Legendary Ferrari Engineer Mauro Forghieri Dies at 87

Mauro Forghieri at the 1965 British Grand Prix
Mauro Forghieri at the 1965 British Grand Prix

Recently, Ferrari officially entered a new era of sports prototype racing with the 499P, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Italian manufacturer’s last factory foray into endurance racing’s premier class with the 312 P. Ferrari and the rest of the racing community now mourn the loss of Mauro Forghieri, the architect of not only the 312 P but Ferrari’s entire 312 series of racing cars. Forghieri passed away at 87 years old after spending nearly his entire career and life with Ferrari.

Mauro Forghieri was born on January 13th, 1935 in Modena, Italy. He spent a large portion of his childhood and adolescence in Maranello after World War II as his father worked at Scuderia Ferrari. Forghieri eventually went on to earn a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Bologna in 1959. It is rumored that his university tuition was paid by Enzo Ferrari.

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Forghieri explained in an interview translated by Scuderia Ferrari Club Riga:

“Ours was a socialist family, we often lived in France, as before the war being socialists wasn’t that funny. My father also had a French name: Reclus. He was a man of Ferrari. Before the war it was a group of people, my father, Ferrari himself, Giberti, Luigi Bazzi, to build all the components of Alfetta Alfa Romeo’s engine. They designed and built in Modena, in Ferrari’s place.”

Mauro Forghieri (left) and Ricardo Rodriguez (right) at the 1962 Targa Florio
Mauro Forghieri (left) and Ricardo Rodriguez (right) at the 1962 Targa Florio

Mauro Forghieri would find his way home to Ferrari in 1960. In late 1961, a disagreement between Enzo Ferrari and several members of the senior staff over the involvement of Enzo’s wife Laura in the company reached a boiling point culminating in the Great Walkout. The personnel that left Ferrari defected to the newly-formed Automobili Turismo e Sport (ATS). Many of Ferrari’s young, inexperienced engineers were thrust into senior positions as a result. A 27-year-old Mauro Forghieri replaced Carlo Chiti as Scuderia Ferrari’s chief designer.

Niki Laura (left), Mauro Forghieri (center), and Marlene Lauda (right) in 1976
Niki Laura (left), Mauro Forghieri (center), and Marlene Lauda (right) in 1976

Many consider Forghieri’s time at the technical helm to be the golden age for Ferrari’s racing programs, only rivaled by Rory Byrne’s tenure in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the timespan, Scuderia Ferrari won the F1 World Drivers’ Championship five times and the World Constructors’ Championships seven times. He also lead the development of every Ferrari sports prototype from the early 1960s through the 1970s, from the 250 P to the 312 PB. From designing the first transversal automatic gear to developing Ferrari’s first turbocharged engine for the 1981 F1 season, Forghieri did it all.

Mauro Forghieri speaking with Michele Alboreto during the 1984 Detroit Grand Prix weekend.
Mauro Forghieri speaking with Michele Alboreto during the 1984 Detroit Grand Prix weekend.

Gian Paolo Dallara, now head of the Dallara racing chassis empire, began his apprenticeship at Ferrari in 1960 alongside Forghieri. Dallara said of his former colleague, “Forghieri is the most complete designer ever existed. There are plenty of designers but he made engines also, all kinds of engines, and then he made Formula 1, Formula 2, and then the endurance races and even uphill races, and he competed with Porsche. The maximum.”

Mauro Forghieri might have left Ferrari for Lamborghini in 1987, but he’ll forever be associated with the Prancing Horse. A significant portion of Ferrari’s on-track legacy was secured by machinery that Mauro Forghieri crafted.

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