In Italy, good things start over a coffee. Italians don’t sit to drink their coffee. They have it standing, at the bar. Conversations over coffee are short, sharp and often animated, just like the espresso being knocked back. In a couple of hours, it’s “Prendiamo un caffè?” Time for another shot, when the conversation resumes where it left off.
Back in 2011, Luigi Lucaora, Technical Director for Motegi Racing in Italy, headed over to Padua to say hello to some colleagues at Michelotto, famous for working with Ferrari on the build of its GT racecars over the past four decades.
“It was nothing more than to say hello and thanks for some previous business and to drink a coffee,” recalls Lucaora. “Then, a week later,” he adds, “they called me back for another visit.”
This time Lucaora came with one of his Motegi Racing colleagues, and they were joined by representatives from Ferrari.
“As usual we started with coffee and a chat,” Lucaora recalls, “but at the end, they showed us some technical data for the front and rear wheels of the new Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 racecar that was being prepared for the upcoming season. They then asked if we could step in to design and build new wheels for the car within one month.
“You can imagine at first, we had something like a heart attack,” he says, with a telling laugh. “But we started right away to put together forging and machining activities, and it was a big challenge to start up with Ferrari. Nevertheless, we were able to come through for them, and we delivered new wheels to Ferrari for the 458 Italia GT3 at the first race in Monza.”
So, just like that shot of espresso, taken standing at the bar, the relationship between Ferrari and Motegi Racing started strong and fast. More importantly, it grew from results achieved together, rather than just commercial benefits.
“Ferrari selects its partners very carefully, looking at the compatibility of the brands in the global market and the corporate strategies to communicate the values of the brands,” according to Ferdinando Cannizzo, Ferrari Competizioni GT Technical Coordinator. “In the case of a technical partner, the core of the decision is in the authenticity of the technical contribution from the partner and the impact that it has on the performance of the car.”
Although Ferrari does not have a “factory racing team” in GT competition, it has over the last two decades formalized its GT racing involvement in the form of the Competizioni GT division. With the Ferrari 488 as the foundation, Competizioni GT services a variety of entrants in 26 different series around the world, including Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the United States. In addition, the Ferrari Challenge Series operates on three continents through
the marque’s Corse Clienti division.
For all of those GT-based programs, only two technical partners run the gamut: long-time partner Shell for lubricants, and the newest member of the Ferrari technical partner line-up, Motegi Racing, for the wheels.
In the case of Ferrari, not only on the GT racing side, but in Formula 1, too, technical partnerships are sacrosanct. If the product has no performance benefit, it isn’t used. One needs only compare the technical partners on the Ferrari 312T F1 car of 1975 and the SF70H of the current season to note that the likes of Brembo, Mahle, Magneti Marelli and SKF have endured as technical partners for all, or most, of the four decades between.
Today, all Ferrari 488 GTE/GTLM, 488 GT3 and 488 Challenge cars are now fitted with wheels from Motegi Racing.
“The requirements for our competition wheels are in constant evolution to adjust to the changing specifications of the chassis, powertrain and vehicle dynamics,” says Cannizzo. “GT racing is one of the most competitive types of auto racing, and as a wheel technical partner, Motegi Racing has a multi-dimensional task to work with our engineers, and also with different tire suppliers to optimize the package for better performance.”
Those requirements come to Motegi Racing only in the form of parameters for fit, car weight and other such requirements. Design, materials and the rest is up to Motegi Racing’s technical team. Lucaora recalls two examples where Motegi’s innovative thinking took advantage of the GTE/GTLM regulations. The first was the adoption of integrated wheel nuts that speed wheel changes and minimize the chance for errors during the pitstops. The second came from a request by Ferrari to have the wheel weight as close to the minimum limit as possible and meet the targets for stiffness. The regulations allow the limited use of magnesium, but this comes with several drawbacks. So Motegi Racing developed its own aluminum alloy that not only delivered the stiffness to weight target, but also comes with the manufacturing and servicing benefits of aluminum.
“Ferrari challenges us to bring these types of solutions,” says Lucaora. “We would not be in this role if we were not delivering the results.”
Ferrari partnerships are not only about performance, but also about commitment and trust. Motegi Racing has demonstrated its commitment, and with that has earned Ferrari’s trust.
Ferrari isn’t just synonymous with performance, but also style. Therefore it may come as a surprise that its brief for competition wheels from Motegi Racing had no requirements with respect to aesthetics. In that regard, Luigi Lucaora, Technical Director for Motegi Racing, says it remained faithful to its Technomesh design, which is also found on wheels made for the LMP2 category. Lucaora says that its inherent style enables Motegi Racing engineers to focus on more crucial elements, such as metallurgy and the weight placement to optimize performance. The same design is available for high-performance road cars with the forged monoblock MR130 specification wheel.
Buena Park. Calif.-based Wheel Pros, the parent company of Motegi Racing, oversees a performance wheel portfolio that also includes iconic brands such as American Racing, Helo and KMC Wheels. Find out more at wheelpros.com.