Meet the motoring legends behind Italy’s Motor Valley | Top Gear
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Meet the motoring legends behind Italy’s Motor Valley

Exclusive chat with the men behind Pagani, Ducati, Lamborghini and Maserati from this summer’s unmissable celebration

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Modena is correctly considered the global hub of Italy’s unrivalled motor industry. It’s the birthplace of the storied and ingenious Enzo Ferrari and the jewel in the crown of the wider Emilia Romagna region, an area home not only to Ferrari, but also Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Dallara Energica and Pagani. How’s that for heritage? Which is why, every year, the Motor Valley Fest brings together everything that makes this area special in an annual motor-themed celebration. It’s a spectacular tribute to the region’s distinctive and characteristic devotion to design, performance, luxury and speed.

A bucket list event for every petrolhead, Motor Valley Fest is something that every car fan should see at least once in their lives. And here – speaking exclusively from this year’s Motor Valley celebration in the summer, are four of the region’s legends to tell us why…

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Horacio Pagani

Horacio Pagani, the legendary founder of his eponymous Pagani Automobili 

What are the geographical borders of the Motor Valley? 

There are none. It is not geographical, it is a cultural legacy of values. More than one hundred years ago a visionary by the name of Alfieri Maserati, who lived in Bologna, decided to come to Modena to establish his car factory. Why Modena? Modena was the home of brilliant coach builders, towed by horses, which then became motorized, and therefore had the craftsmanship he needed. Then, 70 years ago, Ferrari followed him. Together they made the myth. Then came Ferruccio Lamborghini. These people shared common passion with many other much smaller and less known companies who also, indirectly, built this huge legacy. 

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So, it’s not just something special in the water of Modena?

Haha - no.

Your company’s legacy is rooted in high performance mechanical engineering. How can you preserve that legacy when electrification and sustainability seems like it will ultimately prevail?

I am convinced that the inventor Leonardo Da Vinci left us a message: he said that art and science can walk hand in hand. Therefore, if you want to make something really beautiful, it has also to be functional and that is why we invest in both engineering and artistic training. In the final analysis these cars are objects that must stir emotions. The challenge of coming years will be to try and create cars that stir emotions even if without 12 cylinder engines. 

So mechanical engineering will be replaced by hi-tech?

Most probably It will be a mix of both. Look … although my cars have broken most track records I have never heard a client ask me how fast our cars accelerate, or the top speed which, by the way, we limit to 350 km/h. Our clients buy sartorial art pieces. Today, I took part in the delivery of a car to an American client who flew over from the US to take delivery of his car and, twenty minutes later flew back in his private jet. This gives you the idea of the responsibility we have with our clients.  

Pagani

You are an active member of the Motor Valley. What convinced you to take part in the event and how would you like to see it develop in the future?

Let’s say we - despite being the newcomers as our company is only 21 years old – are one of the founding members and the first meetings took place at my home and in my office. Now we all share the idea that we must support the university to train the talent of the future and also to promote this event and, look, we are all here; Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Dallara and us.

But while Pagani and all the others are global, the Motor Valley Fest is still a wonderful local event. Are you looking forward to seeing more visitors from abroad? 

Yes, and I believe it can. We started in 2019 when it was washed out by rain. Then in 2020 it was an online event due to the Covid emergency. But as you can see for yourself this 2021 edition is huge and promising and we have people like yourself from all over the world.

Also  - there’s no doubt that Pagani and all the other brands are very attractive together? 

Yes, beyond doubt. I am all for aggregation. Then everyone must design, engineer and build with their own distinctive personality. A Ferrari is myth, a Lamborghini is magic, Maserati is tradition and Ducati and Dallara are also both special in their own way and we must all together contribute in perpetrating our common values … those we share. The values we inherited helped us get to where we are now.

Stephan Winkelmann

Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Lamborghini 

What are the territorial boundaries of the Motor Valley? Where does it start and where does it end?

It’s between Bologna and Modena, but there are companies, like Dallara, which are based in Parma and nevertheless still belong to the heart of the Motor Valley. We could say it is also an industrial district with abundance of expertise. This is something that is envied all over the world and makes “made in Italy” something really unique. Globally.

And what is the single most important distinctive characteristic that is common to all of the Motor Valley Fest?

Performance, of course.

Apart from the people who work in the factories of Lamborghini and the other brands, how do the local communities relate to the legacy of the six iconic Motor Valley brands?

I have to tell you that most of the people who are fans of all of the brands will never own a supercar, and the fact that they are nevertheless still fans is because the brands are close to their heart. They express the best of what Italy can offer, and this part of the automotive industry is a niche in the niche. It’s outstanding because we all still endeavor to excel where others gave up and stopped.

What is it that makes this region capable of accommodating so many different brands within such a small territory? Is it infrastructure or is it something more intangible?

There has to be a starting point, and then there are emulators and with the emulation there comes the schooling, the mechatronic technicians who are able to fulfill the dreams of our customers, so there is an ignition, which is the starting point of one brand or one idea, but then there is emulation because there is a type of expertise which exists only in this place – developed over decades - and this leads to more than one company and, at the end of the day, to this incredible district which is called Motor Valley.

Lamborghini

Your brand’s legacy, and the legacy of so many other brands here at the Motor Valley, is forged on mechanical excellence. In the future, when the combustion engine becomes part of the past and the electrification accelerates, how will your company keep in touch with its legacy? 

There will be a new aspect, which will be sustainability, which will be a conditio sine qua non - especially for the younger generation, thirty-year-olds or perhaps younger, who are taking this as a conditio sine qua non. So this is something which we know. When we wake up in the morning we already think a decade forward, because you have to put in place four years of development and then six to eight years of the lifecycle of a car. I a complex industry like the car industry, and especially when it comes to the super sport cars, you always have to be ahead of the mindset of today.

These brands sell mainly abroad, so as one of the founding members of the association that organizes this event, what is that you like the most about the Motor Valley Fest? And most of all, how would you like to see the Motor Valley Fest develop in the future?

What I think I like the most important is that everybody is really happy to be part of it, nobody is standing back and saying “this is not for me, I want to be on my own”. All these brands are so strong that they understand each other, they know they have a lot in common, and therefore, even if they are not “friends”, they are good comrades, and what I wish this event and more in general the Motor Valley to become in the future is to have more synergies together, and to focus on what the future is all about for these types of cars. Also to have a common understanding in terms of technology, development, startups, or of other ideas which will come up. It is about alliances. None of us can pretend that brands like ours is doing everything in-house!

Francesco Tonon

Francesco Tonon, Head of Global Product Planning, Maserati

Where does the Motor Valley start and where does it end?

Well, I think that here in Modena we are in the heart of the motor valley. As you know Maserati was established in Bologna in 1914 and then moved to Modena in 1939. So we have been building cars in the heart of the Motor Valley for more than 80 years. We speak the same language of this fantastic and unique area. Passion, innovation and audacity are our DNA and are also distinctive characteristics of all the other brands of the Motor Valley. The entire region of Emilia Romagna is basically speaking the same language: passion.

With different local accents? 

Yes, of course. Local accents are typical of this region but all are talking about passion, about audacity, and about innovation. So, these three things combined are the added value that make Maserati, and also all of the other brands of the Motor Valley so unique. Again: passion, audacity and innovation.

Besides the people that actually work for the luxury auto brands, how does the local community relate to the legacy of the luxury auto brands of the Motor Valley? 

It’s something that starts when you are a child. Here everyone speaks about motorcycles, cars, engines and racing. So you can really breathe passion for cars here in the Motor Valley. It has become part of the DNA of the people who live here.

Your brand’s legacy is forged in high performance cars. In the future, as the combustion engines are phased out and electrification takes over, how will your brand keep in touch with its roots?

Well, the three pillars of our brand are luxury, performance, and innovation. Our customers want a modern interpretation of luxury, a pure definition of performance and a contemporary beautiful design and, in this sense, electrification is not an obstacle. On the contrary, it actually gives our engineers and designers more freedom. So, without betraying our core values, we can build on this and implement technological features we can develop within the Maserati Innovation Lab in Modena and develop great models with a unique design, rich technological features, and high performance that are also fun to drive. 

Is there a risk that electric drive trains become inherently less characteristic and, more importantly, will customers embrace the paradigm change?

Well, already today, if we speak about acceleration, there are brands that can deliver outstanding acceleration. Anyone can do that. The challenge tomorrow will go beyond acceleration. One thing is acceleration, another thing - completely different - is how you manage this performance in handling and, in that sense, the expertise and the passion we have here in the Motor Valley on how a car performs on a racetrack or on a mountain road is unique. The smile on the consumers’ face comes from there, not just from the straight-line acceleration. 

Maserati

What do you like most about the Motor Valley Fest and, as a partner of the association that runs the show, how would you like to see it developing in years to come?

I believe the most important thing here at the Motor Valley Fest is to have all the magnificent brands that we have in this area together, trying to build a bright future for the all the women and men that work in the factories, in R&D centers, for our suppliers and partners and, finally, for local institutions. Today all together we are building our future, we are facing new challenges with the same passion and commitment that we apply in everyday work. We are ready to open a new chapter for this region of Italy and Motor Valley Fest will play a key role to promote our efforts. 

Claudio Domenicali

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati

Ducati is an established global brand, so why is the Motor Valley territorial identity so important?

I think that the more you are global, the more your brand needs some roots in order to be planted and solid. Although we are very global brand and we sell 90% of our bikes outside of Italy, we have a small Italian flag on every single motorcycle that leaves our factory in Borgo Panigale. This means a lot, because being an Italian motorcycle manufacturer gives us some strong brand attributes that we preserve and proudly carry abroad.

The Ducati brand is more than just another Italian brand, it’s a Motor Valley brand. What are the geographical boundaries of the Motor Valley?

For me the Motor Valley is a e geographical region of more or less 100 kilometers around Bologna, Modena and Reggio Emilia, home to six incredible international brands - Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani and Dallara - it’s kind of a creating an atmosphere, a sort of relationship. It’s an ecosystem.

Can you elaborate on the idea of an ecosystem?

It actually goes beyond the famed brands and includes universities, supply chains and institutions, which recently has been made stronger since we have established the MUNER consortium. The Motor Vehicle University of Emilia-Romagna, which consists of seven masters degrees, with specialties in automotive – the last one added is about electrical cars. The relationship with these brands, with the territory, the university and institutions makes the Motor Valley a very special and unique region both of Italy and beyond.

What is the single most distinctive characteristic that these six iconic brands share?

Paradoxically the most distinctive common characteristic is not engines! I think it is about the passion. Our common passion for design, performance, and technology.

Is it correct to assume that passion for design, performance and technology all come together to make the product distinctive? 

Yes, but design actually means not just building a product, but putting in more effort to make it distinctive in itself so when it’s just parked out there it stands out and turns people’s heads. So, design is very important. Performance is the other strong asset, because everyone is very much focused on being able to make a product that delivers emotions not only looking at it, but also experiencing its performance. And the third asset is technology, because all the brands that are here are not nostalgic and, despite strong heritage are actually quite progressive.

And how do local communities, besides the people that work in the factories relate to these brands?

I think mostly they are proud. They value the high representation of the region so, in the end, the brands are all legacy of the region. It’s all about people. The people that live here, the people that move here, the people that study here, in our university, they find an area, a territory, which is very fertile for them to develop their passion finding a job. And then their children can grow and have a future, and so the more the brands shine because they grow, the more they can offer possibilities of new jobs - highly qualifying jobs - and the people become very proud and supportive.

Ducati

And what is it that makes this region able to accommodate so many unique and distinctive manufacturers in such a small area? 

I think it is the passion of the people for design and performance.  Here we have Ferrari that has raced Formula One since the very beginning, we at Ducati are racing in MotoGP. Both Formula 1 and MotoGP are the most competitive sports, and the brands are winning races and championships.  We all have a strong history, but we don’t live in the past. We are not nostalgic. It’s contemporary. I talk about races because I am thinking about the present. So, when I walk around, I meet many people that are fans of the brand, of Ducati, they recognize me, and make compliments for the races, so there is a lot of support for the brand, and this makes me very happy.

As your brand’s legacy has been forged in the legacy of mechanical excellence, in the future, as the combustion engine is phased out and electrification takes over, how will your brand and, in general, all the iconic Motor Valley brands keep in touch with these roots?

That is a very interesting question. If you consider one of the answers to what makes this brand so special, I did not speak about mechanical competence. I spoke about design, emotion, and performance. So, we have to look forward. In the last 10 years at Ducati we have evolved so many characteristics, as you know so well, we moved on and beyond the V2 and are successful with the V4 both in racing and on the market. So actually, I think we do have not to be worried about changing. For sure we have a lot of passionate customers around the world that love the engines and maybe in the future there will be still engines running, because in the meantime we can develop e-fuels and hydrogen engines. See the engine is not over completely. But even electrical vehicles can be very exciting. The real issue is they are properly designed, if they are light enough and how exciting it is driving them. I do not see electrification as a threat to Motor Valley and its brands. 


Click here to find out more about next year’s Motor Valley Fest 2022 and book tickets

Pictures: Andrea Casano / courtesy of EmilioRomagna region 

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Description automatically generated with medium confidence

The 2021 Motor Valley Fest took place thanks to the Made in Italy project (www.madeinitaly.gov.it). An initiative that aims to promote the best businesses in the country as part of an agreement between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Italian Trade Agency – the government agency for the promotion and the globalisation of the Italian companies abroad – and the Emilia-Romagna Region.

 

 

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