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Life

Life logo F1.jpg
90-phoenix-gb-3.jpg
Life
Long name Life Racing Engines
Base 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Modena, Italy
Founders Ernesto Vita
Staff Oliver Piazzi
Drivers Gary Brabham
Bruno Giacomelli
Debut 1990 United States Grand Prix
Races 14 (0 starts)
Cons champ 0
Drivers champ 0
Wins 0
Poles 0
Fastest laps 0
Last race 1990 Spanish Grand Prix


Life was a Formula One constructor from Modena, Italy. The company was named for its founder, Ernesto Vita ("Vita" is Italian for "Life"). Life first emerged on the Formula One scene in 1990, trying to market their unconventional W12 3.5 L engine.

The team had a disastrous single season, and failed to make the grid in all 14 attempted starts during the 1990 season, often clocking in laps many seconds (even minutes) slower than its next competitor.


The W-12 adventure

Lifeengine.jpg

Life's W-12 machine had been designed by the former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi, who had been responsible for, among others, Ferrari's famous 3-litre V8 for the 1970s 308 GTB and GTS. There were rumours that Rocchi's W-12 plans dated back to the early 1970s when he was a highly-regarded Ferrari man; but it is doubtful if those plans - if they did exist - found the approval of Enzo Ferrari. After his dismissal in 1980, Rocchi worked privately on an engine in a W-12 configuration. According to his concept, the engine had three banks of four cylinders; hence it was short like a V-8 but taller than a regular V-banked engine. In France, Guy Nègre from Moteurs Guy Nègre worked on a similar machine that saw the light of day in 1989 before being tested privately in an out-dated AGS chassis. Apart from the W-12 configuration, both engines bore no other similarities, nor were there any links between their designers.

Franco Rocchi's W-12 was ready in the first half of the 1989 Formula 1 season. It was the time when turbo engines finally had faded away and everybody needed a normally-aspirated motor. New engine manufacturers entered Formula 1 (such as Ilmor, Judd and Yamaha), and new ideas broke through. Carlo Chiti's Motori Moderni unsuccessfully tried to revive flat-12 engines, badged as Subarus and used by the Coloni team, whilst Renault and Honda developed V10 engines, propelling the Williams and McLaren teams to great success.

In this situation, the Italian tradesman Ernesto Vita hoped for fast money. He bought the rights to the W-12 from Franco Rocchi and tried to supply the engine to a well-funded Formula 1 team. During 1989, Vita searched for a partner without any success. Finally, he gave up his search and decided to run the engine on his own in the 1990 Formula 1 season.


An old chassis

Therefore, he founded the "Life"-Team, life being the English translation of his family name. The team's headquarters were located in Modena. In fact, it was nothing more than a simple garage with a very low-key structure and very little in the way of technical equipment. Life was not able to build a car on its own. Instead, the team bought the still-born Formula 1 chassis from First Racing that had been designed by Richard Divila for Lamberto Leoni´s Formula 3000 team. The car had been built up by January 1989 but the promising project was abandoned soon after an initial test with Gabriele Tarquini had taken place. In late 1989, Vita purchased the single chassis and fitted his W-12 engine. The major engineering work had been done by Gianni Marelli, another former Ferrari man. The car - now dubbed Life L190 - was ready by February 1990.


The 1990 season

When the new season came, the situation was ridiculous: One chassis, one engine, few if any spare parts, no tests, no hope for success. The W-12 turned out to be the least powerful engine of the year: its output was about 450 hp while others did 600 to 700 hp. On the other hand, the ex-First L190 chassis was one of the heaviest cars in the field. Handling was bad, reliability was poor. As a result, the Life was as fast (or slow) as a Formula 3 car. Even in Formula 3000, it would have been outclassed, much less Formula 1.

Initially Sir Jack Brabham's son Gary Brabham was signed to drive but when he failed to prequalify twice he left the team for good, in the second of his two races the car coasted to a halt after 400 yards with the mechanics on strike revealing they never put oil in the engine. In came Bruno Giacomelli, an Italian veteran who had last raced in Formula 1 in 1983. Not surprisingly, things did not improve. The car did not get faster, in fact it never managed to run more than three or four laps before exploding. At 1990 San Marino Grand Prix Giacomelli was timed at 7:16.212, a mere 424 seconds off the eventual pole time. For the Portuguese Grand Prix, the team replaced their own engine with a Judd V-8, but then found that the engine cover did not fit over this new engine. They withdrew before the final two Grands Prix, and were never heard from again.


Complete Formula One results

(key) (results in bold indicate pole position)

Year Chassis Engines Tyres Driver(s) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Points WCC
1990 Life F190 Life F35 W12
Judd CV V8
G USA BRA SMR MON CAN MEX FRA GBR GER HUN BEL ITA POR ESP JPN AUS 0 NC
Gary Brabham DNPQ DNPQ
Bruno Giacomelli DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ DNPQ


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