Valentino Balboni had the best job in the world: Lamborghini test driver. All over the world, Lamborghini owners proudly wear T-shirts sporting this motto in celebration of the man who spent his life developing, fixing, restoring and, of course, driving the cars with the bull on the badge.
Balboni joined Lamborghini on April 21, 1968, his first job after technical school. He entered as a workshop apprentice – and not for a single second did he imagine that five decades later, 70 cars from 17 countries across four continents would come together for three days to celebrate his 50th anniversary.
Balboni was officially appointed as a Lamborghini test driver on September 5, 1973, and had risen to the position of chief test driver by the time he retired in 2008. It was during the final years of the Countach that Balboni moved from testing production cars to the development of new models. The Diablo and Gallardo were mainly developed by him, well before the days of computer simulations and virtual reality.
The Gallardo, the marque’s first V10, arrived in 2003 and would stay in production for ten years – a very long time for a supercar. A great sales success, the model became a tribute to Balboni.
‘I’m an old-school man,’ he says. ‘To me, cars have to be simple, light and rear-wheel drive. I do understand – and I’m very aware of – the benefit of 4WD and electronic aids, but a good power drift can put a big smile on your face even after the hardest day.’
Because of these ideas, in July 2009 Lamborghini launched a special version of the Gallardo, the LP550-2 ‘Valentino Balboni’. Built following the great man’s wish for a fun car, it was rear-wheel drive, lighter, with a recalibrated limited-slip differential (at 45 percent) and could be ordered with manual transmission, too. It also boasted a revised interior and a longitudinal stripe, in contrasting colours.
Espadas (this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, too), 400 GTs, Miuras, Countachs, Diablos and every kind of modern Lamborghini all came together, some shipped from far parts of the world, many driven to the event.
The tour included a visit to the Lamborghini museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, a visit to Pagani – ‘to say hello to dear friend Horacio, a gentleman and a Lamborghini colleague in the late 1980s, now manufacturing amazing supercars’ – and a raid to Montecatini Terme. Here, Ferruccio held a concours d’elegance for his cars back in the late 1960s. The route took in the Futa and Raticosa passes in the Appennini mountains, while the event was topped off by a day at the Varano de’ Melegari racetrack.
In between, amidst beautiful scenery and V12 soundtracks, particpants experienced the most amazing traffic jam ever, when 70 Lamborghinis entered at once a fuel forecourt. It was a day that, 50 years from now, will still be celebrated by the gas station attendant…
Source : autoclassics, Motor1