Paolo Barilla

The Barilla company started out in 1875 as a bakery in Parma, Italy. It enjoyed enormous success with its pasta products and gradually diversified into new areas and new products. The success has made the Barilla Family incredibly wealthy and their collection of paintings by Picasso, Miro, Braque and Chagall is among the best in the world. Being born into such a family had advantages for Paolo Barilla, the third brother in the fourth generation of Barillas to run the firm.

When he was 14 Paolo decided he wanted to be a racing driver and after doing well in karting tried his hand at Formula Fiat Abarth in 1980. A year later, at 20, he graduated into the Italian Formula 3 Championship with a brand new Martini-Alfa Romeo MK34. He was able to win two of the first four races in the series and was soon being talked about as a potential Formula 1 driver of the future. He did not win again that year but was consistent enough to finish third in the series

Having little left to achieve in F3 he moved into Formula 2 in 1982 with the Minardi team. Barilla and his team mate Sandro Nannini did well that year but Nannini was the star. Barilla continued to race in F2 but made more of a reputation in sports car racing and in 1985 he shared victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Klaus Ludwig and "John Winter" (aka Louis Krages) in a Joest Porsche.

The ambition to be an F1 driver still burned and that year he had his first taste of a Grand Prix car when he tested for the Toleman team at Estoril. The following year he won the Miami IMSA race with Bob Wollek and ended the year with a World Sportscar Championship triumph at Fuji with Piercarlo Ghinzani.

Wanting to stay in open-wheeler racing he raced in Japanese Group C and Formula 3000 in 1987 and was nominated as the Benetton F1 test driver. He also took part in a series of races with the Alfa Romeo World Touring Car Championship team. He stayed in Japan in 1988 where he bravely rescued Denmark's Kris Nissen from a burning car at Suzuka while a spectator at a sports car event, diving into the flames in his everyday clothing.

At the end of the year, Barilla did a deal to be Minardi's test driver in 1989 and after Pierluigi Martini was injured he stood in, making his F1 debut at Suzuka. He was signed for 1990 but was never really quick enough and at the end of the year Minardi asked him to step aside to make way for Gianni Morbidelli. Although that was the end of his active F1 career, he did do a considerable amount of development work for Bridgestone in Japan with a secret Reynard F1 prototype.

In the end, however, Paolo went back to pasta and, as part of the programme of expansion in the United States later became a personal sponsor of CART champion Alex Zanardi.

Today Barilla runs the family business with his brothers Guido and Luca.