Sought-after supercar engineer Loris Bicocchi tells us how his new course for budding supercar engineers came about and what he hopes it will achieve.
evo - This is the third running of the course by your company, Modena Driving Emotion. How did it start?
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Bicocchi - Thanks to articles in magazines like evo I got contact from fans all around the world asking ‘how can I be a test driver like you and drive supercars?’ And some friends said ‘Loris, you should teach someone because sooner or later you’ll stop.’ When I started my career, there was no school for this, and then I invested many years of my life, it took a very long time for me to learn. I thought, OK, I can do this activity. I will not stop doing my job as a test driver but beside this I can start with a few very passionate people who want to be test drivers.
Since I was a young boy, my life has been cars. I couldn’t see any other job, and I know that somewhere there is someone who has the same passion as me. I’m used to driving supercars now, so I don’t realise every day how lucky I am, but then I meet some guy some person who says ‘Wow!’ and I can see in his eyes, I remember when I was young, I couldn’t think about anything else.
Who comes on the course?
I’d say 70 per cent really want to become a test driver. Some other people come to have a new experience, to see what this work is all about.
You said it has taken you 33 years to get where you are. What can you do for these people in three days?
I know in three days you can’t become a test driver, of course. When I get the contact, I call them personally and ask what kind of experience they are looking for, to explain that this is not a course about becoming a race driver or a safer driver, it’s a course about how to set up a car. Less than five per cent expect something different. Most are really interested in this job.
I always explain to them that it’s a long way to be a test driver and to learn how to judge a chassis, the very small changes on a set-up. It’s a very long way and we can make together the first few steps, probably the most important steps, but then you have to be strong. You have to believe in this job, you have to continue, it will not be easy, especially now with the crisis but I remember when I was 18 for me I could only see this job in front of me. Which is why you are where you are; you had an unfaltering passion
I invested many years of my life. When I was in a good position, a test driver for Lamborghini, people said you must be crazy to move from here because you are a king, and that was true, but for me it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be another sort of test driver, the sort who drives into the box (garage) in helmet and gloves, gets his luggage and flies somewhere else. That was my dream. And to sit down with engineers when they start the project. I bought all the books and was always listening. Even today I listen; there is always something to learn, every day. In this job you can never say I know everything because the know-how continues.
How is the course structured?
There are six people in my team, including a driving instructor, Angelo Lancelotti, and a teacher, Stefano Morbioli, who works at Brecia university. We decided to buy KTM X-Bows; I worked one year on the development and I knew it was sensitive to small adjustments, and that was exactly what we needed for our school. You can adjust everything – castor, camber, ride height, anti-roll bars, perfect. We came to Nardo because it’s a fantastic facility. We can do lots of activities in safety.
There is classroom work and then we start with a not-so-dangerous test. Then we move to the special surfaces, where the bumps are. One car with the stock set-up, the other stiffer springs, and then we ask the students what the difference is. I feel very happy when they pick it up. So over three days we talk and we try the most important aspects of set-up.How much does it cost?
They pay 2200 euros (plus tax) for three days where I include many things. I provide helmets, gloves and equipment, I offer dinner, lunch, airport shuttles, the track, the instructors, fuel, tyres – we use two sets of tyres every course. I didn’t start this activity to make a profit. I am just happy when they do the test and they understand what changes. That makes me happy. They get this from their mother, not from me; I cannot give this talent to them. They can be fast, they can be a driving expert, but when I ask them what they feel, they can tell you exactly the opposite. I met so many guys like that. You’re looking for someone to do your job in the future. What qualities do they need to have?
First of all, he is a very nice person, not arrogant, not a star. Everyone likes him. Second, he can handle the car, he has a good talent for driving. And thirdly and most importantly, he feels very well all the small details.
To find two or three people like that is my dream, I am ready to give them all my experience because in two or three years I really would like to stay a little bit more with my wife, and my grandson. When I say I will stop soon, my wife says ‘yes, yes, you will stop soon’.
I still get so excited when a car maker contacts me for a new project. For me it’s simple; it’s like it was when I was 18. I can stay awake until three in the morning thinking about a new car.
Head to Loris Bicocchi's website if you want more information. If you want to find out more about how to test drive fast cars for a living, read John Barker's guide in Issue 135 of evo, out now