Interview – Armando
Breakfast with Armando
the media center about to take a bite of my blueberry muffin,
I look up to see Armando Trentini…says Ken May.
this a good time Ken to have our discussion?” Hoping
that neither a blueberry is stuck to my front tooth or shoots
out and nails him, I nervously said sure, and fumble for my
note pad and recorder.
Armando, how did you get started with your racing career?
AT: OK, I have always been interested
in racing, although I have played many sports, like
soccer and tennis, but when I finished college, my
father gave me an Alfa Romeo. In 1968 I ran my first
race and the next two years raced for Alfa, then
raced Formula series starting with Formula Ford,
Formula 3 and 2.
What college? Perhaps Ohio State?
AT: No, not Ohio State, University
of Rome (close Ken! Ed.), but just for the
1st year. After that, I went to an art school. It
was there where I fell in love with fine art. In
fact, I still collect and distribute fine art (in
Who were some of the “great” racers you have competed
AT: Well, in F2, although I finished
14th, it was the biggest for me because when you
look at the starting grid, the names that were on
the starting grid, Niki Lauda, Graham Hill, Jody
Scheckter…so I am dating myself you see. Plus
the Brambilla brothers, and many other great ones.
What year was that?
AT: 1973. at Imola.
No wonder I don’t remember Armando, I was 10!
AT: (Smiling) Careful Ken, you be
Describe the racing back then, meaning the level of skill with
the drivers, the courses, fans, etc.
AT: It was most dangerous, definitely
most dangerous…..you didn’t have the
track safety as you have today, fans and workers
were much closer, the tires were the tiny type of
tire, the cars were not constructed with safety measures
like today….we just didn’t know.
How about the skill of the drivers? How would you compare them
with the skills of today’s drivers (both Formula 1 and
AT: They were very good drivers,
fabulous drivers, with great talent. I think if you
compare with today’s drivers, and not taking
away anything from the drivers of today… nothing
at all, I think the skill of the drivers of the past
was higher because if you look at the skills of the
drivers at the time, it was higher, because if you
look at the speeds of the car back then, they are
close, but the tire differences, the technology,
was far different. So, you really needed to drive
the car in a completely different way.
With all of the great tracks you have raced throughout the
world….can you pick your top three?
AT: Top three? Lets see…that’s
a tough question…top three….
I like Imola..it was very challenging…Brands Hatch…..um,
Nurburgring..the track was just so long...
KM: How about in the States (North
AT: Definitely Sears Point, Atlanta….Mont
Well…coming from Ohio….
AT: You like Mid Ohio….good
interesting track, but I like VIR more…I like
a track with difficult cornering…lots of up
and down….Watkins Glen is fantastic…
Moving ahead to “present day”, what got you involved
with being the North American distributor for Picchio?
AT: The reason was that I was working
for Momentum cars in Houston, I am the test driver,
so I test drive all of the cars….and I am still
doing that…during the weekend… but four
years ago, I thought we should look for a car we
could sell in our dealership. I went back to Italy,
naturally, I wanted a car from my roots, I was looking
around and started with Osella, as I raced with them
in the Can Am series, but they were kinda of ‘ya,
but we don’t know….’, so I went
to the Picchio factory.
Are the reports true about the Picchio factory?
AT: Absolutely..Their factories
are out of this world. They are like little Ferrari
factories..They have at least 20 engineers, they
study every single part of the car….stylists…just
an incredible effort…so I started working with
them. And finally I was able to obtain the North
American distributorship (Momentum). Now last year,
they decided they did not want to race any more,
so I found myself in the situation that I had to
liquidate all of the cars Momentum had and on top
of that was this contract with Picchio. So, Picchio
had seen what I had done for them and offered me
this opportunity and I took it…so I am now
the sole distributor of Picchio in North America.
OK, so, there are two types of Picchio race cars now…
AT: Correct, the SRPII and the new
How many prototypes are actually built and ‘race ready’?
AT: Race ready? We have this one
that is racing right now, another one, at the shop
in Virginia..that one could be put together in 60
days, maybe less. It is in parts, but it is complete….and
there is another one that is about 1/3 prepared and
it is in Italy and that one can be ready in about
Well, I will take out my checkbook (tried this at Putnam Park
for the Multimatic)…
AT: I know, I read that……
is the amount and do I get a ‘race show special’?
AT: (Laughing out loud) …well… this
is really interesting, we have a promotion right
now, that if you want to buy the first Maserati engined
car, that will be $349,000…race ready…meaning
engine, electronic data… everything…you
take the key and go.
KM: So if I had the appropriate
licence, I could go out and start racing….
purchase of Maserati engine”? Um…still no buyer?
AT: …you take the key and
KM: So if I had the appropriate
license, I could go out and start racing….
purchase of BMW engined car”? Um…still no buyer?
AT: Yes, the first one is still
for sale..that one will be ready in 20 days!
KM: 20 days??
AT: No..No..No, That is 60 days!…at
the normal price of $394,000.
And for $349,000 with a Maserati or $394,000 for BMW….I’ll
take one with the BMW flavor….what else do I get besides
AT: Nothing right now, as there
is only one car, but once we get 3-4 cars on the
track, we will have a trailer with all of the parts…not
bodywork, but all of the other parts will be for
sale at the race.
this point, Christie Hyde, Public Relations Coordinator for
GARRA, stops over and jokes with Armando and tells him to
make sure I get everything straight and to watch what I am
writing and recording!
Are you seeing ‘momentum’ growing for your car
and for the series?
AT: Definitely…First of all
we have to continue to grow the interest in the series….after
the last race at Phoenix, people are starting to
realize these cars are not so slow…..and on
top of that, it is fun, fun, fun racing…door
to door racing…just imagine if you have 16
of those cars on the track!
When will we see this, not if, but when?
AT: Well, you see, the problem is
the people who have shown interest, they are sitting
on the side and are saying let’s see what has
happened and what is going to happen…if they
don’t jump in, nothing will ever happen.
They have to jump in NOW and do it. The formula is right….the price
of the car, some people say is too expensive….yes, but think of
the maintenance of the car. For example, with the BMW engine we have,
we haven’t done anything major with it…knock on the hood…but
the maintenance is so low, you save money there. Plus the beauty of this
car is that next year, the car will be good….the year after, the
car will be good….
Does your phone ring then on a weekly, bi-weekly basis on interested
AT: It never rings…..you have
to go out and look for the buyer. That is what I
am doing right now….
Are there prospective clients here this week?
AT: Yes, there are. There are many
clients here…many are interested in the Maserati
deal…many are with Ferrari and they want to
stay loyal to the factory….so, the possibility
is here, the question is when will the wheels go
in motion to start buying the cars….I am sure
it will happen and when it does, it will be fun!
Without breaking any confidentiality, are there any “big
names” in the racing world discussing with you or is
it more of teams currently running in GARRA and wanting to
move up to the DP class?
AT: Up to now, it has been teams
wanting to move up…but there are others, from
other series (ALMS) that have shown interest….I
don’t want to get into the middle of the battle
Well, since you did mention the American Le Mans Series, this
is a series I am more knowledgeable about…Is there any
chance of a ‘Picchio type’ car running in the ALMS?
AT: Yes, sure…we are thinking
about that right now. Matter of fact, these cars
basically originated from a street car….we
are looking at the street car in the GTS class…
Do you have a time frame?
AT: No, not yet, we are too involved with
the Daytona Prototype project…Picchio has spent a considerable
amount of money on this project…We need to sell some
cars to break even, then after that we can go to the next
think how ironic, for the GTS class in the ALMS to grow, the
DP class in GARRA has to grow……)
American Le Mans I think is a great series, and I don’t
particularly like when there is the battle of words on the
KM: You hear or see any of that?
AT: Too much of it, especially on
the web, it gets silly. And yes, before you ask,
I read many forums (smiling)
Do you think teams like Audi just put their cars on the track,
with no testing? No, Audi and their budget ran them in Germany
before bringing them to race.…with us, there was no time.
The rules were done, the racing was going to start at the next
24 hour, the rules kept on changing until practically 4-5 months
before Daytona 24 , so the builders had to stand by, then rushing
to build the car to race….but now you can see the cars
are getting faster and faster, more reliable, and great racing….so
comparing the two is no good, totally different.
You mentioned the internet and the forums….you obviously
AT: Of course….The whole arguing
of which series is better is such a waste of time….racing
is racing….the cars just look different.
How do you respond to someone who says, not so much with the
Picchio, but with the DP class as a whole, the cars are ugly
and the greenhouse is designed too big and the cars are too
AT: Well, you know, I understand
and agree with comments that the greenhouse is bigger
than other prototypes, but you see, the greenhouse
was designed for safety….you can smash our
car against the wall and the driver can walk out.
Now we like to give some good racing for sure, but
we have to think of the safety of the drivers…and
different driver sizes…
Have you sat in the car yet?
KM: Not yet, plan to this afternoon….
AT: After you do, tell me what you think….
in the day I did sit in the car and could barely get in and
out and got my leg stuck and fell out! Obviously there is
a trick to getting in and out as obviously I violated every
step along the way…and even without wearing a helmet,
hit my head on the top roll bar…I have a bruise to
prove it. I guess Price Cobb won’t be calling me for
a fit test in the near future!
A lot of discussion has been around the regulations for the
DPs: if there was one regulation you would like to see looked
at before 2004, what would that be?
AT: Nothing, I would leave the car
just like it is, with maybe minor details…maybe
a little more freedom with the aerodynamics, but
no, generally the car is very well designed…
How about more horsepower?
AT: That is another question that
I see coming up frequently…..FIA in Europe
is reducing the speed everywhere, few may realize
that, so…now we have a car (cars) getting really
fast, you can see that the GTs can barely keep up
with the cars, it is getting so fast and so good,
speed is not so important….why have 20 more
MPH where a year from now or so, we will have to
take it out because of FIA rules?
So, If I was an interested buyer wanting to get into GARRA,
why should I go spend money for a DP, when I can go our and
purchase a GT car that is “almost” as competitive
as the current class of DPs….in fact, considering a GT
Porsche just won the only 24 hour race here in the States,
I should look there…right? Sell me why I should buy a
AT: OK, well…Porsche has been
there for 20+ years, it does not need any more development
and yes, while they did win Daytona, and they have
an excellent team, excellent drivers, they had excellent
driving, I am sorry to say, it was really because
of luck…..The Daytona Prototypes were not ready
to race there….we will see next year what is
going to happen! You see already at Homestead, at
Phoenix, and now here this week, the top four cars
are Prototypes…..and they are running away.
Speaking of Daytona, I went there for the first time this year
and while I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, the number of
DPs was disappointing. If you had a crystal ball and can give
me a conservative prediction, how many DPs will I see there
AT : Conservatively? If people finally
jump in the series and orders come in and in time
to get the car ready…I’d say……maybe…8
or 9. I would see around 15 in the middle of the
OK, can’t forget to ask about Phoenix…..great start
of race, great door to door racing….what was up with
AT: (Huge smile on face) Well, that
was a pain for us….in the beginning, we took
the lead and started to pull away….the problem
was the first issue was a defective tire….we
lost the lead, but came back and got the lead again…and
we were all sure that was our race…The car
was fast and reliable….The light went out because
the bulb burnt out….Darren Law was trying all
of the switches inside to get it back on…but
the bulb burnt out, so we didn’t want to change
it as we had already lost so much time…so the
rules say you need a light…and if you read
the rules, it doesn’t matter if you point it
up to the sky, you need it in the front….
Who came up with that idea?
AT: I don’t know as I was
in the tower…not pits…but when I heard,
I just said great (laughing) get the car out!
Any concern with the drivers’ safety?
AT: No, the track is very well lit…no
problems. The light is really for the car in front
of you and maybe for officials…but no, no problem
Do you know why they both burned out? Nothing to do with electronics?
AT: We believe when the first bulb
burned out, it shorted the other bulb.
Two more questions, talk to me about your drivers….Darren
Law and Andy Lally……..
AT: The BEST! Super! You can give
any car to Andy he can drive it fast, and he can
fly…Darren also…great driver…
Why was Andy’s name not on the driver line up until yesterday?
KM: No here…
AT: Honestly, I do not know, that
is up to Paul..it is his team, his car, I don’t
put my nose in that….it is his decision.
OK, last question, I was instructed by Malcolm to ask you about
Picchio the bear…what is going on…does he have
any brothers or sons that want to get in the car?
AT: No, definitely not. Picchio
started out as a Porsche bear, in Canada, when I
raced with Porsche, and I think he never really liked
that, and of course with the accident in Virginia….we
didn’t make it public, but he lost his head
in the accident and we had a funeral and that was
it for the bear!
Well, keep your eye out for another type of animal near your
car, as there are rumors around the track about an “Ohio
AT: OK, if he is fast…we will
talk to him……….
that, I shook Mr. Trentini’s hand and thanked him again
for a wonderful history lesson and update of his efforts
with Picchio. He truly is a humble, down to earth man, who
has created a fan for the Picchio.
As a follow
up to the interview, Armando stopped by my work area several
times throughout the weekend just to talk and have a drink…..he
then took my lap top and showed me his web site with pictures
from his racing days and I found myself talking to him as if
we had known each other for years….I may now have to
take him up on his offer to visit him during GARRA’s
race at VIR…..