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Maurizio Reggiani talks racing, forced induction, and Lamborghini V12s

Maurizio Reggiani deserves his own chapter in Lamborghini’s history.

He joined the Italian company in 1995 and rose to the position of chief technical officer in 2006; he notably led the development of some of Lamborghini’s greatest modern-day engines, including the 6.5-liter V12 that powers the Aventador. His time as the head of Lamborghini’s research and development department ended earlier in 2022 and he now serves as vice president of motorsport. His successor, Rouven Mohr, is tasked with implementing an ambitious and far-reaching electrification strategy called Direzione Cor Tauri and outlined in 2021.

As Lamborghini prepares to enter a new era, I sat down with Reggiani for a behind-the-scenes look at nearly 30 years of V12 development.

[The following has been edited for clarity.]

RG: Lamborghini has made other engines and other companies have made V12s. Why is the V12 so often associated with Lamborghini?

MR: In a time when everybody started talking about downsizing and reducing cylinder count, we continued to say that the V12 is the flagship of the super-sports car. We were born with this: Lamborghini has made a V12 during every year of its history. We also did V8s in the time of the Jalpa, for example, but the V12 was every time the main pillar of this company. If you want to be considered the pinnacle of super-sports cars, no other engine can really speak to purists like a naturally-aspirated V12 can. In terms of power, in terms of sound, in terms of emotion, and in terms of, let me say, the coolest engine that’s possible in terms of engineering definition.

RG: What projects have stood out to you during your time at the head of Lamborghini’s R&D department?

MR: When I started my career, 40 years ago at Maserati, I worked in engine development. At Bugatti, I was responsible for powertrain, which of course includes the engine. For me, an engine is kind of like a first love, and you remain in love for all of your life. To look at an engine, to look inside, to discuss the components, to have an opinion, and to give a suggestion was my way of working every time.

One of the projects that excited me the most was the Diablo GT. For the first time, we decided to put a single throttle per cylinder, and it was a level of sophistication that was more or less never used before by Lamborghini. You take experience from the past and try to apply it to [the present]. This improved a lot the performance, and it was really super exciting. The engine in the Aventador is another highlight: it was designed together with the Aventador. That was a completely new car, we started from scratch, and you can imagine how exciting that was.

RG: You’ve taken the V10 racing; why not race a V12?

MR: We had a big discussion about this when we first started out in racing. We initially launched a one-make series in 2009, and after that we decided to also engage in the GT3 series, and the main point of discussion was that in every competition related to GT you have a balance of performance. There’s no sense to take on the weight and packaging of the V12 if after you need to put a restrictor that penalizes a lot of the performance. We decided the best compromise in order to match the balance of performance was the V10. At the end, you need to take an engine where even with the balance of performance you are close to maximum power. If you take an engine with a big output and you move its curb of efficiency to a lower part [of the graph], you cannot be competitive.

RG: Was adding forced induction, whether it’s a turbocharger or a supercharger, ever considered?

MR: We never [used forced induction] because our vision was that the sound of the V12, the frequency of the V12, cannot be done with a turbo. Clearly, today you have so many filters in the exhaust system that the sound is reduced. That are new rules that came from California where you cannot exceed a given decibel during the test. Years ago it was only in the default [driving] mode; now in all of the modes you need to be below a certain level. It’s important to maintain the frequency of the sound.

Also, the power was, let me say, enough. We reached 350 kilometers per hour (about 217 miles per hour) with the Aventador SVJ. We put much more attention to the use of the power and the shape of the torque curve because we were sure this is what customers ask. We want to give the V12 a response that’s as similar as possible to a motorcycle’s. On a motorcycle, when you twist the accelerator you have the impression that the engine is able to catch 10,000 RPM *snaps* like this. In a V12, which is a big engine, the enemy is to be able to move up and down [the rev range] as quickly as possible. This depends a lot on the weight of the pistons, the connecting rods, the crankshaft, and of course electronics. You need to tune everything as much as possible and what gives this perception is the sound you hear. 

RG: I spoke to you about carbon fiber connecting rods in 2016. What happened to that project?

MR: The parts were done in Seattle, at the University of Washington. The complexity in terms of the materials used, the necessity to have metal inside, and the difficulty of bolting the connecting rods because you need to put an insert inside of them [were issues]. And, after that you have dilatation. We built a prototype and tested it but it remained at the research level. We have several examples of development work that run, but at the end every time you need to do a decision sheet where you decide economics, reliability, reproducibility, and cost, and what we work on in R&D can’t reach production every time.

RG: What should we expect from the next V12?

MR: The V12 is part of Lamborghini’s DNA. We already announced the Aventador’s successor will keep the naturally-aspirated V12, though it’s a V12 that is radically new compared to what we have today. We use this new engine to correct some of the peculiarities that can be related to the weight and that can be related to the RPM in order to have the best level of thermal dynamics coupled with a hybrid system.

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