- Dragoni e in canottiera seduto sul muretto box. Borsari ha la tuta blu notte. Forghieri indossa un berretto a righe gialle e rosse.

Forghieri: Enzo Ferrari’s genius surrogate son who got things done

- Dragoni e in canottiera seduto sul muretto box. Borsari ha la tuta blu notte. Forghieri indossa un berretto a righe gialle e rosse.

Mauro Forghieri was far more than just a Ferrari engineer. He was the genial glue that gelled the Scuderia together for decades. A Ferrari god.

Waking up to the news of a fallen idol is crushing. Mauro Forghieri was much more than just a Ferrari hero. He was my god.

I was privileged to know Mauro. Truant as ever with my cousin Massimo at Kyalami in that heady fortnight prior to the 1976 South African Grand Prix, Ferrari’s SA connection Jack Nucci cornered us fifteen-year-olds in the pits.

It may as well have been God

Formel 1, Grand Prix Deutschland 1979, Hockenheimring, 29.07.1979 Boxengasse, Ferrari-Box Jody Scheckter, Ferrari 312T4 Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari Ferrari-Team www.hoch-zwei.net , copyright: HOCH ZWEI / Ronco

No. He never reported us to the headmaster, Nucci rather trotted us down to the Ferrari box. And presented us to Mauro Forghieri. It may as well have been God. Before we knew it, we were packed into a Fiat 128 and driving down the main straight with Montezemolo, to learn how to set up the Scuderia’s Heuer top-speed kit.

That went on for an incredible decade until Formula 1 left the great old Kyalami. Sitting down the straight with Norah Tyrrell and Jean Sage, eating those famous Ferrari pasta lunches as part of the team, my seat the T4 rear wheel, the wing my table. And somehow, standing on the podium with Jody and Gilles. I even had a pen pal called Enzo.

I got to know Mauro reasonably well through those splendid truant years. But it was refueling our Zagato Otto Vu at the Agip at that sensory overloaded Friday night Mille Miglia stop in Rome a while later in ’87, that really brought Mauro Forghieri home for me.

What Mauro Forghieri was all about

Mauro Forghieri ist tot: Scuderia trauert um legendären Ferrari-Ingenieur - Eurosport

A tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was Mauro, his jersey over the shoulder, umbrella in hand. We had a splendid conversation. He’d taken the trouble to look us up and came to find my dad and me that evening. That is what Mauro Forghieri was all about.

Far deeper entrenched in Ferrari lore than many would ever believe, Mauro’s dad Reclus worked with The Old Man, Bazzi and Giberti in the late 1930s. He made parts for what became the Alfetta that so dominated the first years of Formula 1.

The family later moved to Monaco to avoid Fascist pressure in the pre-war years. Mauro’s grandfather had written poorly of the system in French newspapers after turning his back on Mussolini. Reclus fettled top end cars to earn his keep, before moving on to the aero industry making propellers in the War.

Mauro became obsessed with Aircraft

La Ferrari piange Mauro Forghieri - RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera

That had a profound effect on young Mauro. He became obsessed with aircraft. He’d while away much of his spare time sketching futuristic airplanes. Always with propellers, never jets. That led Mauro to enroll at a Modena university to study math and physics.

His marks earned him a place to study mechanical engineering at the exclusive University of Bologna. Dad Reclus had by then re-joined Ferrari to run the machine shop. Mauro spent some time at Maranello as an intern under chief engineer Andrea Fraschetti in 1957.

Fraschetti taught Mauro the importance of a rigid chassis. He tasked young Forghieri with the design and stress calculations of a section of the frame for the 156 V6 Monoposto. That car ultimately took Phil Hill to Ferrari’s first rear-engined F1 World Championship in 1961.

Forghieri dreamed of working in the aero industry

Mauro Forghieri, la 'Formula' del successo - Storia - Motorsport

Forghieri’s dream however remained to work in the aero industry. He’d applied to join a gas turbine company in America. While he waited for an answer from America, Fraschetti died in a testing accident at Monza.

Enzo Ferrari had kept track of young Forghieri’s progress through his dad. Fraschetti had spoken very well of Mauro, which prompted Enzo to approach young Forghieri to join Ferrari. To gain experience while he awaited news from the US. Mauro duly joined Ferrari in January 1960.

Forghieri had barely found his feet at Ferrari, when just as Phil Hill had won his 1961 World Championship, Enzo implemented his famous Black Monday at Maranello. Engineering boss Carlo Chiti, team manager Romolo Tavoni and five other senior managers had become frustrated with Enzo’s wife and company co-owner, Laura meddling in Ferrari affairs.

Enzo Ferrari executed his Maranello Massacre

Former Ferrari technical head Forghieri dead at 87 - The Hindu

They approached a lawyer, who wrote to Enzo on their behalf. Drake did not take to such cowardly behaviour very well at all. Rather than the expected tantrum, a somber, resolute, and frightening Ferrari quietly sat with his unhappy men one at a time. Then, as they left his office, each was handed a letter by Ferrari’s aide. They were summarily fired!

With Maranello’s Monday Massacre executed, Enzo calmly called wide-eyed 26-year old Forghieri in. And promoted him to head of motorsport. Mauro tried to tell Ferrari that he never had enough experience. Enzo simply told Forghieri to shut up, do his job and that he (Ferrari) would do the rest…

That was the start of an incredible relationship. Ferrari had of course lost his own son Dino to illness five years earlier. But he’d known Mauro since he was a child. Yet, while they clashed heads as often as they fought the outside world at each other’s side, Forghieri and Ferrari would go on to make history together for more than a quarter of a century.

Forghieri lured Vittorio Jano out of retirement

F1 - FIA pays tribute to legendary designer Mauro Forghieri | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

‘Dazed, but excited’, Forghieri took the bull by the horns; or more literally the horse by the reins. Like it is today with Binotto and Brawn, Mauro summarily lured the great engineer Vittorio Jano out of retirement as a consultant and summoned the mercurial problem solver Luigi Bazzi, Angelo Bellei, and Franco Rocchi. And they set to work.

Forghieri and Jano tackled the 1500cc fuel-injected V6 and V8 F1 engine to replace the obsolete F1 cars. Those John Surtees’ Championship-winning 1964 and 1965, 158 and 1512 ‘aero’ F1 designs also took Ferrari into monocoque chassis construction.

At the same time, colourful, diligent, imaginative and at times explosive Forghieri developed the now priceless front-engined 250 GTO. He later masterminded the first rear-engined V12 250LM Berlinetta, which evolved into the P2, P3 and on to the sensational 1967 P4.

Propelled by Ferrari’s fascination with the V12

1667384522438_GettyImages forghieri ferrari f1 legend

Back in F1 and propelled by Enzo Ferrari’s fascination with 12-cylinder engines, Forghieri went to the simple design, but the costly route to building V12 when F1 changed up to 3-liter cars in 1967.

Always innovative, Forghieri’s cars would evolve even more visibly as the seasons progressed. His 1968 312 was the first F1 car to have an aerofoil. Jacky Ickx sensationally drove it to victory in a soaking French Grand Prix.

Mauro considered the P4 among his favourite Ferraris. But the expensive Le Mans project hindered F1 progress with the by-then outdated V12. So, Ferrari shifted Mauro over to a new experimental department soon after Fiat took after following the Ford debacle.

Forghieri went to work on the new flat-12 engine

Fallece el exdiseñador de Ferrari Mauro Forghieri a los 87 años | SoyMotor.com

Forghieri went to work on the new flat-12 engine for 1970 with Salvarani, Maioli, Marchetti, Panini, Lugli, and Piccagliani. Ferrari had proposed an all-wheel drive car to show Maranello’s advanced technology off to Fiat. The FIA however banned four-wheel drive.

Enzo Ferrari paid very close attention to Forghieri’s flat-12 F1 and sports car projects. Ickx and Regazzoni came on form too late in 1970, and Ferrari started well but the cars suffered severe Firestone tyre vibrations in 1971. Then Enzo fell ill and shifted Mauro to the new Advanced Office, with Sandro Colombo in charge of racing.

The 312B2 had suffered a poor run in ’72, by the time Ferrari recuperated. The Old Man called Forghieri back to the race team and stopped the sportscar project to concentrate on F1. Forghieri soon developed the ‘snow plough’ Spazzaneve and then the 312 B3 for ’74.

Convinced by advantages of a shorter wheelbase

Ferrari 312 B3 - How torment, trial, and error built a great race team

Mauro was convinced by the balance advantages of a shorter wheelbase F1 car with radiators each side instead of out front. And the extra downforce generated by broad sidepods. Lauda and Regazzoni proved his concept by winning races. So, Forghieri pushed that short, squat theory even harder in the 312T, T for Transverse gearbox, in 1975.

The 312 T brought Lauda and Ferrari’s first F1 World Championship since Surtees in the V8 in 1964. Lauda added a second Title after that epic 1976 season, in the evolved 312T2 in 1977. Mauro rated the 312T, his P4, and the 312PB prototype as his most satisfying Ferrari designs.

He may not have invented ground effect, but Forghieri’s first attempt at that technology brought another world Title with Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve’s 312T4s. Ferrari had perfected ground effects. That inspite of the challenges of the broad flat-12 engine stealing much of the space needed to make the car’s underbody venturi work as intended.

The turbo era could not come soon enough

Gilles Villeneuve #27 and Didier Pironi #28 side by side in the pit lane aboard their Scuderia Ferrari 126CK Ferrari V6s before the start of the San Marino Grand Prix on 3rd May 1981 at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, San Marino. (Photo by Grand Prix Photo/Getty Images)

The clash between the flat 12 and ground effect was exasperated when the 312T5 fell well short of its V8, V12 and turbo rivals in 1980. The turbo era could not come soon enough for Maranello.

Forghieri designed Ferrari’s first turbocharged V6 F1 cars. The 126C2 andC3’s went on to win the 1982 and 1983 Constructors’ Championships. Ferrari and Forghieri sadly lost another driver’s Title to tragedy with Villeneuve and Didier Pironi.

With younger, volatile, and ambitious young Ferrari engineers snapping at his heels, Mauro also found himself engrossed in protecting Ferrari’s interests in the ongoing FISA-FOCA power war. Frictions with Marco Piccinini and Enzo’s son Piero Lardi Ferrari led to ever increasing and even rowdier than usual quarrels between Mauro and The Old Man.

The real Ferrari years were over

Addio a Mauro Forghieri, il genio della Ferrari - Veloce

Mauro pondered resigning, but for Fiat’s Vittorio Ghidella suggesting that he shift from Racing to Ferrari’s Engineering arm. So, Mauro worked his final two years at Ferrari away from F1. He however always closely consulted Enzo on racing matters.

With The Old Man ailing and his influence waning in Maranello’s passages, Mauro left Ferrari after 27 years in 1987. Enzo passed in 1988. The real Ferrari years were over. Mauro went on to work for Lamborghini on its F1 project before a series of consultancy roles well into his retirement years.

While he abhorred the faux elements of the modern sport, Forghieri kept closely abreast of F1 throughout the rest of the life. Appalled by the arrival of faux effects like DRS and electric ‘push to pass’, Mauro perennially questioned why F1 simply does not slash aerodynamic downforce on the cars. He of course had a most valid point.

Ferrari and Forghieri like father and son

Il modenese era una leggenda del cavallino rampante ed aveva guidato la scuderia dal 1962 al 1984

Forghieri’s relationship with Ferrari was more akin to that of a father and son. Their rows were infamous at Maranello. But Enzo clearly loved and hugely respected Mauro’s genius and vice-versa. Together they won four Formula 1 Driver’s and seven Constructor’s World Championships, let alone countless Le Mans and sportscar wins and titles.

Many years later, Forghieri reflected on his Ferrari years. “We were truly a family,” he explained. “Our life was our work, total commitment, for little pay. We were not just colleagues, we were brothers.”

His only surviving World Driver’s Champion summed Mauro up perfectly after learning of his former boss’ passing this week. “There’s no question, If you look at what Forghieri achieved,” Jody Scheckter reflected. “His projects were brilliant, and he was absolutely a huge part of the Ferrari story.”

A great understanding of human weakness

Legendary Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri passes away aged 87 | Formula 1®

A people’s person as much as he was a brilliant engineer, Forghieri found no problem getting along with difficult people. Like Enzo and Laura Ferrari, and Vittorio Jano.

He also always admitted that Enzo Ferrari had a great understanding of human weakness.

Something it appears that Mauro Forghieri, the very glue that gelled Ferrari together for twenty-seven years, learned to appreciate very well, too.

Vai bene, Capo.