Giorgio Pianta, who has died at the age of 78, was always dubbed Lancia test driver, but his role within Fiat’s competitions depart was more important than that and led to him being given control of motor sport at Alfa Romeo.
The Italian did join up as a test driver and played a key role in development of the Fiat 131 Abarth in which Walter Röhrl won the 1980 World Rally Championship. But his abilities meant he was promoted to take on an organisational role in the Lancia 037 Rallye and S4 Group B car.
“Giorgio was the guy who decided the set-up of all the rally cars,” says former Lancia competitions boss Cesare Fiorio. “You always need a good driver to do that and he was, but he also had good technical solutions. That’s why I gave him more responsibility.”
Pianta went on to mastermind touring car successes with Alfa Corse, winning the DTM with Nicola Larini in 1993 and the BTCC with Gabriele Tarquini one year later.
He left Alfa Romeo before the end of the 1996 International Touring Car season, but continued his involvement in motor sport with a consultancy role for the Italian federation.