Life Racing Engines

Life was a Formula One constructor from Modena, Italy. The company was named for its founder, Ernesto Vita ("Vita" is Italian for "Life").[1] Life first emerged on the Formula One scene in 1990, trying to market their unconventional W12 3.5-litre engine.[1]

The team had a disastrous single season,[1] and failed to make the grid in all 14 attempted starts during the 1990 season, often clocking in laps many seconds slower than their next competitor.

Life logo F1
Full nameLife Racing Engines
BaseFormigine, Italy
Founder(s)Ernesto Vita
Noted staffOliver Piazzi
Noted driversAustralia Gary Brabham
Italy Bruno Giacomelli
Formula One World Championship career
First entry1990 United States Grand Prix
Races entered14 (0 starts)
Race victories0
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
Final entry1990 Spanish Grand Prix

The W12 adventure

Life's W12, or "broad arrow", engine had been designed by the former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi,[1] who had been responsible for, among others, Ferrari's 3-litre V8 for the 1970s 308 GTB and GTS. Rocchi's W12 plans dated back to a 1967 single-module W3 of 500 cc (31 cu in) as a prototype for a 3-litre W18 Ferrari engine of a planned 480 hp.[1] After his dismissal in 1980, Rocchi worked privately on an engine in a W12 configuration.

W12 Engine
Life W12 engine on display at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009

According to his concept, the engine had three banks of four cylinders; hence it was short like a V8 but taller than a regular V-banked engine. In France, Guy Nègre from Moteurs Guy Nègre worked on a similar machine that saw the light of day in 1989 before being tested privately in an out-dated AGS JH22, chassis. Apart from the W12 configuration, both engines bore no other similarities, nor were there any links between their designers.

Franco Rocchi's W12 was ready in the first half of the 1989 Formula One season. It was the time when turbocharged engines were no longer legal in Formula One and the rules required a normally aspirated motor. New engine manufacturers entered Formula One (such as Ilmor, Judd and Yamaha), and new ideas broke through. Ferrari and Lamborghini used V12 engines (successfully in the former's case), Carlo Chiti's Motori Moderni unsuccessfully tried to revive flat-12 engines, badged as Subarus and used by the Coloni team, whilst Renault and Honda developed V10 engines, used successfully by Williams and McLaren.

In this situation, the Italian businessman Vita hoped for fast money. He bought the rights to the W12 from Franco Rocchi and tried to supply the engine to a well-funded Formula One team. During 1989, he searched for a partner without any success. Finally, he gave up his search and decided to run the engine on his own in the 1990 Formula One season.

An old chassis

Therefore, he founded the "Life" Team, life being the English translation of his family name. The team's headquarters were originally split between the technical offices in Reggio Emilia, and the factory in Formigine, near Modena, then regrouped under the same roof in Formigine. While not having state of the art facilities, the factory was equipped with a "Borghi e Severi" dyno bench and related AVL datalogging computers, which was used for the development of the W12 motor, standard toolshop machines, and a warehouse. Life was not able to build a car on its own. Instead, the team bought the still-born Formula One chassis from First Racing that had been designed by Richard Divila for Lamberto Leoni´s Formula 3000 team. The car had been built up by January 1989 but the promising project was abandoned soon after an initial test with Gabriele Tarquini had taken place. In late 1989, Vita purchased the single chassis and fitted his W12 engine. The major engineering work had been done by Gianni Marelli, another former Ferrari man. The car – now dubbed Life L190 – was ready by February 1990, and tested briefly at Vallelunga and Monza.

The 1990 season

1990 Life 190
The Life L190 at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009 driven by Arturo Merzario

When the new season came, the team had one chassis, one engine, and few if any spare parts. The W12 turned out to be the least powerful engine of the year: its output was 480 hp while others produced 600 to 700 hp. At the same time, the ex-First L190 chassis was one of the heaviest cars in the field at 530 kg. Handling was bad and reliability was poor. As a result, the Life was no faster than a Formula 3 car. Even in Formula 3000, it would have been outclassed.

Initially Sir Jack Brabham's son Gary Brabham was signed to drive but when he failed to pre-qualify twice he left the team for good. In the second of his two races the car coasted to a halt after 400 yards with the mechanics on strike revealing they never put oil in the engine. Bruno Giacomelli, an Italian veteran who had last raced in Formula One in 1983, was then signed by the team. The car never managed to run more than eight laps without technical problems. At the 1990 San Marino Grand Prix Giacomelli said that he was scared he might be struck from behind as his car was so slow. At the pre-qualifying sessions for that race, Giacomelli completed his run with a gap of nearly six minutes to the second slowest time.[2] For the Portuguese Grand Prix, the team replaced their own engine with a more conventional Judd CV V8, but then found that the engine cover did not fit; it flew off the car on its first lap of Estoril. They withdrew before the final two Grands Prix.

After Formula One

The single Life L190 was fully restored in 2009 and ran at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed with its original W12 engine back in place.

Complete Formula One results


Year Chassis Engines Tyres Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Points WCC
Australia Gary Brabham DNPQ DNPQ
Judd CV 3.5 V8 DNPQ DNPQ 0 NC


  1. ^ a b c d e Ludvigsen, Karl (2005). The V12 Engine. Sparkford, Yeovil: Haynes. pp. 356–358. ISBN 1844250040.
  2. ^ Jenkinson, Denis (June 1990). "Delusion". Motor Sport magazine archive. p. 6. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  3. ^ Small, Steve (1994). The Guinness Complete Grand Prix Who's Who. Guinness. pp. 157 and 409. ISBN 0851127029.

External links

1990 Brazilian Grand Prix

The 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 25 March 1990 at Interlagos. It was Race 2 of 16 in the 1990 Formula One World Championship. It was the 19th Brazilian Grand Prix and the ninth to be held at Interlagos. The São Paulo circuit had not held the Grand Prix since 1980 and the circuit was extensively renovated with the circuit itself almost halved in length. The race was contested over 71 laps of the four kilometre circuit (as opposed to 40 for the races on the original circuit), for a race distance of 307 kilometres.

The race was won for the sixth time by the reigning world champion Alain Prost driving a Ferrari 641. The win extended Prost's record for most wins of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Prost's winning margin was 13 seconds over Austrian driver Gerhard Berger driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Berger's Brazilian teammate Ayrton Senna was third.

1990 Formula One World Championship

The 1990 FIA Formula One World Championship was the 44th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1990 Formula One World Championship for Drivers and the 1990 Formula One World Championship for Constructors, which were contested concurrently over a sixteen-race series that commenced on 11 March and ended on 4 November. Ayrton Senna won in controversial circumstances the Drivers' Championship for the second time, and McLaren-Honda won their third consecutive Constructors' Championship.

The championship featured a dramatic battle between Senna and former teammate Alain Prost, who had made the switch to Ferrari. Prost mounted Ferrari's first title challenge for several years, and led the championship after three consecutive mid-season wins. Senna fought back strongly and went into the penultimate round at the Suzuka circuit in Japan with a nine-point lead over Prost. There, Senna took pole position only for Prost to beat him off the line; the Brazilian driver then drove into the Frenchman at the first corner, putting both out and thus settling the championship in Senna's favour. This was the second year in succession that the two drivers had collided at Suzuka. Senna admitted the following year that the collision was deliberate, as he was furious that Prost had been able to start on the clean side of the grid and had decided that he was not going to allow the Frenchman to 'make the corner' should he lose the start.

1990 Japanese Grand Prix

The 1990 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 21 October 1990 at Suzuka. It was the fifteenth and penultimate race of the 1990 Formula One season. It was the 16th Japanese Grand Prix and the 6th held at Suzuka.

The race is best remembered for the first corner collision between World Championship rivals Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost, the second consecutive year the two had collided at this race with heavy championship repercussions. It immediately put both cars out of the race and secured for Senna his second World Championship, a reversal of fortunes from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, where the collision had secured the championship for Prost. The race saw a best result to that point for the Benetton Formula team, with their drivers Brazilian veteran Nelson Piquet and his protégé Roberto Moreno finishing first and second in their Benetton B190s. It was back to back wins for Benetton in Japan after the team's win the previous year. Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki scored a career best result for himself and the Larrousse team, finishing third in his Lola LC90 in the only podium driver and team would achieve.

With Ferrari scoring no points after Nigel Mansell's retirement, the McLaren team secured their sixth and third consecutive Constructors' Championship.

As of 2019, this race marks the only time a Lamborghini powered car finished on the podium in Formula One.

Bruno Giacomelli

Bruno Giacomelli (Italian pronunciation: [ˈbruno dʒakoˈmɛlli]; born 10 September 1952) is a retired racing driver from Italy.

He won one of the two 1976 British Formula 3 Championships and the 1978 Formula Two championship. He participated in 82 Formula One grands prix, debuting on 11 September 1977. He achieved 1 podium, and scored a total of 14 championship points.

Gary Brabham

Gary Thomas Brabham (born 29 March 1961 in Wimbledon, London) is a former professional racing driver from Australia and a British Formula 3000 champion.

He is the son of three-time World Formula One Champion Sir Jack Brabham and the brother of Le Mans winners Geoff and David Brabham.

His solitary F1 berth came with Life, a team that failed to prequalify for a single F1 race in its lone season of existence. Brabham's career never fully recovered, despite winning the 1991 Sebring 12 Hours and being the first Australian to start the Gold Coast Indy Grand Prix.In 2016, he was found guilty of one charge of rape and one charge of indecent treatment of a child then aged six.

History of Formula One

Formula One automobile racing has its roots in the European Grand Prix championships of the 1920s and 1930s, though the foundation of the modern Formula One began in 1946 with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's (FIA) standardisation of rules, which was followed by a World Championship of Drivers in 1950.

The sport's history parallels the evolution of its technical regulations. In addition to the world championship series, non-championship Formula One races were held for many years, the last held in 1983 due to the rising cost of competition. National championships existed in South Africa and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s.

Judd (engine)

Judd is a name brand of engines produced by Engine Developments Ltd., a company founded in 1971 by John Judd and Jack Brabham in Rugby, Warwickshire, England. Engine Developments was intended to build engines for Brabham's racing efforts, and became one of the first firms authorised by Cosworth to maintain and rebuild its DFV engines, but has since expanded into various areas of motorsport.

Judd has provided engines for many major series, including Formula One and other smaller formula series, sports car racing, and touring car racing. They have been associated with manufacturers such as Yamaha, MG, and Honda, although they have mainly been a privateer-engine supplier.

Lamborghini V12

The Lamborghini V12 refers to the flagship V12 engine used by Lamborghini. Lamborghini has had two generations of V12 engines through their history, both of which were developed in-house. The first-generation Lamborghini V12 was a sixty degree (60°) V12 petrol engine designed by Lamborghini, and was the first internal combustion engine ever produced by the firm.

It first entered production in 1963 as a 3.5 litre displacing 3,465 cubic centimetres (211.4 cu in) fitted on Lamborghini's first car, the Lamborghini 350GT. The engine remained in use for almost fifty years, the final version of 6.5 litre displacement was installed in the Lamborghini Murciélago. Lamborghini discontinued their first-generation V12 after the Murcielago, opting for a brand-new V12 that first saw use on the Lamborghini Aventador.

Paulo Carcasci

Paulo Carcasci (born 7 January 1964 in Sao Paulo) is a former Brazilian racing driver. Carcasci won the 1985 European FF 1600 Championship , 1988 BBC FF2000 Championship, 1991 All-Japan Formula Three Championship and the Gold Cup in Formula 3000.

Richard Divila

Ricardo Divila, also known as Richard Divila (born 30 May 1945 in São Paulo) is a Brazilian motorsports designer. He has worked in Formula One, Formula Two, Formula Three, Formula 3000 and sports car racing.

W12 engine

A W12 engine is a twelve cylinder piston internal combustion engine in a W configuration. W12 engines have been manufactured in two distinct configurations. The original W12 configuration used three banks of four cylinders coupled to a common crankshaft, with 60° angles between the banks. These were used in several aircraft engine designs from the 1920s, notably the Napier Lion and various French engines. The more recent configuration, used in the Volkswagen Group W12, uses four rows of three cylinders merged into two 'cylinder banks' (two narrow-angle VR6 engine blocks), coupled to a common crankshaft.

W18 engine

A W18 engine is an eighteen-cylinder W engine which usually has a single crankshaft with three banks of six cylinders arranged in a downward-pointing broad arrow configuration.

An early example is the Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 used to power the Italian Savoia-Marchetti S.55 seaplanes flown by Italo Balbo into Chicago in 1933. This engine used the same layout as a recent series of engines produced by Bugatti – basically a vertical six with two adjacent banks set at 60° each to make a W-18. In Hispano-Suiza 18R the angle was 80°.

In 1967, Scuderia Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi built an experimental 65×50mm, 498 cc W3 engine, effectively a single crankpin module, in order to assess the potential for a 3-litre W18 Formula 1 engine. Although the engine developed 480 bhp at 11,000 rpm and 160 bhp per litre, the idea was abandoned. Subsequently in 1972 Formula 1 rules were changed to outlaw the use of engines with more than 12 cylinders. Rocchi used this module as the basis for a ​3 1⁄2-litre W12 engine for Life Racing Engines in 1988, although this was infamously unsuccessful.Recent W18 engines powered the Bugatti EB118, Bugatti EB218, Bugatti 18/3 Chiron and Bugatti EB 18.4 Veyron concept cars in the late 1990s. This engine featured three banks of six cylinders set 60° apart. The W18 engine was abandoned due to shifting problems.

2019 season


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