Osella PA5

The Italian-based racing car manufacturer Osella is best remembered for participating in Formula One and competing in 132 Grand Prixs between 1980 and 1990. During that time, they scored five championship points.

The company was named after its founder, Vincenzo 'Enzo' Osella, and got its start in racing by competing with Abarth sports cars in local and national races in the mid-1960s in Italy. Osella would later take over the factory Abarth sports car program and enjoyed a rather high level of success.

In the early 1970s, the company expanded its racing endeavors into single-seat competition. By 1975, they were competing in Formula Two and had some success with a car that wore the company badge, the Osella FA2. The team made another attempt at F2 in 1976 with a similar setup used in 1975. Unfortunately, they were not that competitive, and there were financial problems that forced the team to with from Formula Two mid-season.

The next endeavor by Enzo Osella was the Oseall FA3, created as a customer car for Formula 3 competition. It was hoped that money could be raised to help with the financial problems, but sadly only a few privateers purchased the untested car. Most of these were powered by Lancia or Toyota engines and most competed during the 1976 season in German and Italian F3 championships. On the heels of this unsuccessful venture and in short supply of financial resources, Osella Corse nearly ended.

In 1979, Eddie Cheever - the former Hesketh and Theodore Racing Grand Prix driver - raced with the FA2 in a Formula Two championship. Amazingly, this well-used car won three races and convinced Enzo Osella to take it to the next level and compete in Formula One.

Osella Squadra Corse raced in Formula 1 with their FA1, which had been designed by Giorgio Stirango and was powered by a Ford Cosworth DFV engine. With little experience in F1 competition, it was not much of a surprise the car was heavy and not as aerodynamic as the other seasoned competitors. It had many components manufactured in-house, which meant they were not always start-of-the-art.

The FA1 was driven by Eddie Cheever who was able to finish just one race during the season. Most of the failures to finish were caused by the car's unreliability.

For the following season, a new car was created. It was designed by Giorgio Valentini, Tony Southgate, and Enzo Osella. Again, most high-tech features could not be adapted due to their high financial costs. The team would have to wait until 1982 for their first Championship points to be earned. Jean-Pierre Jarier finished fourth at Imola.

Due to the team's lack of success, it had to attract sponsorship. Denim stayed with the team for the first two seasons, followed by Kelemata and Landis & Gyr. Most were small to mid-size companies from Turin or around the region of Piemont.

In the mid-1980s, the Osella F1 cars were powered by Alfa Romeo engines. Though it helped the team through the 'turbo era', the Alfa Romeo engines were viewed as heavy, unreliable, and not as fuel efficient as its competition. During the early part of the Osella and Alfa Romeo relationship, the Alfa Romeo Company provided some technical assistance. The 1984 Oseall Model FA 1/F was based on the 1983 works Alfa Romeo 183T, which had been loaned to the team for 'design assistance' purposes.

On more than one occasion, Osella tried to replace to Alfa powerplants with Cosworth or Motori Moderni-Turbos, but had little success. In the end, the team stayed with the outdated, unreliable, but cheaper Alfa engines. The Alfa and Osella union came to an end after the 1988 season, when the Milan-based Alfa company had become unhappy with the negative publicity generated by Enzo Osella's cars.

For 1989, Osella fielded an all-new Cosworth DFR-powered Osella FA 1/M that was a vast improvement over the prior models. One of its greatest successes was at the Japanese Grand Prix where Nicola Larini qualified 10th. Though they had mild success, the Osella cars almost never finished due to several technical failures. One of the most unfortunate 'DNF's' was at the Canadian Grand Prix in which Larini was in third place prior to the engine failing.

After a decade of competing in Formula 1 and doing it on a shoestring budget, Enzo Osella sold his shares in the team to metalwork magnate Gabriele Rumi as part of a sponsorship deal with the Fondmetal company. At the close of the 1990 season, Rumi renamed the team Fondmetal (Fomet).

Sports Car Competition
After Enzo Osella's departure from the team, he concentrated on sports car racing, one of the few projects to regularly generate money during the F1 competition days. A few of these sports cars were even used in Can-Am competition, although without much success. The most memorable Can-Am result was a third-place finish in 1984 in the 2-liter class. The car was the Osella PA10 driven by Armando Trentini, and was the only two-seater in the championship - all the other 2-liter class cars were single-seater F2 cars with covered wheels.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2011


Osella Models