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Gianpiero Moretti - Witness to the times, Part 2 of 4

by Paolo D'Alessio and edited by Louis Galanos
Tuesday, March 06, 2012

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With less than a couple of weeks to go before the return of MOMO to a full time racing program in the American Le Mans Series with MOMO NGT Motorsport, MOMO is pleased to bring you the original story of the career of its founder, Gianpiero Moretti. Gianpiero Moretti, the man who helped define the term "gentleman racer," passed away in January at the age of 71, in Milan, Italy. Part 2 of this original story was written by Paolo D'Alessio and edited by Louis Galanos in Sports Car Digest on 20 May 2011 and is re-published here with his kind permission:

As it was logically expected, the adventure of the pair Manfredini - Moretti with the Ferrari number 30 ended long before the conclusion of the race due to problems with the suspension. After this debacle at Daytona the team, with their 512 S, skipped the 12-hour race at Sebring as well as the 1000 kms at Brands Hatch in order to prepare themselves better for the race at Monza.

However this race literally risked going up in flames when during a private test a fire seriously damaged the prototype. By working day and night the men of the Scuderia Picchio managed to put the prototype together again and at the race in Monza Moretti finished in ninth place before the Jurgen Neuhaus - Helmut Kelleners Porsche 917 K. It was an accomplishment almost as important as the birth of his first child one day earlier.

Moretti remembers the Ferrari 512 fondly, "That was a great car, potentially better than the Porsche 917. It's just a pity that is was not that reliable and the frame was a bit too 'loose' but I am sure that if Ferrari had developed it like they should have instead of throwing themselves body and soul into building the 3-litre two seater (312P), it would have given us great satisfaction."

At the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans the team of Moretti - Manfredini lasted just 180 minutes finally withdrawing with transmission problems. In September Moretti achieved the team's first important victory with their 512 S on an international level by taking first place in the Fuji 200 miles at Japan with a two lap lead over Moto Kitano in a Nissan R380 Mk. II.

According to Moretti, Enzo Ferrari's reactions were always unpredictable, saying, "The race wasn't valid for the World Championship, but it was still a status success for Ferrari considering that that year Ferrari hadn't received any great satisfactions with (motor) sports. And yet, after that on my arrival back at Maranello, while I was convinced that I would receive a glorious welcome back all I got from the Drake (Enzo) were a few witty comments. He was more interested to hear all about the oriental women and especially about the legendary Geishas of whom so many folk tales were told."

Moretti continued, "In fact the old man was like that, take it or leave it. I remember the first time I met him at his office, the room was in semidarkness, and he was wearing big dark glasses, this stately figure peering over at me from behind dark glasses. And while I was there looking at him feeling intimidated, what did he do? He pulled out a handkerchief from his pants pocket, brought it to his mouth to wet it before polishing the glass top of the desk. He was one of a kind."

The union of Moretti - Ferrari continued on the race track in 1971 with the "M" version of the 512. This was a much better car than the 1970 version, which the gentleman driver from Milan used during a few races with team mate and countryman, Herbert Muller. He then became a car builder himself, which according to him was his only choice at the time.

In 1972 Momo assigned the task of designing two sports cars to the engineer Giorgio Valentini. One was a 2-liter with an Abarth engine and another version, destined for the Inter Series, was mounted with the same V12 5-liter as the Ferrari 512 S. Two cars which were very interesting from a technical point of view, but at the same time very difficult to put together. The end result was that they were too complicated for a private team and too sophisticated.

It was during this time that Moretti gave up car building, going back to GT cars and with a Porsche 911 won the Italian title in Group 4 before immigrating to the USA. There he became a permanent fixture in the IMSA series behind the wheel of the Gran Turismo of Stuttgart.

While racing in America he got the nickname of the "Dartagnan of Porsche" from Mark Raffauf, President of IMSA. This grabbed the attention of the stars and stripes enthusiasts.

His Porsche 935s and the Moby Dick versions with the long white tails were not always amongst the most competitive cars however the team MOMO motor home and pit box always ended up being the most popular meeting point whether it was due to its livery (the red combined with yellow always brings to mind the very Italian Ferrari) or whether it was due to the wonderful person he is remains uncertain.

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