Gianpiero Moretti (1944-2012) - founder of MOMO
"Gianpiero Moretti who died on the 14th January 2012, made his mark on the history of motorsports for over half a century, not only as an equipment supplier and driver, but also by encouraging the return of a Ferrari prototype to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Born on the 15th November 1944, he founded the MOMO car accessories company. The name is a combonation of the first two letters of Moretti and Monza. Sold in 1996, MOMO had acquired a solid reputation on both road and track, with MOMO becoming the official steering wheel on cars of the American Champ Car series from 2004 to 2007, and the Ferrari F430, launched in 2004. Gianpiero Moretti also won an enviable record as a driver and team manager, with many successes in endurance racing, mainly in the United States, as well as four entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In the early 90s, he persuaded Piero Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo and Jean Todt (head of the Scuderia Ferrari in 1993 after his departure from Peugeot) to build a prototype for the 24 Hours. Intended for private teams, the SP 333 made its first appearance at Le Mans in 1995, 21 years after the last appearance of a Ferrari prototype in La Sarthe. Gianpiero Moretti recorded his best result at the 24 Hours, finishing sixth in 1997 before winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1998, together with Mauro Baldi, Arie Luyendyk and Didier Theys. Note also that same year, the SP 333 of the Doyle-Risi finished eighth at Le Mans, winning the LM P1 category at the end of a race dominated by the GTs of Porsche and Toyota. Superb results that ensure Gianpiero Moretti a place in the history of Ferrari, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and motor racing.
To his family and relatives, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest presents its sincere condolences."
Grand-Am: Momo founder Gianpiero Moretti dead at age 71
"Just two weeks before the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, the event has lost one of its most popular stars. Gianpiero Moretti, who helped define the term "gentleman racer," on Jan. 14 died at the age of 71 at his home in Milan, Italy, after a long illness.
"He was definitely a great guy," said Kevin Doran, who partnered with Moretti for seven seasons. "He will be missed."
In 1970, Moretti came to Daytona Beach, Fla., for his first Rolex 24; his underfunded Ferrari team finished 32nd. He returned in 1979 and could almost taste the victory-lane champagne. Carlos Facetti put his Jolly Club Porsche 935 on the pole and led the race, but the car blew an engine.
Thus began a series of frustrations for Moretti, who made winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona his personal quest.
Moretti knew that 1998 might be his final opportunity to challenge for victory at Daytona. With time running out on his racing career, he persuaded Ferrari to build him a car that could race and win in America. The result was the Ferrari 333SP, prepared for Moretti by Doran--a man with plenty of winning experience at Daytona. Moretti had finished seventh in the car in 1997 but knew the following year would be his best chance to finally win the coveted Rolex Daytona Cosmograph.
"With all the money I have spent at Daytona, I could have bought 1,000 Rolexes easily," Moretti said on the eve of the race. "But I wanted to win this race."
Moretti recruited drivers Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. Also fielding Ferraris were Andy Evans and Wayne Taylor, with Max Papis securing the pole for Evans's Scandia Ferrari. The race had its share of drama to set the stage for a popular ending: After falling 18 laps down early in the race, Moretti's Momo Ferrari came back in the closing three hours to take the lead.
With just minutes remaining, Moretti had his car brought to the pits and slid back into the cockpit so he could take the checkered flag. Moretti finally won his Rolex on his 15th try in what remains as one of the most popular victories in the race's history.
Moretti was a regular on the IMSA Camel GTP circuit. He played a role in the revival of the Six Hours of Watkins Glen, suggesting that the event be reborn during his retirement tour in 1995. When Watkins Glen International officials agreed, Moretti was good for his word. He returned for the 1996 event and won with co-driver Papis.
"Gianpiero helped launch Doran Enterprises to a professional-level sports-car team," Doran said. "Getting together with him and Momo brought our team back to pro racing after Al Holbert's death."
One of Moretti's close calls in the Rolex 24 came in 1996, when the Doran-prepared Momo Ferrari he shared with Bob Wollek, Theys and rookie Papis finished 65 seconds behind Wayne Taylor's winning Riley & Scott-Oldsmobile.
Moretti's colors will be carried in the 50th Rolex 24. Moretti founded the Italian racing-equipment company MOMO (for Moretti-Monza) in the 1960s; this year, the NGT Motorsport Porsche GT3 will be painted in Momo's traditional red and yellow scheme for the upcoming race to ensure Moretti will be there in spirit."
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