Andrea Zivian, as a professional jeweler, has always been quite familiar with gold. The most prestigious type of medal at stake at the 2022 FIA Motorsport Games, which took place at Le Castellet from 27th to 30th October, was so in his destiny. Together with co-driver Nicola Arena, "Zippo" conquered a clear win in the Historic Rally discipline, at the wheel of his 1981’s Audi quattro Group 4 with 360 horsepower. This exploit has been crucial for Italy's absolute first place in the medals table.
For Zivian this has been the icing on the cake at the end of an already stunning year, thanks to his second consecutive FIA European Historic Rally Championship title, securing four victories with co-drivers Arena and Denis Piceno. As racewear and safety equipment supplier, the OMP brand is closely involved in this fascinating project. Now that the engines are switched off, we welcomed Andrea at the Racing Force Group headquarters in Ronco Scrivia. He told us about his season, his coming plans and, obviously, we could admire his gold medal!
Andrea, the FIA Motorsport Games gold medal has been the crowning on a magnificent season: how would you resume it?
"I consider this win as the prize for all the work we did during these years, well beyond the two European titles. We embarked ourselves on the Audi quattro project in 2018 and, after a long development phase, as soon as we found the reliability the results came in. It's important to point out the credit for this medal is not only mine, but of all who supported us, like our sponsors and, above all, our mechanics. Without them, nothing of this would have been possible".
What type of technical challenge did you face?
"For historical rallies, in general, it's necessary to adhere to the rules of the time, with concessions on some materials only. In example, magnesium parts have to be replaced with aluminum equivalents. We reproduced the original components and we tried to improve them, knowing that today's technology is superior to the eighties’. Then, the Audi commitment was based on an unlimited budget, while on our side we optimized what was available to us, with fine tuning to make the car more drivable. Betting on a very specific model, moreover, we haven't a parts catalog to draw from. We needed to gain experience and to read the original manuals. Sometimes, with a bit of luck, we managed to find them on the web. All these things, however, made our joys even sweeter".
Obviously, the safety equipment you're using today has to be compliant to the most recent requests.
"FIA rulings demand to be in line with the latest safety standards, so OMP represents a fundamental partner on this side. It's evident how much progress has been made along the decades, comparing materials and devices, or the retention strength of belts and seats. In this way the driver can compete safely, but at the same time he can perform better".
What impressed you the most visiting our base?
"The production of fireproof suits. For the manual skills and the precision they require, it reminds me a lot of the meticulousness in the creation of a jewel".
Tell us more about your FIA Motorsport Games adventure.
"Everything started in July. While we were in Austria, the FIA guys expressed their desire to see us racing at the Games. Then we kept in contact with the Italian federation ACI, and we submitted our entry at the last moment. The race format included two days of true competition, with 150 kms of special stages along the Rally de Sainte Baume roads. We dominated, but the first three crews in the standings had to contest a final challenge around the Le Castellet circuit, resetting the times. On the paper, our most valuable rival Antonio Sainz could have an advantage driving a rear-engined Porsche. However, we could choose the best starting position with less distance towards the first turn. In addition, the last heat was scheduled at night, with lower temperatures, and we could take advantage of the higher grip offered by the four-wheel drive of our Audi. We immediately built a good gap, and since then my ten years of karting training became very useful!".
What convinced you to turn into a historic rally specialist and expert?
"I was looking for a different challenge. Racecars from the 80s and the 90s, in my eyes, have an unmatched appeal. They are also the cars from the period when I grew up. I couldn't use them in the past, but it's a pleasure I have today".
You had a special friendship with Jari-Matti Latvala. How did you know him? And what would you tell him after his WRC triumph as Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT team principal?
"Jari-Matti has always been a lover of historical cars. In 2013, through a common contact, he got my phone number and called me, but initially I thought it was a joke! So I replied to him saying "...and I am the Pope!". However, he was him for real, and he was searching for an Audi quattro, a model he is particularly fond of. I invited him to test the car, we reached a renting deal, and he bought the second car we assembled. I found a great person, very kind and appreciated among all the rally community, so our friendship became very strong. He has a genuine passion, he teached me many secrets about driving on dirt, and he has great technical capabilities. Jari-Matti has been a mega driver, just unlucky in some moments of his career, but redeemed himself in the team principal role. He deserves all the success he is obtaining with Toyota, and I'm not surprised about them".
What are your next programs?
"First of all, we want to race again in the European Championship with the Audi quattro, to defend our titles. In the meanwhile, we are going forward with two other projects: the first is the Best Impreza together with Carlo Boroli, and we already used a car at the last Rallylegend. The other one is based on the Peugeot 306 Maxi. These models are going to be the discipline’s stars when the FIA will admit them to compete in the historic rallies, and I'm sure we will see a very warm reception by the fans".
Will you defend the gold medal at the next FIA Motorsport Games, that will take place at Valencia in 2024?
"For sure. Let's see with what car!".