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Osella is an Italian racing car manufacturer and former Formula One team based in Volpiano near Turin, Italy. They participated in 132 Grands Prix between 1980 and 1990. They achieved two points finishes and scored 5 championship points.

Early Days

Named after its founder Vincenzo "Enzo" Osella, the team began life by racing Abarth sports cars in local and national races in the mid 1960s in Italy. Though relatively successful (Osella eventually took over the factory Abarth sports car program), Osella expanded into single seater racing in 1974 to further develop his business. The team would rise to Formula Two in 1975 achieving some success with its own car (the Osella FA2); François Migault scored one point.

Osella Corse made another attempt in 1976 in the same league with unchanged material but by now the team was not competitive. Additionally, the team suffered from severe financial problems which meant that the works team was withdrawn from Formula Two in the middle of 1976. In the following years the Osella FA2s were occasionally entered by privateers, one of them being the Swiss Charly Kiser.

Customer F3

Enzo Osella tried to make some money by selling a self-penned Formula 3 car (Osella FA3) with little success. Only a few privateers (one of them being Giorgio Francia who later would drive Osella's Formula One car) were optimistic enough to buy that simple untested machine. The cars ran with Toyota or Lancia engines in the 1976 German and Italian F3 championships without making any great impression. After this unsuccessful attempt, the racing activities of Osella Corse nearly came to an end. The team attended some local sports car events but avoided any single seater races from 1976 to 1978.

Osella had to wait until the beginning of 1979 when the former Hesketh and Theodore Racing Grand Prix driver Eddie Cheever was persuaded to race the well-used FA2 once again in a Formula Two championship. Surprisingly, the red car was good enough to win three races. This was enough for Enzo Osella to take the plunge into the cut and thrust world of Formula One.

Formula One

Early years

While the F2-Osella was entered on one occasion in 1980 by the Italian privateer Marco Rocca, Osella Squadra Corse appeared in the world of Grand Prix racing with its first Formula 1 machine, the FA1/A. The car was designed by Giorgio Stirano. It was overweight, aerodynamically inefficient and used an outdated Cosworth DFV. The car was well presented in an attractive blue and white livery with large Denim branding on the sidepods. Many components were manufactured in-house which meant that they were cheap to produce but not always state-of-the-art. The driver was again Eddie Cheever who tried hard but was able to finish just one race in whole season. Frequently, he had to suffer from the massive unreliability of his car. In the following seasons, the basic design was changed several times.

In the early years, most of the work was done by interim designers like Giorgio Valentini or Tony Southgate, but frequently Enzo Osella himself also worked on the cars. Sadly, most of these attempts brought no improvement as high tech solutions could not be financed. Needless to say that the cars did not see a wind tunnel until 1988. Jean-Pierre Jarier finished fourth at Imola in 1982 (where only 14 cars started) and scored the first Championship points for the young team in a car that was by now dubbed Osella FA1/C.

Despite this excellent result, neither the financial nor the technical situation improved. Few sponsors were attracted by the tiny Italian equipe. Denim only stayed for the first two seasons, Kelemata was no more reliable, and others like Landis & Gyr vanished as quickly as they had come. Most of the other sponsors were small or mid-size companies from Turin or the region of Piemont.

The Driver merry-go-round

The lack of funding, as so often happens in the sport, led to frequent driver changes as the team demanded that their drivers bring significant sponsorship to keep the team afloat. Some drivers started a fine career at Osella (Alex Caffi, Nicola Larini and Christian Danner, for example). Others disappeared as quickly as they had come (such as Franco Forini or Allen Berg). It is worth noticing that it was Enzo Osella who gave the young Austrian Jo Gartner his one and only chance to drive a Formula One car in 1984. Riccardo Paletti also had high hopes but was killed in a startline accident at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix.

None of these drivers was able to push the team ahead. Finally, Osella Corse continued to live hand-to-mouth each year with little or no improvement in competitivity. The biggest success in those years was staying alive from season to season while other teams (like RAM, Ensign, ATS etc.) vanished quickly.

Alfa Romeo

In the mid 1980s, Osella was the political beneficiary of factory Alfa Romeo engines (both in normally-aspirated (1983) and turbo (1984-1987) forms). Osella and Alfa Romeo had a strange relationship. On one hand, the Alfa engine program helped the team to survive the highly professional turbo era. On the other hand the heavy, unreliable and thirsty machines contributed to the team's lack of competitiveness. At least in the beginning, Alfa offered some technical input to the small Turin team; The 1984 Osella (the model FA 1/F) was based on the 1983 works Alfa Romeo 183T, which had been loaned to the team for "design assistance" purposes. All the following Osella models up to the FA 1/I in 1988 had their origins in the initial Alfa design.

Unfortunately, the Alfa engine was not reliable. Chargers blew off regularly and power output had to be reduced down to the level of the non-turbo cars just to achieve the necessary reliability. Osella more than once tried to replace the Alfa engines with more up-to-date Motori Moderni-Turbos (which Minardi did not support) or with Cosworth engines. In the end, both solutions were too expensive so Osella had to stay with his out-dated but cheap Alfa engines. In 1988, the last turbo season, Alfa was fed up with the negative publicity generated by Enzo Osella's cars, so the Milan-based manufacturer prohibited the further use of its name in connection with the engine. The 1988 engines were simply dubbed "Osella V8". At the end of that season, Enzo Osella was more than happy to finally get rid of them.

Cosworth Power and Fondmetal

The 1989 season saw much improvement. The all new, Cosworth DFR-powered Osella FA 1/M was a big step ahead, and ultra-sticky qualifying tyres from Pirelli brought some success, at least in the qualifying sessions. The most impressive result was the Japanese Grand Prix where Nicola Larini qualified 10th. Sadly, the fine qualifying performance brought no results in the races; The Osella cars almost never saw the finish line due to several technical failures. The most tragic race was the Canadian Grand Prix in which Larini was third before the engine blew up.

In 1990, after 10 years in Formula One and still without any meaningful sponsorship, Enzo Osella sold shares in his team to metalwork magnate Gabriele Rumi as part of a sponsorship deal with the Fondmetal company. At the end of 1990, Rumi took over the remainder of the team and renamed it Fondmetal (Fomet).

Back to Sportscars

The involvement of Gabriele Rumi meant the end of Enzo Osella's activities in Formula One. Instead he concentrated on the thing he knew best: sports car racing. During his Formula One years, he never gave up building sports cars; in fact this was one of the few projects that regularly brought money to Volpiano. A few of those sports cars even found their way to the Can Am series, although without much success. In the 1990s, Osella moved to Atella in the south of Italy where he build a new ultra-modern facility to produce some very competitive sports cars. Many of them were sold to privateers, while others were entered in several classes by the Osella works team. The works team was particularly successful in hillclimb races. In 1995 for instance works team driver Pasquale Irlando won all 9 races of the European hillclimb championship using the Osella PA18. He won the title in 1997, 1998 and 1999 consecutively. Sadly his successor Fabio Danti died in one of Osella's cars when he was competing in the 2000 Championship. Hillclimb stars like Franz Tschager and Martin Krisam continue to use Osella cars.