Evolution of an icon: Martini powerboats through history
“Racing is the best way to express myself. All being well, it will remain an integral part of my life for a long time to come. I just cannot stand actually not being involved in some kind of competition.”
The legendary Cesare Fiorio encapsulates the will to win, the passion and the pure and the uninhibited love of speed of so many drivers in the world of hi-octane sport. It’s something pure, something intangible; a way of life. Fiorio was a racer through and through: born in Turin, Italy and the son of Sandro Fiorio, former chief of the PR department of Lancia, he was engorged by the racing world at a young age. He began his motorsports career with Fiat, winning the Italian GT championship in 1961. He took part in the iconic Monte Carlo Rally and set up his own successful rally team, HF Squadro Corse in 1963. He became sporting director of Ferrari in 1989 and currently plies his trade as a commentator for Italian TV – truly a life dedicated to his passion.
However, his dedication to monstrous engines and competition wasn’t just confined to the tarmac, for he was also a fanatical powerboat racer and his mentality was a natural fit for the newly formed Martini Racing powerboat team of 1973. He claims he took up the sport as “relaxation”, a break from the bustling touring circuit of the rally world, but this casual attitude is belied by his domination on the water.
Fiorio captained the inaugural ‘Dry Martini’ team with fellow Italian Carlo Bonomi in the Don Aranow-designed cigarettes, the iconic powerboats which defined the sport in the 1970s. That crew, backed with the new sponsorship money, ushered in a new era of professionalism to the sport. As a driver, throttleman and navigator, his career away from careers saw him win 31 races, six European and two powerboat world titles. Not bad for a hobby.
Fiorio’s wins heralded the start of a long-standing relationship between Martini Racing and powerboat success, a relationship which continues to this day with the latest incarnation; the beauty, vicious power and sleek animalism of the Martini Vector.
After Fiorio’s back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1976, the team returned in 1980 and took the European title, this time with Guido Niccolai helming the ‘Dry Martini II’. In 1982 defending champion Renato Molinari missed the F1 Powerboat World Championship title by a single point, but returned with consecutive wins in the following two seasons.
The iconic blue and white stripes of Martini encapsulate the glory days of the sport, but also look forward to the future. When the Vector team of Peter Dredge and Simon Powell crossed the finish line at 2014’s Cowes Offshore Classic, over four nautical miles ahead of their nearest rival, one could imagine Fiorio allowing himself a wistful smile, the memories of his team’s victory in the same race 40 years earlier still rich in his mind.
On that day in 1974, the Dry Martini hit an average top speed of 66.9mph, a shadow of the 100mph performance of the Vector but a world record at the time. And thus the iconic footsteps of history follow Martini Racing through to the present day. The success, the speed, the life, echoing through decades.