Emanuele Pirro

An Italian Formula One driver who raced in 40 grands prix for Benetton and Scuderia Italia. After leaving Formula One he raced touring and sports cars, driving for Audi Sport Team Joest. He won the Le Mans 24 Hour race three consecutive years, from 2000 to 2002 with Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen, and then again in 2006 driving the Audi R10 Diesel.


Emanuele Pirro was born in Rome, Italy and started racing in 1973, at the age of 11, in karts. He was soon a frontrunner, winning several Italian national titles before moving into Formula Fiat Abarth and winning the title in 1980 with the University Motors Team.

The following year he started by winning the 2-litre class in the Daytona 24 Hours in a Martini Lancia Beta Monte Carlo with Carlo Facetti and Martini Finotto. He returned to contest the European Formula 3 series with a Martini chassis finishing sixth in his first year.

In 1982 he finished runner up to his Euroracing team-mate Oscar Larrauri but when the team moved into F1 with Alfa Romeo  in 1983, Pirro was out of a drive and had to look elsewhere. He joined RC Motorsport but after a good start he dropped back to finish 3rd in the Championship.

He moved up to Formula 2 in 1984 with Onyx, finishing sixth and staying with the team when F3000 started in 1985. He took victories at Thruxton and Vallelunga to finish third in the inaugural season. At the end of the year he tested for Brabham-BMW but nothing came of it so he returned to F3000 for 1986.

In 1986 he finished second in the championship behind Capelli, a mid-season slump costing Pirro his title chance.

Unable to find an F1 drive for 1987 he diversified, racing in Japanese Formula 3000 and sports cars and in the World Touring Car Championship with a Schnitzer BMW M3, which he shared with eventual champion Roberto Ravaglia.

He put a number of superb performances in touring cars, and took on the role of test driver for McLaren before replacing Herbert at Benetton midway through 1989. His half-season was not productive enough, and he was dropped for 1990 when Nelson Piquet was signed up, leaving Emanuele to find a place in the Dallara squad for the next two seasons.

With no worthwhile results to speak of and, crucially, precious few drives that caught the eye, Pirro found himself passed over in favour of fresher talent in 1992, switching to the Italian touring car championship with a Bigazzi BMW.

After being synonymous with the BMW marque on and off over the years, his switch to Audi in 1994 was something of a surprise but it paid off with a hat-trick of Superturismo titles.

In 1999 he was picked to race the Audi R8 prototype and finished third at Le Mans. In 2000, 2001 and 2002 he won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen and in 2001 became the ALMS champion. He won a second ALMS title in 2005.

Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Marco Werner made history in 2006 by becoming the first drivers to win the Le Mans 24-hour race in a diesel-powered car. Piro was driving the Audi R10 Diesel when it completed a record 380 laps of the La Sarthe circuit.

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