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Giovanni Lavaggi

18th February 1958 (Age 62)
Augusta, Sicily
Most recent race (in database):

This wealthy Italian was a pay driver during the mid 1990s who struggled in Formula 1. A mechanical engineering graduate of Milan Polytechnic, Giovanni Lavaggi (translated literally as "Johnny Carwash") worked as a consultant from 1986 to 1991.

Family background and early racing career

The son of a sometime racer during the 1960s, Lavaggi had raced bikes when 14 years old and he started rallying in local events during 1979. Undeterred by a broken leg sustained in a hang-gliding accident, Lavaggi was racing sports cars by 1987. He finished third in the 1989 Nürburgring World Sportscar Championship race, was the 1993 Interserie Champion and won the 1995 Daytona 24 Hours – all achieved with the Porsche Kremer team.

Despite already being in his thirties and without having made his mark in junior single-seaters, Lavaggi still harboured dreams of racing in F1. He spent 1991 in Formula 3000, at first with Crypton Engineering’s Reynard 91D-Cosworth before switching to a Roni Team Ralt RT23-Cosworth. However, it was a less-than-impressive campaign for Lavaggi failed to qualify for all-but-two races.

Formula 1 with Pacific and Minardi

Lavaggi tested for the March F1 team in 1992 and made a couple of Champ Car starts in 1994 with Leader Card’s year-old Lola-Cosworth. It was with surprise and some cynicism that the racing press reported a new F1 driver for the 1995 German Grand Prix. The Pacific PR02-Ford was uncompetitive in professional hands and his four races for the team were all started from the last row of the grid and each ended in retirement.

Lavaggi bought his way into the Minardi team mid 1996 but fell foul of the newly introduced 107% qualifying rule – failing to achieve that mark on three of the six races entered. He was classified a distant 10th in Hungary after spinning out during the closing stages.

Return to sports cars

With F1 ambitions satisfied, the Sicilian raced a GLV Brums Ferrari 333SP in the FIA’s new sports car series from 1998. Partnered by Gastón Mazzacane in 1999, Lavaggi was second at Donington Park and won at Magny-Cours. Another victory followed in the 2001 Monza 1000Kms (with Christian Vann) but that success was perhaps a reflection of the strength of the championship rather than an improvement in Lavaggi’s outright pace.

He also turned constructor in 2006 when introducing the Lavaggi LS1. Tenth in the 2008 Vallelunga Six Hours was a rare finish in the AER-powered LMP1 prototype.