PEOPLE: ENZO OSELLA
Name: Enzo Osella
Vincenzo "Enzo" Osella was the son of a garage owner from Volpiano, a small town near Turin. He raced in the early 1960s using Abarth machinery and eventually joined Carlo Abarth's company to help prepare engines for the firm's competition activities, notably in touring car racing. In 1965 Osella left Abarth and moved to his own premises and began work on building his first prototype chassis. This proved to be quite successful in races and hillclimb events in Italy and when Abarth sold his business to Fiat in 1971, Osella took over the Abarth racing department and, working with Antonio Tomaini produced the Abarth-Osella SE021 which won the European 2 Litre Sportscar Championship in 1972. This was followed by the first Osella, known as the PA1, but this was not a success and it was not until the end of the year that the heavily-modified car was competitive. This was followed by the PA2, with bodywork designed by Pininfarina.
Osella and Tomaini wanted to make an impression in single-seater racing and soon began building cars for Formula 2 the first being run in 1974 for Giorgio Francia. The chassis was developed the following year and driven by Francia and Diulio Truffo. Francia scored one fourth place in the 1975 European Championship. Osella then produced a Formula 3 car (the FA3) but it was not very competitive and the company's main income remained from sportscar racing. An engine deal with BMW improved performance and in 1976 Osella won the Targa Florio with drivers "Amphicar" and Armando Floridia. The following year Francia, Lella Lombardi and "Pal Joey" (Gianfranco Palazzoli - who later become Osella team manager) gave Osella second place in the World Sportscar Championship.
In 1979 Osella's new designer Giorgio Stirano - Tomaini having gone to Ferrari - reworked the FA2 and Osella returned to F2 with sponsorship from Beta tools and a young driver called Eddie Cheever. In 1979 the American won three races and finished fourth in the European F2 Championship. That year the team also ran a BMW M1 in the Procar series for drivers Bruno Giacomelli, Edie Cheever and Elio de Angelis) and also won races in the poorly-subscribed World Championship of Makes with the PA7 winning at Enna (Francia and Enrico Grimaldi) and Vallelunga (Francia and Lombardi). The PA8 followed in 1980 and Francia and Roberto Marazzi won the Vallelunga Six Hours and in 1981 Francia and Lombardi shared a PA9 to victory in the Mugello Six Hours.
Osella's ambition was Formula 1 and in 1980, with backing from Denim and the state tobacco company MS, Osella built the FA1/A. Palazzoli managed the team with Cheever drove. The car was not a great success and the FA1/B appeared before the end of the season, the original car having been reworked by Osella and Giorio Valentini. In the years that followed Osella was a regular on the F1 scene with backing from Denim and later Kelemata and ultimately Fondmetal. Results were few and far between and on there were major setbacks along the way, notably the death in Canada in 1982 of youngster Riccardo Paletti. In 1983 the team hired Tony Southgate to design the FA1E and used old Alfa Romeo V12 engines. The link with Alfa Romeo continued in 1984 with one of the company's 1983 cars being given to Osella. It was modified and raced by Jean-Pierre Jarier but it was destroyed soon afterwards in a huge accident at Kyalami.
Against the bigger factory-backed teams Osella struggled to survive the turbo era. By the end of 1988 the team was faced with a problem. It could no longer modifiy the old cars and use Alfa Romeo engines because of the change in the F1 regulations. New investment was needed. Osella offered shares in the team to Fondmetal wheel magnate Gabriele Rumi. Tomaini returned from Ferrari and designed a new DFV-engined FA1M which showed well on occasion in the hands of Nicola Larini but the cars were not reliable and the lack of results meant that the team had to pre-qualify in 1990. It was the beginning of the end. Pre-qualifying was so competitive that often cars which escaped from the session scored points in the races. Osella struggled and at the end of 1990 Osella was forced out of his own team. It was transformed into the Fondmetal F1 team and moved to new premises at Palosco.
Enzo Osella overcame the setbacks and went back into the sportscars business, building a new PA16 chassis for the Italian national racing scene. This was developed into the PA18 and then the PA20 and success enabled the team to moved into a new factory at Atella. This featured its own windtunnel. The grounds around the old factory at Volpiano were transformed into a short test track and by 1995 Osella was completely dominant in Italian hillclimbing with driver Pasquale Irlando.
That success continues today.