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Daniele Audetto’s co-driving comeback for FCA Heritage

On board an Aurelia B20

FCA Heritage is competing in the 2017 Nuvolari Grand Prix with a Lancia Aurelia B20. Roberto Giolito, driver and head of the FCA Heritage department, will be partnered by Daniele Audetto, who returns to his roots as a navigator after having held multiple roles in the motor racing world.

From right-hand seat to Lancia’s sporting director, how did this change of role come about?

Let's just say that, as often happened in those days, I ended up on the right, in the co-driver's seat, after starting out on the left, as a driver. And often, precisely due to the type of job they have to do, co-drivers are even more passionate than the drivers themselves, who are better known and get more immediate and direct satisfaction. Back then the co-driver had much more responsibility than he does today, especially in terms of managing the race, which rested more on his shoulders: that was the role where I found my proper place.

The transition to sporting director was almost a natural progression: in 1971 the physical effects of an accident forced me to ask Cesare Fiorio (who was in that role at the time) whether I could compete a bit less. He had just been appointed as marketing manager and needed someone competent and able to shadow him with a view to replacing him, so we found a common solution to both needs.

What is the most interesting and significant memory of your experience at Lancia, both as co-driver and as sporting director?

Definitely the three World Championships we won, firstly with the Fulvia in 1972, which was the most difficult campaign, then the two with the Stratos, which involved a great deal of development, tuning and organisational work. Sandro Munari and engineers Gian Paolo Dallara and Mike Parkes were determined to make the Stratos unbeatable.

As a co-driver, my fondest memory is of partnering Munari to victory in the Eastern Alps Rally, on his return to racing after the terrible accident in the Monte Carlo Rally that killed his co-driver Luciano Lombardini.

The transition from the world of rallying to F1 couldn’t have been a simple one. Can you tell us how it happened?

The Commendatore of Ferrari [Enzo Ferrari, founder of the Ferrari racing team] had been after me since 1973, but Lancia's management vetoed a move until I was “loaned out” to replace [Luca di] Montezemolo as Ferrari team manager, who in the meantime had been promoted to head of external relations for the whole of the Fiat Group. 1976 at Maranello was a difficult year: in addition to struggling to manage two drivers such as Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda, there was Niki’s terrible accident at the Nürburgring that cost us the season; we lost the world champion by one point, but we did win the Constructors’ Championship. Working for the Commendatore was a special experience, and even being close to the genius who was [technical director Mauro] Forghieri left its mark: when you work for Ferrari, the Prancing Horse stays in your heart for the rest of your life.

Indeed, because shortly afterwards they wanted you back in Turin...That’s right, in 1977, following the commercial launch of the new 131, I was recalled to Turin as manager of the Fiat-Abarth team, with the specific remit of winning the World Rally Championship. I pulled it off at the first attempt thanks to a fantastic car—the 131 Rally, which was tuned by Abarth under the supervision of Giorgio Pianta—a team of exceptional mechanics and world-class drivers. In 1977, Fiat and Lancia still had two separate and independent racing departments, which were subsequently amalgamated in 1978 under the title ASA (Attività Sportive Automobilistiche).

The three victories in the World Rally Championship with a car like the 131, which was conceived as a family car and converted into a winning rally car, gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

You worked for a long time in the world of Formula One. What memories do you have of that period and what do you think about Formula One today?

I've experienced both the romantic period of F1—with technologies and cars that were far inferior to those of today, and with full-on risk-takers driving very dangerous cars—and the period of high technology and super-stringent safety regulations. Well, I have to say that there was more passion in the earlier period, and the drivers counted for more, they could win you races even with an inferior car; whereas today, even if you’re very good, without a competitive car you can’t do much, look at the example of Alonso. Then there’s too much technology, drivers seem to be remote-controlled from the pits. It’s almost like the engineer or strategist counts more than the driver, and that’s not right, because I think that even good drivers would want to have more autonomy, and they would enjoy themselves and entertain people more.

But let's get back to the present and the Nuvolari Grand Prix for historic cars. As a co-driver, what differences and similarities are there between then and now?

Let's just say that the cars are similar, if not exactly the same, to the ones I used to race in. In historic rallies, as was the case in the 60s and 70s, the co-driver is the real planner of the race. The team has much less of a presence, so the co-driver's role becomes crucial. There is perhaps less exasperated professionalism and more improvisation, goodwill and a competitive spirit that’s driven purely by passion, rather than by business. The competitiveness doesn’t drop off; on the contrary, it’s probably more authentic.

What does it mean to you being in the Nuvolari Grand Prix on board an Aurelia B20?

It means a great deal. Everything started with that car. The sporting revival of Lancia in the modern era was triggered in 1951 by the arrival of the Aurelia B20, which immediately demonstrated exceptional natural racing qualities. The factory team, Squadra Corse Lancia, was formed with seven special B20s that began stringing together a succession of victories, such as the Targa Florio in 1952, the Liège-Rome-Liège in 1953, the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954 and the Acropolis in '58. I competed in the races closest to “my” rallies not many years later, when Cesare Fiorio set up the HF Squadra Corse racing team in February 1963. 

I also have the immense pleasure of partnering the great car designer Roberto Giolito, who has relaunched FIAT with the new small/large 500. Even the MoMA in New York, the world’s leading museum of modern art, has chosen to exhibit the innovative Multipla, which he designed.

Today Roberto upholds the history of FCA’s major Italian brands (Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth) by running its Heritage division, and being with him in an extraordinary historic car gives me immense joy.

The Aurelia B20 took part in the Mille Miglia two years ago with another “milestone” of Lancia's sporting history behind the wheel: Cesare Fiorio. What was your relationship with Cesare Fiorio and what was it like working with him in the past?

Caesar was my “discoverer”, my mentor and teacher, without Caesar I wouldn’t have had the career that I did, he launched my career.

FCA's Heritage Division has recently launched authenticity and restoration services for historic Lancias. What do you think of this initiative?

I think it’s a wonderful initiative. Not so much because Lancia itself verifies and certifies the car’s authenticity—and there’s no better authority than the parent company to do that—but more so because this activity makes a decisive contribution to keeping the historical memory of the brand alive. Certifying cars doesn’t just mean confirming their financial value, but also highlighting their historic value. It's wonderful that, by coming into contact with cars from yesteryear, even the younger generations who didn’t experience those glory years can learn about the unforgettable chapters that these magnificent cars have written in the history of motoring.

Read the story of the Lancia Aurelia B20, which is starring in the Nuvolari Grand Prix.

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