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One of Ferrari's greatest ever engineers, Mauro Forghieri, has died

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The brains behind numerous Maranello motorsport achievements has passed away, aged 87

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It’s celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and few names in automotive generate the mystique and mythology that surrounds Ferrari. But it’s the people who make the difference – always – and Maranello has just lost one of its giants. Mauro Forghieri, the Italian engineer whose creativity, inspiration and persistence helped Scuderia Ferrari to new heights, has passed away at the age of 87. He led a group of engineers that steered Ferrari to four drivers’ championships, seven constructors’ titles, and 54 GP victories.

Born on 13th January 1935, in Modena, Forghieri was perhaps destined to join the city’s most famous son. His father, Reclus, was a machinist who worked for the Old Man. Mauro Forghieri was soon there, too, having graduated in mechanical engineering from the prestigious University of Bologna in 1959. Hired as an apprentice in Ferrari’s engine department, he found himself working with the likes of Vittorio Jano, Carlo Chiti, Romolo Tavoni, and a fellow new recruit, Gian Paolo Dallara. These were turbulent times for Ferrari and following the notorious 1961 ‘Palace revolt’, in which a number of the top technical staff departed in acrimony, Forghieri suddenly found himself elevated to the exalted position of Scuderia Ferrari’s technical director. He was just 27.

It was the making of him. He took over from Chiti and completed the work he and Giotto Bizzarrini had begun on the 250 GTO, one of Ferrari’s most celebrated endurance racing cars. He presided over Ferrari’s driver’s and constructor’s title wins in 1964, the British driver John Surtees winning in the Forghieri-designed 158. At the same time, Ferrari was enjoying success in sports car racing with the Le Mans-winning 250P,  275P and 250 LM. Then there was the Daytona 24 Hours-winning 330 P3/4, for many the greatest Ferrari competition car of them all. In 1968’s Belgian GP, Ferrari was the first to fit a rear wing to its car, helping Chris Amon to a pole position and qualifying time four seconds quicker than Jackie Stewart’s.

The Scuderia’s fortunes in Formula One ebbed and flowed, but Forghieri was instrumental in the team’s Seventies comeback. His innovative 312 T – with its transverse gearbox, flat-12 engine and sharky design – swept Niki Lauda to championship glory in 1975. Following 1976’s tumultuous season – Lauda crashed and almost died in the German GP – he was champion again for Ferrari in 1977. Jody Scheckter took a third driver’s title in 1979 in one of Forghieri’s cars, but the advent of ground-effect aerodynamics signalled the end of his flat-12, its design blocking the under-floor venturis. Still, the advent of turbocharging didn’t faze him: Ferrari became the first team to win the constructor’s championship with a turbo power unit in 1982, a feat it managed despite the death of Gilles Villeneuve and the serious injury suffered by his team-mate, Didier Pironi. In 1984, Forghieri switched to the road car division, and presided over the development of an intriguing all-wheel drive Ferrari concept, the 408 4RM.

He joined Lamborghini Engineering in 1987, where he designed a V12 F1 engine used by Larousse-Lola and Lotus, and later became involved with the still-born GLAS F1 team. Then came a stint as technical director for Bugatti, helping Romano Artioli reactivate the brand and developing the – increasingly well-regarded – EB110. In 1995, he co-founded the Oral Engineering Group, a design and research consultancy; one of its more recent tasks included converting the 1980 Ferrari Pinin four-door concept to a working vehicle on behalf of its new owner.

“Legends last forever. It’s been an honour making history together. Ferrari and the world of motorsport will never forget you,” Ferrari said in a statement.

Top Gear sends its condolences to Forghieri’s family. He will be remembered as one of the great pillars of perhaps the world’s greatest motorsport name.

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