Giampaolo Dallara designs and builds bodywork for racing cars. His company is contributing to the mobility of tomorrow with its research into lightweight, eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient aerodynamics.
When a bright yellow, streamlined sports car roars along the Via Provinciale next to the meandering River Ceno in the small town of Varano de’Melegari, an 84-year-old man is frequently behind the wheel. The happy gentleman in question, smartly dressed in suit and tie, is Giampaolo Dallara, who makes the daily drive to his office in the company named after him. The premises comprise several buildings sprawled along the state road, of which the Dallara Academy is both the architectural and the social highlight.
Giampaolo Dallara is an aerodynamics engineer who has developed bodywork for countless international motor racing customers over no fewer than five decades. The yellow roadster marks the culmination of his life’s work as a car designer, and is the first to bear his name – Dallara Stradale. Although it’s a 400-hp vehicle, it only consumes 7.6 litres per kilometre and is produced in eco-friendly fashion – an innovation by his company that fills its president with pride. “The world is changing rapidly. And we are changing with it,” he says. “We must be innovative, reduce emissions, invent new technologies and materials, research alternative sources of energy.”
His career began in 1959 as an assistant at Ferrari. Four years later, he was appointed Technical Director at Lamborghini where, among other things, he designed the iconic Miura racing car. After spells at Maserati and de Tomaso, he set up his own business in his native Varano de’Melegari, to the south-west of Parma, in 1972 – Dallara Automobili da Competizione. To this day, it is still developing chassis and bodies for racing teams; the engines are supplied from elsewhere. The company boasts its own wind tunnel and simulator for rigorous testing. Every year, up to 250 racing cars – in various Formula classes for different racing teams – depart the Dallara premises for destinations the world over. They have enjoyed particular success in Formula 3 and the Indycar Championships. Around 300 Dallara cars can be racing around the world on any given weekend.
“Six years ago, Giampaolo came into my office and said: ‘Andrea, my dream is to build a road-approved sports car that represents the culmination of all our know-how and skill. And I want to drive it before embarking on my final journey,’” relates Andrea Pontremoli, CEO and shareholder. “His wish was my command. On his 80th birthday, he was able to take the wheel of the prototype, and a year later he was given the first model to roll off the production line.” Pontremoli drives Stradale number 2. The series is limited to 600 models, of which 100 have been delivered.
Before Andrea Pontremoli moved to Dallara in 2007, he was President of IBM Italy. Dallara picked him out as his future successor following the death of his daughter Caterina, who had originally been groomed to take the reins. His second daughter, Angelica, is also a qualified engineer and company Vice-President, but as a mother to three sons and a daughter was never involved in day-to-day operations. One of her sons works at Dallara, as does one of Pontremoli’s five daughters. Giampaolo Dallara has left it up to his CEO to decide who from the two families has what it takes to succeed him. Pontremoli is well aware that the future of automation will be very different from its past. “Driving your own car from A to B is just one form of mobility – and this will become obsolete thanks to public transport, car sharing and autonomous driving.” The average traffic speed in New York City is just 7km per hour. “Driving is absurd when walking gets you there faster!” Pontremoli compares his vision for the future of Dallara with the fate of the horse following the car’s invention. “Carriages disappeared from the streets, but outstanding animals are still bred for keen amateur riders and professional equestrian sports.”
Dallara has joined forces with six other automotive companies in the vicinity to found “Motor Valley” as an attraction for petrolheads, with four circuits, six training centres and a number of car museums. “We compete on the market, but collaborate at regional level,” Pontremoli says. “Our community of values stands for competence and excellence made in Italy.” An exclusive car country club for enthusiasts, similar to a golf club, is conceivable. The companies are also combining their efforts in the MUNER project (Motorvehicle University of Emilia-Romagna). “We are training the engineers of tomorrow. They benefit from our experience, the simulator and the wind tunnel,” says Pontremoli. The Master’s degree course in racing car design is based at the Dallara Academy. Not only does the modern building display the automotive gems of Dallara’s history, but it is dedicated to the public. Pupils of all ages from schools in the region come here to learn about physics and aerodynamics. “My home town has given me much to be grateful for, and I want to give something back.” Social commitment is not restricted to training and teaching here, however. The company has supported an artisan village in Sierra Leone for twelve years in memory of the daughter who died; the Caterina Dallara workshop trains mechanics, thereby promoting local economic development.
And how can a company whose products climate activists love to hate boost its environmental image? “We take environmental responsibility seriously. In recent years, we have introduced a number of technological sustainability measures to improve the energy efficiency of our vehicles and production,” stresses Pontremoli. Electricity comes from renewable energy sources. Plastic bottles are banned: employees fill up their own bottles from the free dispensers at their disposal. Dallara has ISO certification in environmental management. It also collaborates with the national ministry of the environment, conducts research into new eco-friendly material components, and advises electric motor manufacturers and other companies that set store by saving energy through aerodynamics. “We are currently bringing our expertise to the development of the metro on Hawaii.” Dallara can look to the future of mobility with confidence.
This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of WERTE, the client magazine of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management. Read more from the magazine at werte.com
Company Profile: Dallara
Founded near Parma in 1972, the family business is now managed by Andrea Pontremoli. Its president is founder Giampaolo Dallara. The car manufacturer is involved in the organisation of the final stretch of the legendary Mille Miglia. This vintage rally, due to take place on October 22-25, 2020, will also feature the Dallara Stradale sports car, priced at €160,000 and limited to 600 models.