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#OMP50 Episode 2: The racewear challenge

At the beginning of the 1980s, OMP was a well-known entity in Italy’s motorsport safety scene, thanks to the quality of its products, its competence and a constant presence at race venues. With the growth of their car parts production and an increase to thirty employees, two changes to headquarters, still in Genoa, became necessary. Meanwhile, brothers Piergiorgio, Roberto and Claudio were now joined by their sister Laura, who managed the administration and commercial office. Then, a new challenge was in sight: entering the textile sector with fireproof suits, gloves and underwear for drivers.

In 1981, a tailoring department was set up inside the new workshop in the Bolzaneto neighborhood. The first suit was made for Emilio Radaelli, a co-driver in the Italian Rally Championship and then in the World Rally Championship. After just one year, the first agreement with a Formula 1 driver was signed. In 1982, Mauro Baldi made his debut on the F1 grid equipped by OMP, where he scored points at the Dutch and Austrian Grands Prix.

The OMP office welcomed visits of increasingly important racing stars, such as Bjorn Waldegard, who in 1979 became the first ever world rally champion. As a Toyota factory driver, the Swede also became the first world champion to wear an OMP suit, and he wanted to check every detail in person.

Up to this point, OMP followed technical habits of the period. The external parts of the suits were made of Kevlar and the internal part made of Nomex. Kevlar and Nomex, trademarks registered by the American giant Dupont, are synthetic fibers capable of resisting very high temperatures. However, Kevlar was heavy and perishable, and after some use, was losing its original color due to high photosensitivity. In a sport where every gram can make a difference, and where appearance is everything, there was a lot of room for development.

The opportunity to set new benchmarks came in 1986, through the update of the regulations of the FIA, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, and the adoption of the new ISO certification standards.

OMP was the world’s first company to adapt its fireproof clothing manufacturing, earning the prestigious number 001 approval with the Master 3 model. The innovation was to also use Nomex for the external covering of the suit, which not only became more beautiful to look at, but especially comfortable. It was a winning move. Albeit with different evolutions, since then the external fabric of the suit has always remained Nomex.

Meanwhile, Riccardo Patrese, Eddie Cheever, Piercarlo Ghinzani, Alessandro Nannini, Johnny Herbert, Gabriele Tarquini, Christian Danner, Roberto Moreno all lengthened the list of Formula 1 drivers wearing OMP, but was the Austrian, Gerhard Berger, who definitively confirmed the effectiveness of the fireproof products designed by the Percivale brothers. Stay tuned for the next episode.

Stories of races, drivers, and passion.