Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Interview with Valentino Balboni from Lamborgini

While taking pictures of the cars of Concours d'Elegance in Kuwait two weeks ago, I pumped into Ahmed Al-Enezi. The manager of Kuwait Cars Museum and he is taking care of the Concours cars and judges.

So I asked who do you have this year from the judges, He mentioned a lot of great names in the motoring industry. The he Said : Valentino Balboni!


Mr. Valentino Balboni started working for Lamborghini on April 21, 1968 as a mechanic apprentice in the company. Eventually he was personally asked by the founder of the company, Ferruccio Lamborghini, to test-drive the newly built cars.



Valentino Balboni has reportedly driven about 80% of all Lamborghinis ever built; among the marque aficionados, Balboni has risen to cult status. In 2008 Balboni was still active for the company as the chief test-driver and ambassador: fluent in English and German, he often appeared at different Lamborghini-related events, like the unveiling of new models. In July 2009 Lamborghini announced a special edition run of 250 Gallardo LP550-2 "Valentino Balboni edition" supercars; the company stated that the new car was to be rear-wheel driven in accordance with Balboni's preference for the thrill of cornering a rear-wheel driven vehicle.
Balboni, even though officially retired as chief test driver, has signed a two year contract with Lamborghini as a consultant through 2010 that can be renewed multiple times.




Back to my story, I told Ahmed that I MUST meet Mr. Balboni. He said that he will try his best to help me meet him. and asked me to go to Marina Hotel lobby and wait for him.


I went to the lobby, and couldn't wait for Ahmed. So I saw an Italian lady and asked her : Hi, I know that you'll say that I am a kid and silly, But am not leaving till I meed Mr. Balboni!


She said wait, picked up the phone.. and called someone and she was talking Italiano! 


Me : Are you calling your bodyguard ?
She : No, I just informed Mr. Balboni That you're waiting for him, He'll be down in 5 mins!!
Me : Nooo No, Don't bother him, I can wait for three hours!







Mr. Ahmed came in and I told him that I took care of everything!


Few moments later I saw Mr. Balboni coming down talking on the phone. I stood and waited for him to finish the call.. Now we start :)









The Stig : Mr. Balboni, It is an honor for me to meet you and shake your hand.
Balboni : I would like to thank you for taking the time of your day and come to see me (with a big real smile.. not fake smiles)


The Stig : I am a big fan of you and Lamborghini and can't believe you are actually in Kuwait right now, Do you mind If I take a picture of you right here ?


Balboni : Of Course not, Please tell me where you want to take the picture. 



The Stig : (After taking the picture) Can I ask few questions, If you don't mind ?

Balboni :  Of course Of Course, I have few minutes for you.

The Stig : What is the greatest car you have ever driven ?

Balboni : Of course it is a Lamborghini. A Miura.

The Stig : Why the Miura ?

Balboni : Because it was the first car I started testing.


The Stig : Other than Lamborghinis ?

Balboni : It Has to be the Pagani Zonda C12S.

The Stig : What do you like the most about Lamorghinis ?

Balboni : Every Lamborghini has its own character and personality that you will not find in other cars. The Lamborghini will make everybody turn their heads and  try to see the car that generates this sound.

The Stig : Have you met Mr. Enzo Ferrari in person ?

Balboni : I was so close to him, but never got the chance to shake his hand. He is a great man and one of Italy's legends.

The Stig : I know That Mr. Pagani used to work with Lamborghini in the past, Do you know him?

Balboni : Yes, We are actually a very good friends and I really likes the cars he make. Proper stick manual transmissions, rear wheel drive and sounds and looks like an Italian super car should be.

The Stig : What Do you think of Ferrari, The Company and the cars they make?

Balboni : Ferrari is a great name in the Motorsport and luxury car industry and they are one of our main rivals. and they make great cars, well known for good looks and performance. but they are not like a Lamborghini in terms of exclusivity.

The Stig : What is the car that you use everyday ?

Balboni : Audi A4 3.0 Turbo Diesel. its good for 247 Bhp. and I like it.

The Stig : What do you think of the modern German sports cars? Such as Porsches, BMW M Power, And AMG Mercs ?

Balboni : They build nice and reliable cars that you can drive for long distance without needing a massage. and they target a different segment of customers. affordable and can be used everyday. but they will never give you the presence of a Lamborghini.

The Stig : What was the top speed you did? and which car was used to achieve the top speed ?

Balboni : I did 341 km/h in a Lamborghini Murciélago at Nardo.

The Stig : What about the new upcoming LP-700? is it faster ?

Balboni : You know a lot! this is a secret and I can't tell how fast it goes, but it will be unveiled in Geneva Motor show.

The Stig : How do you feel when Lamborghini named one of thier cars after your name as a limited edition?

Balboni : I was really touched, It was a feeling so strong to see a company created in the 60s and never named a car after anyones name. then when they do it.. they did after my name and I am still alive. ti feels so special and it is a very limited edition one. only 250 cars will be made.

The Stig : Was it your decision that the car will be a rear wheel drive?

Balboni : It was Both me, And the top management. we wanted to make something really special and limited this time. a car that professional drivers will enjoy. it has been more than 20 years since Lamborghini made a two wheel drive car. And I am really in love with it.

The Stig : Did you got the chance to drive the old McLaren F1 ? and what do you think of it ?

Balboni : Unfortunately I did not. but I like everything about the car, especially the center driving position. but this car was all after weight saving and driving pleasure.

The Stig : Do people recognize you in Kuwait ?

Balboni : Yes, Actually I was happy when I knew that people would know me not just as a chief test driver only, but also as an ambassador of Lamborghini. Few guys came to me and took pictures when I was in the mall the other day.

The Stig : They said that you took the Lamborghini Miura SV on a drive the other day!

Balboni : Yes, It was one of the best moments driving this car here in Kuwait and I had some Lamborghini owners following me to the 2nd ring road. it was a unique experience.






The Stig : If you got to drive a car in road of your choice,
 with a a passenger of your choice, 
in a car of your choice, 
what music would you listen to ?

Balboni : I will drive a Lamborghini Gallardo two wheel drive, 
And I will drive it in the Nürburgring. 
The music will be the sound of the engine behind me. 
and the passenger should be someone who knows a lot about cars, Just like you.

The Stig : I am so sorry, I would spend a week with you, non-stop questions. but I know you are a busy man. appreciate the time you spent with me. and I really think you are one of the greatest men alive now.

Balboni : I really enjoyed your company and the Kuwaiti hospitality. 

The Stig : Thank A lot Mr. Balboni. see you

Balboni : Don't Call me Mr. Balboni! Call me Valentino. we are friends now.


















I got his e-mail, and he singed something special for me. 

He is very humble. always smiling.. and his Italian accent is so amazing.

7 comments :

  1. Great review! what a nice guy

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  2. He is the greatest man alive beside Walter Rohl from Porasche

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  3. Great interview. You're lucky you got that oportunity. Lol, why are their a lot of pictures of him. Same angle different lighting and stuff. Oh you're into photography. I just noticed the background of your blog

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  4. I am into photography, but the background is not a picture of me. Its just a template :P

    I am lucky. meeting Valentino Balboni is something happening only once in a life time. unless he visits me later or I visit him in Italy.

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  5. Luck you! what a great interview with an amazing person! I really enjoyed reading it!
    You should email him this post :)

    ReplyDelete