Jarno Trulli, the last Italian Formula One driver to date, tells about his racing career, his business in and affection towards wine culture, his Formula E team and his hopes about the future.
[Note: This article was originally written for Florida-based Black Tie Motorsports in late 2015, before the 2015-2016 Formula E season started. As reported, the Trulli team had to withdraw from competition around the first race. Due to the annual circulation of the magazine, the article went instantly anachronistic in regards to Formula E. Therefore I’m publishing it here, without any changes.]
On the division line between the North and the South of Italy, by the Adriatic coast, lies the town of Pescara in the Abruzzo region. The town’s location is mirroring the one of Rome on the back side of the “boot” and it proudly boasts to be one of the wine-capitals of the country - and of the world in its segment.
The settlement - housing an eighth of a million inhabitants under a Mediterranean climate - is also well-known for being the birthplace to a handful of famous, nationally and internationally recognized litareteurs. Most famously, poet-turned politician Gabriele D’Annunzio, the decadent voice of the ‘novecento’ - i.e. the dawn of the 20th century. Also the late screenwriter and journalist Ennio Flaiano, who was responsible for penning some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian cinema with the likes of ‘La Dolce Vita’ or ‘8 ½’.
For motorsports fans, though, Pescara is mainly known for two things. For one, it used to be home to a temporary street/road motor racing track, simply referred to as ‘Pescara Circuit’. The astonishing, 16 mile-long course had already been an attraction for over three decades by 1957. It was the year when Formula One set a wheel on the seashell, or rather fan-shaped track of the Pescara Grand Prix - making it the longest-ever F1 circuit in history. That race was won by Stirling Moss in a Vanwall, leading the Maserati duo of the Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio and the American Harry Schell. The race course was shut down after one final, World Sportscar Championship race in 1961, as growing concerns of public safety rendered all existing security measures obsolete.
The twin town of Miami Beach - which Pescara apparently is - was, however, reinstated onto the international map of motorsports in the ‘90s and the next two decades to come by one of Pescara’s own locals, Jarno Trulli, who entered the Formula One World Championship in 1997.
[image source: f1-history.deviantart.com]
“The people who have inspired me to race was my family, as they have always been big fans of motorsports.” says Jarno about the origins of his craft. The then 22-year-old Italian F1-freshman was one of the handful of talents in the post-Senna era who were considered to be future champions and/or who would be following the footsteps of Michael Schumacher into Ferrari. Jarno was quick, not afraid to speak his mind, and qualified his cars on the front rows of the grids where they hadn’t been expected guests before.
As history books will tell you, though, neither the world title hopes, nor the Ferrari seat came to Jarno, but he nevertheless managed to put himself on the highest step of the podium (or rather the stairs) in Monaco in 2004 and drove for two manufacturer teams - six in overall - in over 250 Grands Prix he took part in, through 15 seasons. These are unquestionably excellent results anyone can be proud about.
[image source: f1-history.deviantart.com]
“My career has been very successful, given the cars I have driven, so I’m happy with what I have achieved, and I have no regrets. Considering my talent I should have achieved more, but motor racing is not only about the driver, but it’s also down to the machine, and today we can still see some great drivers struggling without a decent car. My best achievement in life is my family.”
Jarno is married to his wife, Barbara and is a three-time father. Since he finished with F1 at the end of 2011, however, he is far from being in retirement. At the peak of his career in the pinnacle of motorsports, he returned to his homeground to pay tribute to his roots and one of his other passions, i.e. wine and wine-production as a business.
The Abruzzo region - where Pescara, too, is situated - is well-established for its wine culture on its hillsides, yielding its feature products from Montepulciano grapes. It is here, in the heart of the region, where Jarno Trulli invested in the Castorani estate to save its vineyard and facilities from ultimate demise. He tarted up the villa and all its tooling to create a fusion of cutting-edge technology and traditional methods, and started producing and selling his very own wine throughout the world.
“Our mentality is based on the experience we’ve had in F1. For many years we lived by the motto that nothing is impossible and nothing is good enough. We were always striving for better. This is the method of excellence what Castorani is built upon, and it’s the base for our methods, research and development as well as our standards. Passion is everything and it is what keeps things together and what makes us a great producer.”
Jarno cites ‘passion for excellence’ as the link between being a racer at the highest level and a craftsman or even an artist in producing ‘liquid tradition’. Also, as you will see, he definitely makes the best use of the ingredients and devices available to him.
“We produce mainly wines from the Abruzzo region, red, white, metodo classico, grappa and passito. We try to get the best out of our territory, making excellent wines.”
Given Jarno’s international fame, he himself is a 200 mph billboard in many corners of the world, making the Castorani estate more than well off, alongside with the investment he put into it, driven by passion and a sense of business.
“We are now a very much established company, working worldwide. [Our] main markets are Canada, USA and Germany. We have been continuously awarded with the best awards in the wine industry and our volumes keep growing. At the moment we sell about half a million bottles per year, and our company runs very successfully.”
While running a business by continuously switching seats between an air-conditioned office and the backyard of a press-house would seem like final destination in one’s career, Jarno is not without his old seat in the racing car either. He is the owner and a driver of the Trulli Formula E team, taking over the slot of a last minute pull-out in the teams’ championship at the start of the season. Despite the short deadline, he managed to field a full effort in the worldwide, electric single-seater series, and - apart from his natural drive to race - he has very good reasons to step up to the challenge of electric mobility and for the whole green agenda.
“It’s a new challenge in a world of motorsports that has proved the lack of fundamental changes in the last years. Formula E represents the only real alternative in motor racing with a completely new concept and standards, which can help moving the development of new green technologies forward - ultimately to be implemented in our future cars. We are all threatened by environmental problems and Formula E aims to reduce or solve part of them. It’s a valid alternative for a better future.”
Jarno himself finished 20th in his own car in the inaugural season of the electric series that wandered through the Americas, the Far-East and Europe. One of the heartlands of motor racing - where his passion for racing is coming from - is his home nation that may or may not be losing one of its greatest traditions, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza - as the track may drop out from the F1 calendar from 2017.
“Motorsports is all about business and little about sport. The loss of Monza GP - which is a milestone in motor racing - is the proof of what I’m saying. It’s sad but without money, Monza won’t be there anymore because we have other countries paying more than Italy to host a GP. We are working to bring a [Formula E] ePrix to Lugano , I hope this can make the Tifosi happier.”
Such legacy, such grand vision for the future, one would surely be interested how some one as Jarno Trulli looks back at his life and achievements.
“As far as my family is happy and healthy - I’m happy. I’m not very concerned about what I leave behind. What’s important is what I find tomorrow and how I face it.”
Wise words to live by, and surely - such thoughts come more easily with a glass of red or white.
[images - where not designated otherwise - are used with permission]