Italy’s supercar industry has intense tribal rivalries, but the different factions have always shared close links.
The most obvious is proximity: almost all sit within Motor Valley, the small part of the Emilia-Romagna region that is home to Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani, and where both the Maserati MC20 and Dallara Stradale are built. There is also a broader collective pride that one corner of Italy could have become the epicentre for the most exciting part of the car business.
Nobody exemplifies this more than Maurizio Reggiani. The 64-year-old engineer will be retiring as Lamborghini’s head of motorsport at the end of this year. Before holding that role, he was the supercar maker’s engineering boss, latterly chief technical officer, for 15 years.
When he first started working for Lamborghini in 1995, the company made 200 cars a year and had fewer than 200 employees. Last year, it made more than 9000 cars and has over 2000 workers.
Reggiani’s contribution to the wider success of Motor Valley was recognised earlier this year with an honorary doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Bologna. The last person given that distinction was Enzo Ferrari, 62 years earlier.
The honour has been well earned, a point made when we reunited Reggiani with his entire automotive CV at a country house near Modena – thanks to Lamborghini and some extremely helpful owners – to celebrate both the length and breadth of his career.
Reggiani started straight from university in Maserati’s engine development department, working first on the Biturbo. This was the first car to use a twin-turbocharged engine to reduce lag, but it had been launched with a carburettor fuel system that resulted in chronic vapour lock when hot.
Reggiani worked on replacing this with a much more reliable Magneti Marelli injection system. “It was where I proved I could solve problems,” he says.
Maserati provided a secure job, but little adventure. So after five years, Reggiani rolled the dice with an all-new company, although he wasn’t initially allowed to know who he would be working for.
“They wanted a turbo expert. I was only told that it was an ‘important historical brand’,” he remembers.
“I said: ‘If you can’t tell me a name, I am not interested.’ Then I received another call, from Paolo Stanzani [Lamborghini’s former technical director]. I only knew him by his reputation so was amazed he called me personally. He said: ‘We need you to come. I need you to trust me.’”
After agreeing, Reggiani learned that he had just become the second employee of Romano Artioli’s rebirth of the Bugatti brand and the idea was to launch the fastest and most exciting supercar in the world.
“This truly was my school,” says Reggiani, staring into the tightly packed engine bay of an EB110, a car that – even in this distinguished company – still has megastar presence. “It was a blank sheet of paper. We were doing everything for the first time.”
Reggiani led development of the new powertrain, which rapidly evolved to become a quad-turbocharged 60-valve V12 with the additional complexity of a gearbox mounted parallel to the crankshaft, within the same casting, to save space – plus a completely new all-wheel drive system.
A 553bhp output made it the most powerful road car in the world when it was launched in 1991, although the McLaren F1 nabbed that record the following year.
“We were a small group and most of us were young enough not to know what impossible meant,” says Reggiani. “I never experienced a place that was so fast to think of an idea, to make it, to test it and then de-bug it. It was like being in a research laboratory.”
But Bugatti’s ambition ran well beyond its ability to sell cars and, as it became clear that the business was in trouble, Reggiani chose to move on before it went bankrupt in 1995.
After considering an offer from Ferrari to work on Formula 1 engines, he opted to switch to Lamborghini – attracted by the chance to work on what was known as Project 147, later the Canto, a proposed replacement for the ageing Diablo.
But progress was frustratingly slow at the new company as Lambo’s Indonesian owners struggled with financial problems. “It was the opposite of Bugatti. We always had to use what was already existing,” he says. “There was no money, no resource. We had to achieve the maximum with the minimum.”
Reggiani’s team was also working on a proposal for a smaller car. That project was never launched but it did transform the company’s fortunes.
“For cost, we would have to use an existing powertrain,” explains Reggiani. “So we started to investigate options. We looked at BMW and Ford but we realised the best for us was the Audi 4.2-litre powertrain from the A8, because it was four-wheel drive. We could turn it around 180deg. So we went to Ingolstadt to negotiate to use it with CEO [Franz-Josef] Paefgen.”
Having investigated project and company, Audi’s interest was piqued and the offer that came back, pushed by Volksawgen’s big boss, Ferdinand Piëch, was a much bigger one: the outright purchase of Lamborghini. The takeover happened in 1998 releasing the budget to create the Murciélago in place of the cancelled Canto. It was launched in 2001 with jaw-dropping design from a young wunderkind, Luc Donckerwolke.
But Audi’s takeover had ironically ended work on the junior car that inspired it. Instead, there was to be a new car built around a bespoke V10 engine.
“That was Piëch,” says Reggiani. “He said a Lamborghini cannot have an engine from mass production.”
Beneath the surface, though, the Gallardo actually shared much from elsewhere in the VW Group and was a huge sales success. When it retired in 2012, the run of 14,000 cars represented more than half of Lamborghini’s total production to that date.
Next came the car that Reggiani feels proudest of: the Lamborghini Aventador, a technical tour de force that broke new ground in multiple areas and was the first launched after he had been elevated to the chief technical officer role.
“There was a safe or, let me say, easy path we could follow,” he says, “with carry-over parts or ideas. But the Aventador was a pioneer. It was pure innovation. It used a carbonfibre monocoque, it had pushrod suspension for the best packaging and the gearbox was a completely different concept, with the ISR [independent shifting rod] to move two gears simultaneously to cut shift time.
People might be surprised that we could have had a double-clutch gearbox, but it would have been too heavy for what we wanted. I remember presenting the proposal to the board and they said it was too much in one shot, too big a risk. I said the car is like a marriage. You couldn’t pick and choose between the different parts.”
Reggiani prevailed and the Aventador proved such a hit that, by selling 11,400 cars, it more than doubled its original sales projections.
The Aventador SVJ also took the Nürburgring Nordschleife production record in 2018, an achievement Reggiani said would have been impossible without its ALA active aerodynamics system. “When my team first showed me the numbers that proved what ALA was capable of, I said: ‘This is bullshit. This is impossible.’”
Reggiani says he was certain that buyers would not mind the commonalities so long as it delivered a Lamborghini-appropriate level of performance. But early criticism of the Huracán’s lack of dynamic connection did indeed lead to significant revisions through the car’s long life, specifically with the fitment of the much more advanced LDVI (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata) vehicle dynamics controller.
“In the early Huracán, if you push too hard and drift a little, the car corrects aggressively, but LDVI made the power of calculation, therefore intervention, much faster,” he explains. “The driver should not perceive the software intervention. It should help you, not tell you off.”
Which leaves just one car, the biggest of all: the Lamborghini Urus. As with other performance brands, Lamborghini’s decision to create an SUV was controversial, although it has proved hugely popular with buyers. The Urus sits on a shared platform and is closely related to the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Audi Q7/Q8, but huge effort was put into giving it Lamborghini characteristics.
“People see what is the same, but the key is what is different,” says Reggiani. “One of the biggest challenges was persuading the rest of the group to change the platform so we could make those changes necessary for our DNA.
Even lowering the seating position was a huge challenge, and when I said we need carbon-ceramic brakes, there was another fight. Nobody else was going to use them. I remember the arguments. ‘Maurizio, can you not limit speed to 295kph so you don’t need these?’ ‘No, we need to do 305kph!’”
After leading the early development of the newly launched Revuelto, Reggiani moved to head up Lamborghini’s motorsport operations last year. That means overseeing, among other things, the development of the company’s LMDh hypercar entrant.
But he will be retiring before the car makes its competition debut, enjoying a well-earned rest from a career that has been rich in highlights. The philosophy that has guided his work with performance cars, fittingly, comes from engineering. “Most of the car industry is driven by scalar attributes: you add things and make something better, so one plus one plus one is three,” he says.
“But I always say that with a super-sports car, the sum of the attributes is a vector, so the answer is sometimes two, sometimes one, sometimes even negative. You cannot use a scalar approach. The question always has to be: does it improve the experience?”