Renato Molinari - Fast On Water 2017

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Renato Molinari

Circuit > Hall of Fame
Nationality: Italian
Date of Birth: 27.02.46
Started racing: 1964
Retired: ?
 
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.
1977 - Double winner Bristol Embassy Grand Prix, F1 and F3; World Sprint Champion, F2.
1978 - European Sprint Champion, F3.
1980 - World Sprint Champion, F1 and F2.
1981 - Winner JPS Formula 1 World Series.
1982 - European Sprint Champion, F1; World Sprint Champion, F1; runner-up JPS Formula 1World Series.
1983 - Champion Formula 1 World Series; winner Benson and Hedges Gold Series; European Sprint Champion, F1; World Sprint Champion, F1.
1984 - Formula 1 World Champion; 2nd overall in Bud Light Formula One Series.
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Renato at Rouen
Bristol 1977
Paris 6 Hour, 1972
London Victoria Docks
 
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-giving ceremony at the 1983 UK Grand Prix in London.
 
'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 - and won! I'm sure many people would  find that hard to believe. But it is true.'
 
Talking to Renato Molinari, for a non-Italian is a little like threading one’s way through a minefield. First, there is the so-called language barrier. Molinari’s ‘lack of English’ has become something of a family joke amongst the Formula 1 fraternity. ‘I remember when I went to America for the first time in 1964, when I was just 18, as a test driver for Glastron,’ he grins. ‘I had never been on an aeroplane and honestly didn’t speak one word of English. I was scared I would get lost in the airport when I arrived in the States. Then my father had this wonderful idea. He pinned a large card on my lapel saying, “Please help me I don’t speak any English.” And off I went.’
 
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-Italian guests understand the noisy babble of conversation at the dinner tables in his two houses set in the hills above Lake Como at Lezzeno and Rovenna. And Renato who is usually in charge of the kitchen. ‘Yes,’ he smiles, ‘I like nothing better than to cook supper for my friends. We have to have big tables at home because often there are thirty people for supper. I find cooking very relaxing. And enjoyable.’
 
‘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…’
 
The fruition of those ‘plans’ takes place in the splendid Molinari workshops in Laglio. A four storey building which opens directly onto the lake, where all of the Molinari boats are conceived, designed and built. It is a pristine hive of  industry. But woe betide the unwelcome visitor who attempts to pierce the veil of secrecy which enshrouds the factory. The reception is warm – but guarded. Prying eyes meet only closed doors and questions are parried politely and predictably. It is not altogether surprising. Molinari’s personal success in powerboat racing – 17 world titles, 13 European titles and 14 Italian national titles since 1964 – has made his name a household word in Italy. And the importance of this to his boat building business is paramount.
 
‘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.
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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-ending golden success list up to this season: 4 times winner of Paris 6 hour, twice winner of Havasu, 3 times winner of Berlin, twice winner of Parker, 10 times World Champion in various classes, 10 times European Champion  in various classes, 14 times Italian Champion in various classes.
 
In 1978 in a cat of his own design he set a speed record in the long distance race from Pavia to Venice of 117.693mph after 2 hours and 14 mins of racing. This season he has further stamped his authority by winning the Duke of York Trophy in Bristol for the 2nd time, the Rouen 24 hour race for the 2nd year in succession and the World ON and OZ championships.
 
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-level factory is built into the side of the hill with the lowest level near the water.
 
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-bladed propeller he had made.
 
‘It didn’t work,’ he said, ‘but you must try everything,’ and while looking around the factory you quickly ascertain that the Molinari family are developers. On the middle level the carpenters are at work building catamarans of different sizes and a class II offshore catamaran was also under construction. But the lower floor must be every boat builder/driver’s dream. Here an array of completed boats sit, from ski racers to circuit hulls, to production offshore hulls and as the doors of the workshop open, there lie the quiet waters of Lake Como.
 
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 into his latest OZ hull and here before him lies uninterrupted water for him to test.
Renato on Pole. Bristol 1982
Bristol
Winner of the Duke of York Trophy, Bristol 1977
Renato at the Pits Turn, Bristol 1982
 
 
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