He was 26 years old when debuted in Motor Sports and 35 years old when raced his first Formula 1 Grand Prix, then joined the court of Gian Carlo Minardi. In his prize record there is also a victory in the 24 hours of Daytona and the fact of having designed and built a LMP1 as a private.
A week before the new F1 World Championship starts, Minardi.it met Giovanni Lavaggi. “Honestly, I don’t really follow the World Cup. In my opinion, races are not interesting or attractive. Unfortunately, you count overtakings with the dropper. The duels that have made great this sport are extinct and the cars seem too complicated to me”.
Let us step back to 1996, the German GP, when you debuted at the wheel of the M196 pushed by Ford. It has been an amazing experience. In spite of the economic difficulties faced by the team at that time, I find great professionals. The frame of the car was really outstanding, and this is not a joke. The engine was the Achilles heel. In addition to paying penalty on the power front, reliability was really lacking. I broke seven engines during six weekends. The Motor-show in Bologna where we risked winning against Benetton and Ligier proves how much the car frame was good.
What did you lack to stay longer in the World Championship? Certainly an economic support. Since the beginning, I had to make ends meet through my own efforts. In those years, Sicily Region would had the means to support me because I was the only Sicilian driver in Formula 1, unfortunately this cooperation did not materialize.
Once as today, there was a dominating team. Yesterday Williams, today Mercedes. Cycles that repeat forever. With a difference, today smaller teams can count on engines that are equals to the official ones. At that time, we used to pay also 180 HP minus than the official ones, almost 25%. Hence it was impossible to fight on equal terms with the others, in spite of a very good frame as the result in Budapest proves. In a circuit where the engine was less crucial, I managed to end in the top ten.
In 1995, you won the 24 Hours of Daytona. What difference did you see between Europe and USA? I can’t say to have lived the American experience entirely because I was racing with a semi-official Porsche team, whose cooperation with the company in Stuttgart has been continuing since 1989. I also raced three editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I must say that the greater difference is in the drivers. In Europe, their level is higher.
After F1, you took part in slick tires and then designed and built a LMP1. After the experience in F1 it was difficult to find new incentives to go on, so I decided to create a team, we raced with a Ferrari 333 and got some important results with podia and victories as in the 1000 Km in Monza and Magny-Course. At a certain point, I had with me also Gaston Mazzacane who then, in 2000, came into Minardi. When Ferrari decided not to let me have some spare parts in time, I thought to do by myself. That was the first step that led me to design and make a LMP1 privately. I knew that it would not have been an easy challenge. Gian Carlo himself, with who I have maintained a good friendship, had warned me, but I have always liked missions impossible, also because I would have fought with Audi, Peugeot etc.
Despite the tight financial resources, the car was good, easy to drive and had a great potential. At the end of 2006, we were only 2″ from pole. Simultaneously with the economic crisis, we had to face the changes of regulations requiring major investments. An impossible condition for a private. We went on until 2009. Occasionally I take part in historical races, and I happened to share the cabin with Emanuele Pirro.