ITS FIRST FORTY YEARS
A titled Italian company in the history of competitions, OZ is now forty. From the first wheel for the Mini Cooper in 1971 to the most recent for F1, the Racing Department applies its know-how to mass production
Situated between Padua and Vicenza, in a hardworking area of Italy eager to do a good job, is the OZ logistics, industrial and operations base. Forty candles since that day in 1971 when Silvano Oselladori and Pietro Zen (the name of the company comes from their initials) decided to fit a rally Mini Cooper with their first alloy wheel, a significant stage and an eloquent business card. For 27 years OZ Racing has been on the tracks of Formula 1, and for 22 seasons on the dirt roads of the World Rally Championships in addition to the DTM, Indy Car, various monobrand championships and minor formulas, the Dakar, Cross Country and World Superbike, and has won over 100 world titles.
It was this list that sparked off civil production currently represented by over 70 models in alloy, from aluminium to magnesium, from 14 to 22 inches, all made with construction procedures that include low pressure casting and forging, with special flow-forming processes and High Light Technology (HLT), derived from experience in Formula 1, reserved for the top of the range.
Technology and control
Lightness, good handling and fuel saving, with the consequent reduction in emissions, are among the priorities, as are mechanical robustness and the controls that the entire production undergoes. Production is in fact inspected in accordance with strict chromatic contrast procedures, with an additional ultrasound control for magnesium or aluminium alloy models for the advanced ranges and for competition cars.
In confirmation of its competence there are no lack of certifications from TÜV, KBA and Japan's JWL. This is the main result of production process development that is attentive to technological innovation in agreement with different market demands and to specific, detailed requests by people in the sports sector. The factory in San Martino di Lupari boasts special equipment like five-axis milling machines for precise forging, ultrasound control instruments from the aeronautical sector, and the biaxial machine for rolling tests.
A diversified range
This tried-and-test recipe is used to create the Italian company's entire collection, which in addition to OZ now includes brands like Breyton, MSW and Sparco. Brand differentiation that aims to please not only owners of top cars with its forged models, but also a wider public with its low pressure production of OZ and satellite brands. Just access the 3D car configurator on www.ozracing.it to find the most suitable model, colour and size in the range for your vehicle.
Thanks to a close collaboration with Ducati, there has also been a return to the two-wheel sector with OZ Motorbike, which won the World Superbike and now represents the Padua-based company both on the motorbike tracks and with an aftermarket offer for road models in the top range.
Lastly, worthy of mention is the tricolour exhibit set up at the Turin Biennale on the occasion of "Esperienza Italia 150°", an exhibition dedicated to the 150 years of the Unification of Italy. It includes an OZ Racing triptych of the legendary rims in green, white and red.
• At the helm
Claudio Bernoni, president and chief executive officer of OZ, accompanied us on our visit to the company in Padua. "The whole procedure takes place here in the factory at San Martino di Lupari, the company base since 1978 and the design and production nerve centre", he said as we went through the various sectors that are constantly at work.
"From the design departments, where all the engineering staff works on the entire range, including the associated brands, to the production divisions, this community of processes inevitably transfers the techniques used for the most prestigious ranges to those for large-scale production." Entire pallets of metal bars ready to go into the foundry stand alongside pre-shaped billets ready for final forging. "From products for maximum competitions to Original Equipment for Bugatti and Ferrari, quality control is carried out individually, piece by piece, with the ultrasound technology used in aeronautics. Our attention to reliability does not stop at the most sought-after fusions in magnesium alloy, our entire production undergoes an additional chromatic contrast control that shows up even the smallest imperfections."
Standing in front of the multiform display in the assembly room, Claudio Bernoni confessed: "Since I joined the company I have tried, first and foremost, to shape and inspire the design team. A significant example? The meeting with Emilio Radaelli's Team Audi Sport in 1986 inspired the original design of the OZ for rallies, the Leggenda, the white wheel with the wide central hub, specifically dedicated to Group B races which at that time were on dirt roads, and shaped to ventilate the brakes while keeping lethal stones and foreign bodies out. It was met with some scepticism because of its unusual shape and although it has evolved, it is still a jewel in the company's crown and the founder of a tradition with competitions deeply rooted in its DNA."