Date of Birth: 27.02.46
Started racing: 1964
18 times World Champion (in different categories); 11 times European Champion (in different categories); 4 times winner Rouen 24 hours; 4 times winner Paris 6 hours; 2 times winner Parker Enduro; 3 times winner Berlin 6 hours.
Renato Molinari, winner of the Duke of York Trophy, 1977. Photo courtesy of George Gallop.
The following is taken from an article written by Anna O'Brien in the Powerboat 84 Yearbook.
'He is to powerboat racing what Mohammed Ali was to boxing, what Bjorn Borg was to lawn tennis. The Best. The master. He has been racing for nearly twenty years. And he has been winning for nearly twenty years. And I wish he'd give up...! This was the good humoured comment from Roger Jenkins on Renato Molinari during the prize-
'I know what people think,' Molinari shrugs, 'That I have won so many titles that it can't mean anything to me any more. But it means everything to me, second place is just not good enough. I want to be first, every time. To show everybody that I am the best...It is a feeling that never goes away. I enjoy the thrill of being in 'competitive' racing very much. More than winning easily. There is so much satisfaction knowing that you have been in a close race -
Talking to Renato Molinari, for a non-
Today, as Renato’s brother Georgio laughingly admits, his English is considerably better than most people appreciate, particularly when it comes to talking business! And it is Renato who is the first to ensure that his non-
‘Often at the end of the racing season, I feel so tired and bored with racing that I think I will retire. Then I begin to relax, to entertain my friends, take a holiday and think – what of the future? Honestly, if I could see someone ready to take over from me – an Italian of course – I’d retire immediately. But, at the moment, there is nobody. So I begin to plan and think about a boat for the following season…’
‘When people read about me or see me winning races, they identify my name with success. So when they come to buy a boat and they see the name Molinari, they choose to buy a Molinari. It is the same in the sports boat side of the business. People like to be associated with success. So, of course, I do not want people to learn why my boats are so successful…’
The design of the Molinari Formula 1 hull is the result of years of experience and innovation. ‘We are trying to learn from the lessons of Formula 1 motor racing. We used the wind tunnel at Fiat Lancia last winter to develop a new cowling design for the boats and we have access to these facilities again this year, thanks to our Martini contacts. As the sport becomes more and more professional we must become more professional in or approach. More scientific. So we are looking at new compounds. At carbon fibre, titanium and Kevlar. I would have liked the time to build another aluminium boat in 1983 but we had so much to do with customers’ orders for racing boats that there simply wasn’t the time.’
One criticism sometimes levelled at the Molinari hulls is that only one man is able to extract the maximum from the design – Renato himself. One driver who is quick to leap to the maestro’s defence is Britain’s Rick Frost – a newcomer to Formula 1 in ’83 who impressed Molinari with his performances last season. ‘Quite honestly, he’s the only driver who has the ability to ‘hang’ a Formula 1 boat the way that you can hang a Formula 3 boat,’ says 1982 Formula 3 World Champion Frost. ‘He has such terrific natural ability and, of course, he spends 99 per cent of his time in his boats which none of us are able to do. But he’s simply in a class by himself.’
Molinari indeed tests every racing boat produced at the Laglio factory and he is on hand to give advice to newcomers like his protégé Kicco Vidoli and Scotland’s Allan Nimmo who purchased the famous 1982 aluminium hull. ‘Watch Renato during practice,’ says Nimmo. ‘He’s never out for long. He tells his drivers to go out for ten minutes and test and then come in and think. Analyse the problems; how is the boat handling, what does it feel like, then go out for another ten minutes and come in again. And think.’
Of course, Molinari is not infallible. Last year he hooked not once but twice during the Grand Prix in Liege. ‘Why? I don’t know!’ he shrugged. ‘I wasn’t under pressure the first time, maybe I was trying a bit too hard in the repaired boat in the last race. But it happens. I was very lucky not to go up with Jenkins in Minneapolis last year. I know people talk about the rivalry between Roger and myself – and I still haven’t forgotten that he took my world title from me in Milan in 1982 – that hurt – but you don’t think about things like that when you are on the water. Jenkins is a hard driver. A racer. So am I. We were both holding our racing line in Minneapolis and touched at speed. It was a pure racing accident. For sure I have had accidents in the past and when I am on the limit and I feel the boat starting to lift sometimes I do think “Here we go”…Fear? No. When you flip at 200 kmph, you don’t have time for fear.’
A tough nut Molinari? So some of his rivals and critics would have you believe. But behind that reserved exterior lurks a mischievous sense of humour, betrayed by the twinkle in the brown eyes. And, as the sport’s most eligible bachelor at the age of 38, he has his problems. ‘Every time I go to see my mother,’ he chuckles, ‘it’s always the same story. ‘Renato, Giorgio is married, Franco is married. You are the oldest. Why are you not married?’ His affection for his parents and family is deep. Father Angelo taught his eldest son everything he knew about boat building, which he in turn had learned from his father, a carpenter in Nesso on the shores of Lake Como. Angelo himself took up powerboat racing after the Second World war and the eldest of his three sons never had any doubts that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. That he has done in the best way possible. And so, what of the future? Retirement? Certainly not in 1984 when he will lead the two boat Martini Molinari onslaught on the Formula 1 world title once again.
Renato Molinari, London Victoria Docks, 1983. Photo Denny Rowland.
Above: Photo of Renato holding a copy of Roberto Bigi's book, taken at Lake Como, 2010. Photo courtesy of Roberto Bigi.
Above: 1984 and Renato obviously unhappy about something. Photo -
Like Father – Like Son
The following article, written by Rosalind Nott, was first published in Powerboat and Waterskiing magazine, November 1980.
Renato Molinari is a winner. Trying to compile a list of his achievements is almost impossible, and at the age of 33 he still has many more years to make his life in circuit powerboat racing, one that will surely not be matched.
Let us take a look at his never-
Surely he is the only man to win two world titles in the same weekend as in 1976 he took the OE and ON Championships in Auronza. This list could go on and on but few people know the man behind these titles; the Italian behind the famous boats; or the character behind the name Molinari.
I was recently invited by Renato to view his factory at Lake Como, with my camera and given the unique chance of trying to understand this famous man in circuit racing.
The stories that I took with me were not at all complimentary, the stories of Renato as a competitor were not all admirable and I was told on supposedly good authority that having been invited I may not be let into the factory and ferocious guard dogs would be at the door. So with trepidation I left Milan airport and drove to Lake Como to the famous factory of the Molinari catamarans. The 3-
I rang the doorbell, and I was let in, and saw no guard dogs the other side. Renato eventually appeared and seemed only too pleased to show me his superb shop, let me pry into everything and made no restriction over the use of the camera. On the street level the building contained the engine workshop, and you could eat a meal off the floor. The Array of propellers was enough to cater for the needs of all the British competitors for one season and with great delight he showed me a six-
It really is a marvellous site and boats can be craned in and out of the water for testing. Nothing seems to move on the lake. The waters are quiet and peaceful and the only thing to disturb the silence is the ringing of the church bell across the lake.
Renato swings in his latest OZ hull and here before him lies uninterrupted water for him to test.
Above: Molinari racing in 1987. (Photo credit needed)
Below: Paris, 1972. (Photo credit needed)
Above: Amsterdam, 1973. Renato almost losing it as Cees van der Velden closes in. (Photo credit needed).
Below: Milan, 1985. (Photo credit needed).
Above: 1982. Photo by Tony Pearmain. (Location needed).
Below: Lyon, 1983. Photo -
Above: Molinari Loses it -