someone with good international experience (“When the problem of handling over from one generation to the next arose, I realized that I raised a generation [his two daughters, both of them obtained a degree in engineering] of technicians, not managers”) to be found outside. Andrea Pontremoli, former IBM Italia top manager (and born not so far from Dallara’s head quarter), was chosen to become managing director in Varano: Pontremoli pushed hard on investments (in 1986 Dallara is the first wind tunnel with moving belt in Italy, while new driving simulator will allow “to drive a car that has not yet built”, obtaining cost reductions and time savings) and decided to build a sane relationship with suppliers (no supplier could have more than 40% of his revenues from Dallara, in order to maintain his own way of thinking). Pontremoli is aware that, in order to keep safe Dallara, the critical issue in the next future will be “to [well] manage our own Know-How”, and is always looking for young technicians because “we work in pioneering areas, we take young people just out of university and put them into sector in which freshness and imagination, combined with our specific culture, are important”. In 2020 average age in Dallara has been increase thanks to Aldo Costa, that became technical director. Costa won 26 F1 world championships in Ferrari and Mercedes team and after 31 years spent in racing decided to join Dallara because is a company (the only one?) where he will have the chance to work on several projects and items.


Today Giampaolo Dallara does not have any regret (“life has given me much more than I could ever have hoped for”) and is too much strict versus himself (“luckily we were too young to understand how big was the effort to design Lamborghini Miura”) and regarding how he left Maranello (“even now I’m still ashamed of the way I left Ferrari”). We do not agree with Dallara’s self-judgment: Miura was so good that also Colin Chapman and Jim Clark decided to move to Sant’Agata Bolognese to take a look to the car, and development was completed within seven months without any severe defect. Also leaving Maranello was not really a dramatic event (as happened with other technicians such as Aurelio Lampredi and Carlo Chiti): Enzo Ferrari went to Varano and did his best to convinced Giampaolo’s father that it would be better for his son if he went back to Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari, that few months later fired seven top managers (including technical director Carlo Chiti, GTO’s designer Giotto Bizzarini and his lieutenant Romolo Tavoni), was not the man that moved from Maranello for someone who did not admire.
Why Giampaolo Dallara is so successfully? Paolo Barilla, former Le Mans 24 hours winner, has probably found the best explanation: “the success of Giampaolo’s company lies in the idea that everything can be improved upon”. We all hope that such mentality will also infect other italian companies.

Title Dallara E’ una bella storia – It’s a beautiful story (italian-english)

Author Guido Schittone

Printer Automobilia

Page 240

Price 50 Euro (2011)

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