Nicola Larini is a former racing driver from Italy who competed in various racing series, leaving the biggest trail in touring car racing with numerous wins in national and international competitions. He was a champion two times, in the Italian Supertouring Championship in 1992 and in the DTM in 1993.
Larini recorded 75 participations (49 starts) in the Formula One World Championship between 1987 and 1997 with six different teams, including Scuderia Ferrari. He scored one F1 podium, finishing second at 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Formula 3 title and unexpected debut in Formula 1
Nicola Larini was born on March 19, 1964, in Lido di Camaiore, in the province of Lucca in Tuscany. Larini started his career in 1983, racing in Formula Italia. A year later, he competed in Formula Abarth, finishing third overall. In 1986, Larini won the Italian Formula 3 Championship with Coloni Motorsport.
In 1987, Coloni decided to enter the final two rounds of the Formula 1 World championship, so Larini unexpectedly got a chance to drive in the most popular racing series. He failed to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix but qualified for the Spanish Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he had to retire in an early stage of the race.
Two F1 seasons with Osella Squadra Corse
For the 1988 campaign, Osella Squadra Corse signed Larini as a full-time driver. Driving a car that was far below a decent level, Larini did all he could to pull out the maximum from the car. His best result that year was 9th place in Monaco.
He stayed with Osella for the 1989 season, but the results were even worse. With an unreliable car, Larini managed to finish only one of 16 races, finishing 15th in San Marino. However, it must be said that Larini’s driving was described as good. For example, he was 6th in San Marino before the hub failure. In Canada, he was third before an electrical failure on his car while in Japan he managed to finish 10th in qualifying.
F1 years with Ligier and Modena
Those performances have not gone unnoticed and Nicola Larini moved up the ranks signing for Ligier for 1990 season. The French team had a good financial backing and opportunity to fight for the top of the grid, but their cars were average. Larini finished most of the races that season, but results were the same as his car – average. Highlights of the year were 7th places in Spain and Japan.
New Modena team acquired Larini for the 1991 Formula 1 season and despite the solid start of the year and 7th place in the US Grand Prix, the rest of the season was awful. The Italian managed to finish only two of 15 races and after four years in the championship, he was still unable to score points.
Touring car champion scored F1 podium with Ferrari
He failed to secure a drive for the 1992 F1 season, so he decided to switch to touring cars racing. Driving an Alfa Romeo 155 GTA, he became a champion of Italian Super Touring Championship and was called by Ferrari for the last two rounds of Formula 1 season.
In the famous team, Larini finally had a proper car, but the results again were poor. In 1993, he drove Ferrari in two Grand Prix races and finally score his first points in Formula 1 finishing second in San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Sadly, his success was overshadowed by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger.
1993 DTM champion with Alfa Romeo
The same year, the Italian achieved another success in touring cars racing. He switched to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) and immediately won the championship, again behind the wheel of Alfa Romeo 155. This success later opened him the doors of the World Touring Cars Championship.
Larini's last try in Formula 1 was in 1997 when he got a seat in Sauber team. The Italian did relatively well but after fifth race of the season he left the team after a constant disagreement with owner Peter Sauber.
Front-runner in the European Touring Car Championship
In the early 2000s, from 2000 to 2003, Larini spent four seasons with Alfa Romeo in the European Touring Car Championship, finishing all four seasons among top four drivers.
His best season was 2001 when he won three races in the #2 Alfa Romeo 156 and finished second in the points, behind teammate Fabrizio Giovanardi. In 2002, Larini won four ETCC races but finished third in the points, behind Giovanardi and Jorg Muller.
Five years in the World Touring Car Championship
Later, Larini spent five years in the World Touring Car Championship. Driving a Chevrolet Lacetti from 2005 until 2008, and Chevrolet Cruze LT in 2009, he became an established racer and he was often in the top 10. His best result was fifth place in 2007 Drivers’ championship while his single race win in the series was in 2009 in Morocco.
At the end of 2009, Larini announced his retirement from professional racing but he actually never stopped to participated in motorsport events. In the following years, he competed sporadically in different championships (International Superstar Series, Sportcar Winter Series, VW Sciroco R Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series) or endurance races (24h Nurburgring).