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#OMP50 Episode 3: When OMP became worldwide famous

In 1989, Gerhard Berger was competing in his third Formula 1 season at the wheel of Ferrari, but had been using OMP equipment since 1986, when he was under Benetton colors. During those years, the Austrian was one of the most scrupulous drivers in relation to safety. As he became a friend of the Percivale brothers, he visited the Genoa workshop a couple of times and was one of the few to regularly use fireproof underwear instead of a simple cotton t-shirt. This attention was fundamental in saving his life at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Sunday, April 23rd, 1989, 2:38 PM: on the third lap of the race in Imola, Berger was in fifth position when, due to a technical failure, he crashed at 280 kilometers per hour (174 mph) at the Tamburello curve. His single-seater race car still had a full tank of gas, with two hundred liters of petrol on board, and turned into a fireball. Millions of viewers around the world were watching a potential tragedy on live TV. However, they testified to a story of success. The marshals reached the wrecked car in 13 seconds and the fire was out within 10 seconds of their arrival. Berger was inside the flames for a total of 23 seconds, during which the OMP suit and gloves proved their resistance to heat when it really mattered.

Berger survived with burns to 10 percent of his body. “The suit played an important role. Until last year I used a model with two protective layers, then I changed to a three-layer version”, he confirmed while recovering from his hospital bed.

Four days later, Berger left the hospital on his own two feet and completed the physical recovery from his house. He then returned to driving at the Mexican Grand Prix, just missing the Monte-Carlo event, and some months later, claimed victory in Portugal; his fourth career win.

Meanwhile, the entire world was talking about the scary accident in Imola. TV and newspapers were looking for more information about the small company that produced the Ferrari driver’s suit and gloves. “Miracle from Genova” was the title chosen by an important outlet for its cover story. OMP got famous internationally, just when it was about to change headquarters again. In the Percivale family’s plan, this was to be the final move. In Ronco Scrivia, a little town thirty kilometers away from Genova, a 9500 square meter building had been acquired to make OMP ready for the challenges of the 90s. Gerhard Berger’s gloves from that day in 1989 are among the memorabilia in our office, as a reminder of the turning point in OMP’s history.

Stories of races, drivers, and passion.