As a freelance writer and photographer, I've always considered myself fortunate whenever I get assigned a story with european car magazine. But this time I got to experience something especially memorable, which was to take part in a special company's 40th anniversary in racing. I say Brembo is special because not many corporations have the influence in motorsport it does. And what other company can brag that it was given its first big shot at greatness by Enzo Ferrari-which is arguably the most recognizable name in motorsport. Brembo has stayed with the racing giant Ferrari ever since the deal was made in 1975.
Thanks to its success in racing, Brembo comfortably sits on top of the performance braking industry. In fact, Brembo also owns another performance braking giant, AP Racing, but both companies reportedly work independently and refuse to share secrets with each other in the heat of their everlasting battle.
When Brembo founder and CEO Emilio Bombassei shook hands with Enzo Ferrari, the history of motorsport was changed. Brembo's racing journey started in Maranello, and on a car that was made even more famous with the recent release of the critically acclaimed movie, Rush. That's right, Nikki Lauda's car was the first professional race car to receive Brembo brakes, and Lauda won the championship that very year.
In 2015, Brembo brakes were on no less than five Formula 1 teams. That figure goes to six in 2016 with newcomer Haas F1, which has also agreed to run Brembo brakes. As secretive as each Formula 1 team is, Brembo reports each team has its own systems, and no secrets are shared. Brembo brakes are also found on every IndyCar team, all but one of the MotoGP teams, and several NASCAR teams. With so much clout, it's no wonder how Brembo-equipped cars won an astonishing 60 main world titles. Ponder that number for a moment. I don't know about you, but I can't even name 60 different racing championships.
I was privileged enough to spend time with Brembo at its headquarters in Bergamo, Italy. There, I got to experience its quality and passion firsthand. Our activities included a full tour of the factory, a track day driving Brembo-equipped Mercedes AMG cars, and also a day at the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Italy at Monza, which was just 25 miles away from Bergamo (and just outside Milan).
I could pause here and start to pretend to hide behind a wall of journalistic jadedness that I honestly don't have-even after 15 years of doing this-but I won't. I mean, are you kidding me? An F1 Grand Prix, a track day in Mercedes AMG cars, and a tour of one of the biggest names in racing-and all of this in Italy? Please, nobody put my hand in warm water.
Formula 1 Gran Premio D'italia
Taking in a Formula 1 race at Brembo's (and Ferrari's) home track is an experience in itself. The Italians are very passionate people, and with how well Ferrari qualified (second and third) behind the menacing Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, race day was as anticipated as the Pope's arrival in the U.S. After all, Monza is also an overtaking-friendly track.
Unfortunately, Kimi Raikonnen's second Ferrari got off to such a bad start off the line, he fell to the back. But this also meant he spent the entire race in a fast car, passing people right in front of us at the Ascari Turn 15, as he clawed his way back to a fifth place finish. The fans went wild. Vettel's Ferrari couldn't keep up with Hamilton, however, so he settled for second.
AMG Driving Academy With Brembo
Monday found us at the AMG Driving Academy at the Franciacorta racing circuit to get first-hand experience of Brembo-equipped, high-performance vehicles. We put the brakes to the test in the AMG A45, CLA45, the powerful S63, and none other than the AMG GT S.
Having driven the 45s at the international press release in Germany before (and I recall Editor Febbo being there as well), I felt somewhat at home in the A45 and CLA45. With highly boosted four-bangers pumping out 355 bhp, they offer excellent grunt on the track. You just have to be a little more careful with the A45 because it turns in much more aggressively than the longer, more flexible CLA45, and I could feel the car wanting go sideways, even in the sections that didn't require any trail-braking. It was loads of fun. But the Brembo brakes on these cars gave each driver the confidence to carry more speed. Everywhere.
While the twin-turbocharged V-8 S63 has monstrous acceleration, thanks to its 577 bhp and 664 lb-ft of torque (although these cars are dyno-testing more than 600 lb-ft from 2,500-4,500 to the wheels!), nothing could touch the 503-bhp AMG GT S, which is even lighter than the CLA! I won't lie-I fell in love with this car. And while both the S63 and AMG GT S carried eye-opening speeds down the front straight, the Brembo carbon ceramic brakes worked marvelously in bringing these cars to a predictable halt. Not once did I experience any hint of pad fade or the soft pedal of fluid boil. In fact, all of these AMG cars were ready for the day's abuse.
Brembo, the Company
Our meeting with Brembo and tour of its facility was very intimate. In fact, it was just myself, along with Victor Carillo of ID Agency (Brembo's PR in the States), and a Motorsports chap from England, with four of Brembo's execs. Here, we learned of Brembo's magic, and why it's so successful both in racing and as an OE supplier.
While other brake manufacturers make other driveline components, Brembo specializes in only making braking systems. Having started from a small braking company finding its way to the likes of Alfa Romeos in the '60s, it's expected to exceed $2 billion in revenue for 2015. The company employs 7,700 people; 3,000 are in Italy and the rest are abroad. Brembo has five major divisions or business units. There is the Car & Truck brake discs, which is the largest supplier of OE discs in the world. In fact, it's got global plants in 16 other countries to follow the car manufacturers in order to reduce shipping costs. Then there's the Car & Truck full brake systems division, as well as the last three, which are comprised of Motor Bike, Aftermarket, and Racing/Tuning divisions. While the latter is by far the smallest, the fact that the Racing/Tuning division alone has five business units (Racing Car, Racing Moto, High-Performance Car, Specialty OE, and High-Performance Moto) should give you an idea of the magnitude of this braking company.
Brembo's largest markets include the United States at the top, and Germany second. It has a headquarters outside of Detroit, and it's building a new foundry as we speak.
Brembo is driven by innovation. In fact, 5 percent of its total revenue and 10 percent of its personnel is dedicated to R&D. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that's nearly 800 people and more than $100 million, and most of that money is going into North America. A lot of money is also being spent on brake-by-wire R&D, which was first introduced in Formula 1 with the KERS (Kinetic Energy Restoration System), that innovative system that harnessed wasted brake energy into significant horsepower at the touch of a button.
This unique business model has allowed Brembo to grow steadily year after year (except during the market crash of 2008), and it has doubled in size since 2007. In fact, Brembo has more than 80 percent of the aluminum calipers market and has even found its way on 70 percent of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles!
Environmentally conscious readers will also appreciate the fact that Brembo has been operating green, with ISO 14001 environmental management certification in 2000, and voluntary participation in the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), where greenhouse gas emissions is publicly reported. In 2014, Brembo was reportedly able to recover 50 percent of its wasted materials for reuse.
The New Brembo "B-M8" Caliper
To top off its celebration of 40 years of historic racing, Brembo unveiled to just a couple of us its brand-new, totally redesigned brake caliper. Keep in mind I've had these pictures for months in an electronic vault with specific instructions not to release to the world until SEMA (or else). As a result, I've been noticing every well-dressed, slick-haired lad driving a black car ever since. But SEMA has passed. So, with a feeling of anticipation, similar to how The Bachelor feels when revealing his prize after months of hiding, I present to you Brembo's new B-M8 (except I won't stop loving this caliper in three months). This caliper is the first to feature "4D" technology-which includes two half-mold, one core, and one casting insert-in its production process.
Brembo's new technology allows the caliper design to get away from having to have a flat front side. This wouldn't have been possible without 4D, says Brembo. Therefore, we can kiss the copycat hopefuls goodbye, because the costs of reproducing this caliper design from an outward appearance alone will be astronomical, forcing them to go billet.
The new internal design gave Brembo the ability to include only one bleeding valve, and on the backside of the caliper. This will protect the vehicle owner from anyone loosening the bleeding screw from the front in a malicious attempt to cause a loss in braking.
With this new caliper, Brembo is still on the same path it's always been, developing a caliper that's lightweight, super stiff, and offers ultra-high performance. This new move just takes it to the next level against copying the design.
The B-M8 is the first of the B-M family of calipers. The four- and six-piston units should be available around spring 2016. Brembo high-performance braking systems can be purchased through its U.S. distributor, Race Technologies.
Special thanks to Monica Michelini (Brembo Media Relations), Thanai Bernardini (Brembo communications director), Mauro Piccoli and Luca Battistella (Brembo Racing Division), Massimo Arduini (Brembo racing Director), and Victor Carillo (ID Agency).