Ghinzani; From Osella driver, to “almost” Osella owner!

Top stories Unraced 1980 - 1989

1989 seemed to be a perfect year for the small Italian team Osella Squadra Corse.  Cosworth was supplying the team with engines, while Pirelli improved their qualifying and race tyres. Sadly, 1989 would prove to be the last year for the Osella team with Enzo Osella as team owner. At the end of the season the team was for sale, and believe it or not Piercarlo Ghinzani was interested to buy the team.

When you think of Osella you will probably say they were slow on the track, but had the best pasta in the paddock. Probably you will also mention Piercarlo Ghinzani who raced 6 seasons for the Turin based team. His best result with Osella was the 5th place during the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix. If the cars wouldn’t break down that much more points and even podiums would be reachable.

Piercarlo Ghinzani left the Osella team at the end of 1986 for the French Ligier team. However, the Ligier JS29B and the Ligier JS29C were hopeless and horrible cars to drive.  In 1988, he made the switch to the Zakspeed team who showed some progression.  The first races of the season were promising. After Zakspeed introduced the Zakspeed 881B the results became horrible, and he would not finish a single race after.

1989 was the return of Piercarlo to his home-team Osella.  The package for the Osella FA1M was promising. Cosworth now powered the team, instead with their upgraded Osella 890T (this was the Alfa Romeo 980T), Pirelli improved their qualifying and race tyres.  While Nicola Larini stayed as driver, together with Piercarlo in the second car this season could become the best so far.

Sadly, this was not the case. Piercarlo struggled to bring the car through the Pre-qualifying, as did Larini a couple of times. When the Osella’s actually appeared on the starting grid they showed some good results. Larini even drove 3th before the FA1M broke down. This was the problem with the team. The package looked suitable, only the finance became a problem; the team could not find a main sponsor and was not able to develop the car.

During the last race of the season Piercarlo crashed badly with Nelson Piquet, were he injured his ankle and announced his retirement as driver.  The same time it became clear that Enzo Osella was ready to sell his team. Gabriele Rumi, owner of Fondmetal and already a sponsor of the team, was interested to buy the team.  Both Rumi and Osella started to negotiate of a possible agreement. Piercarlo Ghinzani showed as well his interest. Taking over the team would make a dream come true as team owner.

While meetings occurred with both Rumi as Ghinzani, Piercarlo decided at some point to withdraw. When I asked him why he withdraw from the negotiating, he said; “The financial picture as at that time the insecure world economy made me to decide not to take over the team anymore.” Gabriele Rumi would take over the Osella team, and would run only one car in 1990 with Osella before Osella would disappear permanently. In 1991 the team was renamed to Fondmetal.

In 1992 Piercarlo Ghinzani made it’s comeback in the motorsports. This time not as driver, but as team owner of his own Team Ghinzani, which is still active! Since it’s debut the team seemed to be very successfully. The team appeared in the Italian and German Formula 3 Euro Series, as in the Italian formula 3000. In collaboration with Arco Motorsport, which still stands till today, they managed the Italian A1 GP Team. Today Team Ghinzani is active in the Italian Porsche Carrera Cup with success.

We will never know if Piercarlo would be a great team manager in the Formula One, but secretly it would be amazing to see Ghinzani F1 Team appear on the starting grid. Just to see a legend back on the grid.  Many thanks to Piercarlo for his hospitality and quickly answering the questions.