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Paolo Barilla

20th April 1961 (Age 58)
Milan, Lombardy
Most recent race (in database):

A charming and far from outclassed gentleman driver, the heir to the Barilla pasta fortune was a Grand Prix driver for a season and one-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The family company was founded in Parma in 1877 and the wealth it created meant that Paolo Barilla wanted for little when he went racing.

Early racing career

His progress through Italy’s junior categories was rapid, for barely a year elapsed from his 1980 debut in Formula Italia to racing in Formula 2. He spent a single season in Formula 3 during which he won twice to come third in the standings as Ravarotto Racing team-mate Eddy Bianchi claimed the title. The 1981 season also included F2 races at Enna-Pergusa and Donington Park in a Minardi FLY281-BMW.

Remaining with that team for 1982, seventh in the opening race at Silverstone was his best result all season. A member of the Martini Lancia sports car team in 1983, he scored a number of placings during 1984 that concluded with second position in the Kyalami 1000Kms as Bob Wollek’s co-driver.

Le Mans success and Formula 3000

He joined Joest Racing for 1985 and enjoyed his greatest day (and night) by sharing the winning New Man Porsche 956B at Le Mans with Klaus Ludwig and "John Winter". Further endurance success followed in 1986 with victories at Miami’s IMSA race (with a Bayside Porsche 962) and the world championship Fuji 1000Kms with Joest’s Porsche.

He tested for Benetton in 1986 and 1987 as he started his Formula 3000 career in Europe. Three seasons in that championship yielded just one points finish when his Spirit-TOM’s Reynard 88D-Cosworth avoided the accidents to finish fourth at Brands Hatch in 1988.

Also racing in Japan that year, he was a spectator when Kris Nissen crashed during practice for a national sports car race at Fuji. The Porsche burst into flames with its driver trapped inside and Barilla, who was dressed in civilian clothes, helped rescue his colleague from the flames.

Formula 1 with Minardi

The Italian had not given up on Formula 1 ambitions and he joined Minardi as test driver for 1989. He made his world championship debut in the 1989 Japanese GP when substituting for the injured Pierluigi Martini and began 1990 as Martini’s full-time team-mate. However, he was replaced by Gianni Morbidelli before the end of the year after three successive DNQs.

It was the end of his regular racing career although Barilla continued to compete on an occasional basis including the Dakar rally-raid. He is now Vice President of the family business.