In Memoriam – Mauro Forghieri 

Posted on November 14, 2022.

Forghieri deep in thought at Zolder in 1968. © Ferrari S.p.A

(13.01.1935 – 02.11.2022)

Mauro Forghieri, probably one of Ferrari’s greatest and most gifted engineers passed away on 02 November 2022. He has often been referred to as the last of the total or all round engineers, that is to say one who can cover virtually every aspect of the design and development of a car, whether it were the engine, gearbox, suspension or aerodynamics, whatever aspect it was, he was able to address it.

He was born in Modena on 13 January 1935, and his initial contact with Ferrari came through his father, who originally knew Enzo Ferrari through working on the Alfa Romeo Alfetta engine in the thirties, then after the conflict of WWII ended he went to work at the factory in Maranello. After his formal education years and then obtaining his Liceo Scientifico, he studied at the University of Bologna, where he passed out with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Although his main interest was more towards aviation design, he accepted an offer to join Ferrari in January 1960. After a short time working there, he was literally thrown in at the deep end after the “palace revolt” at the end of 1961, which saw the departure of the then technical director of the competition department, Carlo Chiti, along with others including Giotto Bizzarrini, who was working secretly on the 250 GTO project at the time.

Over the winter of 1961-1962, just coming up to the age of 27, he was thrust into the position of chief of the racing technical department, then subsequently Technical Director of the racing department, a massive responsibility and challenge for one so young. In F1 terms 1962 wasn’t a stellar year, but the 250 GTO, on which he had worked on the fine tuning, swept all before it in the GT races and the sports racing cars also excelled, notably with a win in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. The Le Mans wins continued through to 1965, with wins for a 250 P in 1963, a 275 P in 1964 and a 250 LM in 1965, making it six consecutive Ferrari victories in the great Sarthe classic, albeit the last one being a private entry from Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team, but it was still a Ferrari win. One mustn’t forget John Surtees F1 World Championship title in 1964, which also came under his umbrella.

It would probably be fair to say that the Ferrari 312 T series of F1 cars were his golden years, or greatest achievements in F1 design, as apart from the Drivers’ World Championships for Niki Lauda in 1975 and 1977, there were the Constructors’ Championships in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979, together Jody Scheckter’s Drivers’ Championship as well in the latter year. By the late seventies aerodynamics were becoming more prevalent, whilst ground effects were also coming into play, and the Flat-12 engine layout of the 312 T series didn’t permit effective introduction of this on the Ferrari, so they lost out to their competitors in cornering performance. There was also the appearance of the turbocharged engine from Renault in 1977, a path eventually followed by others, and Ferrari in 1981.

His tenure at Ferrari as Technical Director lasted until the end of 1984, where he enjoyed a further two Constructors’ Championship titles in 1982 and 1983. He then moved to the development of a proposed four wheel drive road car concept, the 408 4RM, which was completed in early 1987, following which he left Ferrari after a 28 year spell. He then worked for Lamborghini Engineering on a Formula One project, before going to the then resurgent Bugatti concern in 1992 in the role of Technical Director. Then in 1995 he set up his own Oral Engineering company in Baggiovara, between Modena and Maranello, a project and prototype design and construction business to the automotive industry, which continues to this day, and in which he remained active up to the time of his passing.

On a personal note, I judged at the Ferrari 70th anniversary concours in 2017, where he was a guest of honour and found him very approachable and happy to talk. This was equally so, when occasionally I met him in the Vecchio Mulino, a traditional local restaurant in Formigine where he lived. A great loss to the motoring world, with thoughts for and condolences to his family, may he rest in peace.

Keith Bluemel

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