The interview: Gian Paolo Dallara

The interview: Gian Paolo Dallara
The interview: Gian Paolo Dallara

The engineer finally bringing his racetrack craft to the road

Many people know the name Dallara, as there are more racing chassis with that name on than any other. But the man behind the name is less well known – 81-year-old Italian engineer Gian Paolo Dallara. However, we’re going to see his name more often now as, after decades focused on the racetrack, Dallara is building its first road car.

The Stradale has been a long time in gestation, but that time has certainly not been wasted. Dallara has a stellar CV, starting with being recruited by Enzo Ferrari after university. He set up Ferrari’s first ever wind tunnel among other feats. There followed stints at Maserati and then Lamborghini, in a search for racing experience.

By the time he was 40 he had done all that, as well as having been one of the key elements of the engineering team which created the world’s first mid-engined supercar, the Miura. But his inspiration is none of those Italian brands, iconic though they may be. His inspiration is a small English brand – Lotus. The Lotus Seven is Dallara’s most influential car, and there are echoes of it in the Stradale.

That long gestation period has garnered a great deal of experience and expertise, but Dallara himself knew he had to actually bring the project to fruition.

“Three or four years ago, I realised it was now or never. I was close to being 80 so it could not wait a lot longer.”

He’s careful to ensure it’s understood he’s not trying to take on the other Italian marques. “Visti Ferrari and you realise that if you tried to be Ferrari, you would fail immediately.”

Instead he’s continuing down his own route, focusing intently on making a car that is light and simple. At this point you might expect a seasoned engineer to start discussing power outputs and suspension settings, but the experienced Italian has his own take on what he wants to achieve when you drive the Stradale: “So you can smell the flowers and feel the air passing.”

But there is nothing wistful or fey about Dallara the company, which employs 600 people around the world and is a rock-solid name in motorsport. Gian Paolo himself knows that he “will not be a player, but I believe the company will be, because it is in such a strong position. The majority of people in the company are young and very smart. There’s ambition.”

It’s refreshing to see a man in his 80s so excited about the future, and who is about to embark on yet another adventure, this time his first road car. He’s just bought himself a Miura, as he couldn’t afford one when he worked on its design. It’s being restored by Lamborghini itself and then he’ll have a fabulous brace of cars to reflect his career – the Miura and the Stradale.

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