Alberto Belli

Alberto Belli

CEO and Content Creator of Bologna-Experience

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Journey inside the Dallara Academy: an exhibition full of history and curiosities

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Bologna-Experience this time takes you to a different place than the ones you are used to, going out of its box a bit. We are still in Emilia but no longer in Bologna, but in the province of Parma, in Varano de’ Melegari. One of the pivotal places in the Motor Valley, of which Bologna-based Ducati is also a part. Varano de’ Melegari is where Dallara Academy is based, a place full of passion, ingenuity, strongly linked to its territory but parallelalemnte point of connection with the rest of the world. Here is the exhibition dedicated to the great achievements and history of engineer Gianpaolo Dallara.

It is a temporary exhibition “Start your engines! Dallara in America: 25 years of the dream!” opened on May 18, 2023 to which Bologna-Experience was invited. It is an incredible journey into what is the Engineer’s dream come true, largely dedicated to the world of American open-wheel racing. An exhibition that speaks of passion, the same passion Dallara puts into each of its projects, but also of love for its origins and for its territory where everything was born. Love, a common thread in the engineer’s life for four-wheelers, as we will see later.

This exhibition is for everyone but especially dedicated to young people. Dallara cares a great deal about the younger generation, since it is in their hands that the future lies. He himself began his career at a very young age, with many dreams, ideas and above all passion. These are all elements that can be breathed inside the company: it is enough to have the opportunity to visit the plant from the inside to be able to see at work the many young people who roam the aisles, all focused on accomplishing their goal. Observing them from a distance, even for a moment, it is possible to perceive the passion and commitment they put into their assigned tasks. 

The exhibition itself is a reflection of Dallara’s entire philosophy. In fact, the path is essentially divided into 2 branches: on the one hand it focuses on education mirroring the mission the Academy has towards young people, and on the other hand it is proud of the goals achieved in its long history. The educational part is divided into a path focused on practical activities that can involve from very young children to teenagers. The successes achieved over the years, on the other hand, allow us to get to the heart of the engineer’s story, made up of unique projects and machines of all kinds, each with its own history and curiosities.

First part of the exhibition: education

The exhibition opens with a series of nice anecdotes of stories, pre-race rituals and strictly American customs. America could be described somewhat as Dallara’s second home. In fact, the company also has an office at Speedway in Indiana, a location that is no coincidence since it is there that the famous American four wheel car competition is run: the Indycar. The main championship in which the Parma based automaker participates.

The educational path is literally divided into 3 rooms:

AERODYNAMICS : This is the first room you encounter inside the facility, where children and young people are shown different simulations of what happens in the wind tunnel. Where machines are usually tested. Participants get a chance to see what actually happens when carbon parts are tested and the analysis that is done. Understanding the design, aerodynamics, and consequently the performance allows them to get an overall view of the goal to be achieved. Kids can experience the same excitement as real engineers.

COMPOSITE MATERIALS: On the other hand, this is the second room where all the materials used in car chassis are shown by testing their strength with crash tests and experiments that directly involve the kids.

In short, these workshops give even the youngest children a chance to understand a very important part of mechanics, sparking their curiosity about a world that could one day be their passion.

VEHICLE DYNAMICS: This is the last room and here is perhaps the part of the visit that many people prefer: the simulators. Thanks to which it is possible to be a pilot for a few minutes. Experiencing what it actually means to drive a vehicle and how tiring it is. In this room, teamwork is essential as it happens in the best teams. Which is then the main ingredient for not failing.

The study rooms

To conclude the educational journey, we enter the heart of what is the university area. That’s right. Inside the Academy, the future of young people is really thought about with study rooms and auditoriums where young people can study and bear fruit from what they have learned. That’s because Dallara is part of the motorvalley university network, along with other top companies like Ferrari. A network that allows young people to insert themselves directly into these realities. Forging the future of the automotive industry.

The History

As already mentioned an important part of the exhibition is the story of the engineer himself and how he came to build his company. The choice in this case is a path created within a gallery that consists of several panels divided by years. Each year refers to an important episode in the engineer’s life and explains in detail what happened during that period. It starts with 1959, the year Dallara, a recent graduate in aeronautical engineering, is hired by Enzo Ferrari himself. At ferrari, however, he does not have the opportunity to design what he really wants, so he begins to consider another offer: that of Maserati.

The official move will take place in 1961. At Maserati he has the chance to design what he has always wanted: racing cars. The transition as can be imagined was not at all easy, Enzo Ferrari was very angry about this decision and for some years the two did not speak to each other. There was then the move to Lamborghini in ’63 until the birth of Dallara Automobili in 1972. In 1978, however, Dallara won the first Indianapolis 500 with a very nice anecdote that we will tell you later. The story goes on, it is long and more articulate than that. 

All of Dallara’s most important cars.

We could consider it the centerpiece of the second part of the exhibition. It is a gallery designed by Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia, in which all the major cars that Dallara has worked on are on display, displayed along a fully glazed exhibition ramp on both sides. To follow the route just keep in mind 2 key words: speed and safety

The first vehicle will probably make fans’ hearts leap, especially after the recent events. It is in fact the carbon Z Bike, created by Dallara and driven by the famous champion Alex Zanardi. With it he was supposed to participate in a race, but as is well known, it will not be possible due to the consequences of the accident in which he was involved.

  • Fun fact: the Z bike was the first vehicle to be tested in the wind tunnel with a pilot on board! The pilot was indeed Zanardi.

Lamborghini Miura 

Lamborghini Miura is the jewel in Lamborghini’s crown and was a very important project for Dallara. A real car of excellence for its time, in fact we are talking about 1966. It was certainly very fast but as far as safety is concerned it is enough to know that to this day very few examples remain intact. Beautiful car but not at all in line with Gianpaolo’s idea of safety. 

  • Fun fact: Miura is also the middle name of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s famous granddaughter, Elettra Miura Lamborghini. Just in honor of her grandfather’s favorite car.

SP 1000

It is the first car built by Dallara, initially it was supposed to have 2 seats but the engineer realized that this way the car lost in aerodynamics so he decided to play smart by adding a third seat since the regulations did not prohibit it. The car came with the driver’s seat in the middle and two other seats on either side: his first three-seater. A choice that proved a winner in the competition, leaving no room for the other cars in the race.

  • Fun fact: the following year the federation to prevent the situation from repeating itself changed the rules by forcing cars to be built with two seats and no more.

Dallara-Lancia collaboration

There are only seven of these cars in the world, and the fourth one is located precisely at Varano de’ Melegari.

Eddie Chaveer’s car

With this car in 1998, Eddie Cheever, made the company win its first Le Mans 500. The background of this victory constitutes a very amusing anecdote: the driver, a friend of the engineer’s daughter, went to him asking for a car so that he could participate in the competition, making it clear from the start that he did not actually have all the money needed to pay for the car. So he proposed a challenge: if he won, he would repay Dallara with the winnings; if not, it would simply be a good bet. The sponsor of the Cheveer racing team was “Rachel’s Potato,” and when, after roaring episodes in the race he managed to win, the sponsor repaid him with tons of bags of potato chips. He certainly could not repay everyone’s efforts with potato chips. Fate again came to Eddie’s rescue, and thanks to a contact from the engineer, Jhon Menard, owner of a chain of stores, he was able to sell all the trucks he received as prizes, thus being able to repay the trust he had received.

The Wolf Dallara WD1

In 1977 Wolf Sport decided to participate in Can Am, a popular North American championship. Driving this car was a young, then still unknown, Gilles Villeneuve. It would be the Wolf director himself who pointed Villeneuve out to Enzo Ferrari, kicking off the career of a champion whose name would become indelibly linked with Italy.

The Cadillac-Dallara

This is the car in which formula 1 world champion Alonso won, in 2019, the 24h Daytona. To be able to win this competition, drivers must also be extremely fast in the change of driving. In fact, in this car everything is optimized to allow for a fast driver changeover.

  • Fun fact: to make it as fast as possible often the driver who has to make the change in driving pulls the other driver out of the car by weight by throwing him in the truest sense of the word out of the cockpit.

The route then ends with the Dallara’s bright dream:

Stradale car

In 2017, engineer Dallara can realize his greatest dream with the birth of the road car. A car that, before being made available to the public, underwent so many tests in the wind tunnel to achieve maximum performance. It has no doors as, moreover, the single-seaters that have marked the engineer’s career do not. He himself says that despite not having doors it is affordable because:

if he can get on it at 86, anyone can!

The road car was born from the idea of a car for weekend use. In his idea was a vehicle that could take people around the beautiful areas of Parma, that would allow people to get from Parma to Liguria and then down to Misano for a track test in no time. A comfortable, fast and safe car. The model on display does not have a cockpit roof, which can be easily fitted if needed.

The Dallara road car is 100 percent customizable. You will not find one the same around. Since it must make owners feel unique down to the color of the thread used for the interior stitching.

This is precisely why there are only 600 models worldwide.

There is also a track version of this car, in which enormous aerodynamic work has been done such that launched it could even run up a side wall and still stick to it, reaching extremely high speeds. This is a perfect car, ready for any challenge.

What you find here is of course only a part of what the gallery contains, many other cars and their curiosities can be found at the Academy and are waiting for you. 

Useful information 

The exhibition telling the story of Dallara’s birth is temporary and will be available for one month.

While the car exhibit and educational trail are permanent. 

Open to visitors 7 days a week.  

More… You can find inside the Academy the winning car of the 2023 edition of the Indianapolis 500.

For fans there is a small shop at the entrance of the exhibition while for those who cannot visit in person you can buy on the dedicated shop.

To continue to learn about secrets and curiosities of our area, I invite you to read the articles on the Basilica of San Domenico; where not everyone knows, is contained a work by a young Michelangelo and the one on the seven secrets of Bologna that will take you around Bologna as if to participate in an imaginary treasure hunt.

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