Page 1 of 2 Next >> When Gary Brabham tried to pre-qualify the brand new Life L190 for the 1990 season opening USA Grand Prix, he was a startling 38 seconds off the pace. It was an ominous start of the brief career of what is one of the worst ever Formula 1 cars. The car was built around a chassis that was so poorly constructed that the designer did not want to be associated with it after he first laid eyes on it and it featured a highly unconventional engine that was around 200 bhp short.
The father of the Life's engine was former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi, who had previously been responsible for the V8 that powered the 308 GTB. Even while at Ferrari, Rocchi experimented with alternative engine types. During the late 1960s, he developed an experimental W3 engine with three banks of cylinders. Rocchi later proposed a W18 engine, consisting three rows of six cylinders but Ferrari was ultimately not interested in these unconventional designs.
Rocchi continued on his own and created a W12 engine for the new-for-1989 3.5-litre Formula 1 regulations. In Italian businessman Ernesto Vita, he found an enthusiastic backer with the means to further develop the engine. Vita bought the rights to the W12 and it was badged the Life for the English translation of his surname. He had hoped to find an existing team interested in running the new engine but he struck out. So for a return on his investment, Vita decided to field a car of his own in 1990.
Vita decided to adapt the chassis originally designed by Richard Davila for the First Grand Prix team. This had been briefly tested by Gabriele Tarquini early in 1989 and then set aside. Its design followed the trends of the day with a carbon fibre monocoque and push-rod actuated suspension on all four corners. The build quality was not up to scratch, which is why Divila wanted nothing to do with the car. Following the initial tests, the First team agreed the designer and it was never raced. Page 1 of 2 Next >>