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Nicola Larini

2021-03-02 09:15

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Nicola Larini

Nicola Larini was born in Camaiore on March 19, 1964. The last born in a family of drivers, Nicola immediately became passionate about car racing than

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Nicola Larini was born in Camaiore on March 19, 1964. The last born in a family of drivers, Nicola immediately became passionate about car racing thanks to his father, a former driver, and his uncle, who during the years of his youth saw racing in the Touring Championship with Alfa Romeo.

 

The Tuscan begins his adventure in competitions with some Motocross races, at the age of 14, but the transition to four wheels is inevitable, and the subsequent jump in the kart category, followed by those of the minor Formulas, is completely natural. the family tradition. Nicola takes part in the Henry Morrogh driver school in Magione, and in the ACI Federal School in Vallelunga, graduating in both with full merits, proving to be the fastest in the course and to have excellent future prospects.

 

The first races in the Formula category took place in 1983, where Nicola took his debut success in the Formula Italia Championship, passing the following year to Formula Abarth, becoming Under 23 Champion and establishing himself in the ranking dedicated to rookie drivers. In 1984 Larini also made his debut in the last round of the Formula 3 Championship, obtaining an excellent fourth place, which earned him the seat for the entire 1985 season in the Enzo Coloni team.

 

Larini used his first season in Formula 3 as an apprenticeship, winning the Italian title in 1986 and taking third place in the European series. The excellent results earned him his debut in Formula 1 with Scuderia Coloni in the 1987 season finale; the Tuscan, however, misses the qualification at Monza and retires to Spain. These two brief appearances are followed by two disappointing years at the wheel of the Osella F1.

 

In 1989 the Tuscan driver had the opportunity to replace Gerhard Berger, following the bad accident at Imola but, after a series of tests carried out on the Fiorano track, the chance was nullified by the Austrian driver's rapid recovery. In 1990 Nicola arrives at Ligier, which has a very reliable but not very performing car, which allows him to grind important kilometers and gain experience, seeing the checkered flag in almost all the world championship races. At the end of the year, the Italian driver signed with Scuderia Modena Corse, Lamborghini's semi-official team, obtaining a one-year contract and an option valid for the following season.

 

At his debut, Nicola obtained an encouraging seventh place, but the rest of the season is anything but positive, both due to the poor competitiveness of the car designed and managed by Eng. Mauro Forghieri, both for the serious financial problems that afflict the team, causing it to go bankrupt at the end of the same year. In 1992 the Tuscan driver was hired as a tester by Ferrari, with the main task of trying new solutions for electronic suspensions with a view to 1993, but in the same year he had the opportunity to compete in the last two seasonal Grands Prix to replace Ivan Capelli, fired from the Maranello team; in this circumstance, Nicola takes a twelfth and eleventh place in Japan and Australia. In Japan, Larini misses the start and is forced to recover ground during the race. He will finish only twelfth with the laboratory car tested throughout the year:

 

"I was surprised by the active suspension that raised the car when I put the gear in neutral on the grid. It is normal behavior, but in the tension of the race, it distracted me. And I was unable to keep the engine running. E It was my mistake and it gnaws at me, because, given the result, I could have finished in the points, in front of or behind Alesi. I am convinced that in Australia this active suspension will give us some more satisfaction".

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The same fate happens to him in Australia, where, still aboard a laboratory car with active suspension, after a start in last position due to friction problems on the grid, Nicola recovers and finishes eleventh. Despite this, the Tuscan driver can smile, given that he fulfills the role for which he was hired, and therefore is reconfirmed as a test driver too for the following year:

 

"We are on the right track, as regards the development of this new system which includes two successive updates on the 1993 car. I am happy with the confidence that has been placed in me: I hope in the future to be taken into consideration again to re-enter Formuala 1, which is always a pilot's dream".

 

In 1993 he continued the role of tester for the team, but in 1994 the first world championship points arrived for him. In fact Nicola replaces the owner Jean Alesi, following back pain accused by the latter and matured at the end of a test session carried out at Mugello at the beginning of the season.

 

The man from Versilia takes part in the Pacific Grand Prix and the tragic Imola Grand Prix. On the Aida circuit, Berger does not go beyond the fifth time in qualifying and Larini the seventh. Maranello's cars continue to show limits when exiting corners, with the rear end that seems to slip, compromising roadholding and traction.

 

The evil is so obscure that even the opinions in the team are different: Berger talks about the suspension and something mechanical that doesn't work properly, Larini and Jean Todt instead think of inefficient aerodynamics. The Ferraris are very fast on the straight, so much so that the Tuscan records a peak of 297.500 km/h, against Schumacher's 279.100, but they are lost when it comes to turning the wheel:

 

"Berger made a small mistake, he could have been half a second faster. Larini was great, he went beyond expectations. However this does not change our problems. Apparently we have solved those of the valve seals, but there is still one. a lot of work to do. A very difficult race for us. If I could sign earlier I would be happy with a third place and two scoring cars".

 

Admits Jean Todt, Ferrari team manager. In Japan, Ayrton Senna, for the sixty-fourth time in his career, starts from pole position, but at the start he is overtaken by Schumacher, only to be hit by Mika Häkkinen, who pushes him off the track; Nicola Larini in turn goes off the road and swoops into the Brazilian's car, while Mark Blundell spins and stops in the middle of the track. So Senna, Larini and Blundell are forced to retire. Embittered by the exit from the track, Nicola comments:

 

"I should go to Lourdes. I had a very good start, even passing Berger. I was on the right line when Senna turned around. I tried to pass to the left, but Williams came back and I hit her. I could also have finished on the podium. Now I'm leaving for Hockenheim where I have to race with Alfa Romeo".

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The Imola weekend begins with the frightening accident of Rubens Barrichello, which occurred on Friday, and the tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger, during Saturday's qualifying. Nicola starts from sixth position, and has good prospects for the race, despite the fact that his car is fitted with a standard engine that does not allow him to have sufficient traction. When the traffic lights go out, the Tuscan manages to avoid JJ Lehto's car, stopped with the engine off in fifth position. But the Finn's car was later hit by Pedro Lamy's Lotus, which broke through the rear of Benetton and immediately caused the Safety Car to come out.

 

In this beginning of the championship, the Safety Car is much questioned by the drivers, given that in the absence of regulatory standards, each circuit has its own model, derived from normal production cars that did not have the necessary requirements to be able to allow the cars of the highest category to keep the tires in temperature. In fact, at Imola, Ayrton Senna overtakes the Safety Car several times, in the vain hope of increasing his pace. Resumption of the race Senna leads the lead, closely followed by the young Michael Schumacher on Benetton.

 

On the seventh lap, at 2:17pm, Ayrton Senna impacts the barriers outside the Tamburello at high speed, forcing the race direction to display the red flag, given the gravity of the situation. Rescue is immediate, and the Brazilian will be transported by helicopter to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, where his death will be confirmed. In the meantime, the race direction communicates the restart, defining the order of arrival with the sum of the times of the two tranches of the race. Senna now unconscious is taken away, while the speaker only announces that the Brazilian driver is out of the race. The public, far from the scene of the accident, therefore cannot understand the gravity. Neither did the pilots.

 

Two parallel universes open up: that of Senna who dies while being taken to resuscitation, wrapped in a golden envelope that should have tried to maintain his body temperature; and that of Imola, where the show continues. The racing cars set off again and the public cheered as Berger's Ferrari took the lead before retiring. Then, the enthusiasm is rekindled when the red from Larini firmly conquers the second place and the illusion of being able to recover. Nicola's recovery will fade as the laps go by, but he still remains second behind Schumacher who crosses the finish line raising his right fist to the sky. At the end of the race, the Tuscan driver takes a red flag from a fan and runs a lap of the track waving it in greeting to the audience in jubilation.

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Schumacher and Larini then get on the podium, hug each other, smile. The audience climbs over the fences to celebrate them, grabbing the caps thrown on the lawn. Only at the end of the award ceremony are the pilots told the actual state of health of the Brazilian driver, who has now died at the major hospital in Bologna. On the most tragic day in the history of Formula 1, Nicola Larini gets the first and only podium in his career:

 

"It could have been the happiest day of my life, but it's the saddest".

 

In the two-year period 1995-1996 the Tuscan continued to cover the role of tester, but was also used for the development of elements for the GT department, such as the development of the Ferrari F50 GT seat, while in 1997, thanks to the help of Jean Todt , becomes the titular driver in Sauber. With the Swiss team Nicola gets an excellent sixth place in Australia, but in the remaining races he cannot find the right feeling with the car, and the few tests carried out by the team convince him to return to Ferrari at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix.

 

Despite his commitment to Formula 1, Nicola Larini achieved great success in touring races, collecting several podiums with Alfa Romeo in the late 1980s, a participation in the Silverstone Supercup aboard a Ferrari F40 in 1989. In 1992 he won the Italian super touring title with the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Turbo, and in 1993 he won the German Touring Championship, the DTM, aboard the phantom Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI. With his commitment to Formula 1 coming to an end, Nicola Larini took part in four Sportseries races aboard a Riley & Scott, obtaining second and third places in Pergusa and Kyalami.

 

In the 2000s he participated in some sporadic appearances in various national and European GT championships, such as the Spanish GT, the Italian GT, the Trofeo Maserati Light and the WTCC. The Tuscan returns aboard a Ferrari in 2009, on the occasion of the GT Winter Series, aboard a Ferrari F430 of CSR Racing, obtaining a victory on his debut at the Paul Ricard circuit. In 2012 he took part in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring as a team with Fabrizio Giovanardi, aboard a Ferrari P4/5, and won the E1-XP Hybrid category. In 2017 he took part in some races in the VLN Championship with the official Hyundai team, on board the i20 TCR. His last appearance in racing dates back to the Italian GT round at Mugello, aboard a Bentley Continental GT3, paired with Alex Caffi.

He currently follows his son Davide in the Kart Championship.

 

Andrea Rasponi

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