LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
Introducing Gianni and Maria Taroni: how everything began, from rebuilding servo-assisted brakes to playing a pivotal role in F1 championship victory.
Forever, ‘Brakes’ had been his mantra. While still just boys, in their first workshop, he (…) refined a compressor based brake system similar to today’s ABS. His experience led to the key development which brought Didier Pironi to victory at the exciting 1980 Grand Prix of Belgium.
This brief biographic note, taken from an edition of Italian magazine “Autocapital”, captures the spirit of Gianni Taroni (1936-2012) who co-founded TAROX brakes alongside his wife Maria.
A gifted racing driver and blessed with an uncommon ability to think outside the box, he started working on servo-assisted passenger car brakes in 1966 as a husband and wife team. The duo were well balanced: while Gianni was the figurehead and the creative force behind the company, his wife; sharp minded, engineering-oriented and quick witted, was the critical conscience and played devil’s advocate in any new project.
Gianni’s driving ability enabled a parallel career as racing and test driver. In the early 1970s he met ex F1 driver turned journalist Giancarlo Baghetti and the pair shared several adventures in the mid-1970s. From Terra del Fuego to Alaska, Cape North to Cape South and Milan to Calcutta were just a few of the trips they shared while investigating and reporting on new cars of the time, they revelled in testing the cars to the extreme and operated under the most severe conditions.
In 1976 Taroni & C. was established as a company. The TAROX brand name as we know it today came a few years later with the creation of an innovative anti-heat piston. The cutting-edge development prevented transmission of the heat through to the caliper, as the thermal insulating material used was aluminium oxide,the ‘ox’ joined the company name to create TAROX.
1980 presented the first opportunity for Gianni Taroni’s expertise to attract worldwide attention.
It was at Zolder” – Gianni recalls – “that circuit was very demanding on brakes and Ligier’s driver, Didier Pironi, wanted to try my special anti-heat caliper pistons.
The Frenchman’s confidence was rewarded with a victory. Soon, all the championship contending teams (Williams, McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Lotus, and Tyrrell, among others) asked to have the same technology in their race cars.
It was an exhilarating period, culminating with Keke Rosberg’s victory in a TAROX equipped Williams for the 1982 Formula One World Championship.
THE CREATION OF A NEW MARKET
The first performance discs, brake calipers and brake kits, produced in a new factory.
In March 1983, the first ever commercially available grooved disc, the C83, was brought to market by TAROX.
At the time, drilled or grooved discs were for racing cars only and TAROX was the first manufacturer to offer race style discs for the everyday car. These fast road brakes were born out of race winning technology and became hugely popular with fast road enthusiasts. The same concept was further expanded in 1988 when TAROX introduced the G88 – a 40 grooved disc.
To execute the disc’s peculiar design it was necessary for the factory to build a purpose-made machine, which is still part of the TAROX equipment and one of the most guarded secrets of the company. In the same year and as a result of strong demand from the Japanese market, TAROX designed and marketed the Sport Japan, a drilled and grooved disc. In the same year Valeria, Gianni and Maria’s only daughter, joined the company.
Around this time major investment was made into state of the art technology to tackle the next challenge: TAROX’s own brake calipers.
The first caliper, the N6, was unveiled in 1992 and featured a daring six piston arrangement. This was ground breaking considering the hottest car of the time, the Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione, had a four pot caliper brake system.
While it was suggested that six pistons were excessive, Gianni included two extra pistons deliver a better pedal feel, which in turn enables perfect calibration of the braking effort.
Another important intuition on Gianni’s part was the realisation that calipers alone were not enough to create a market. Instead they should be part of an upgrade package consisting also of brake discs, hoses and adapting brackets, allowing everything to be bolted onto a car without any further modifications. The E30 BMW M3 was the first car that had a TAROX big brake conversion engineered and installed and, within a few months, TAROX had a brake caliper upgrade for all performance cars of the time: from the Delta Integrale to Subaru Impreza, from Sierra and Escort Cosworth to Golf GTI.
Overnight TAROX big brake upgrades became hugely popular, factors contributed to this almost instant success included; the caliper’s narrow profile allows for the fit of larger brakes,even inside 15” wheels. A significant advantage in Italy where it was illegal to increase the wheel diameter. Secondly, Gianni personally tried and tested any new brake kit and returned the car to its owner only when he was satisfied that the brakes were working optimally and in the character of the car. Gianni’s experience as a test driver paid dividends and this boosted customer confidence in the product. Thirdly, the brakes simply exceeded customer expectations.
Continuous expansion saw TAROX move from Galbiate to a much larger facility in Osnago in 1995. Situated fifteen minutes from Milano Linate airport and only ten minutes from the world famous Autodromo di Monza.
How TAROX products and manufacturing processes become compliant to engineering standards and how continuous innovation is in the company DNA.
In the mid-1990s vehicle used at track day events became more popular, and it became evident that there was a need for a new disc surface design more capable of enduring the stress of circuit use.
In addition, the steady increase of brake disc size from the car manufacturers made the G88 design somewhat noisy for discs larger than 320mm. The resulting ‘F2000’ design, featuring 7-9 spiralling grooves, was first used in summer 2000 and became the new standard for TAROX brake kit discs.
The new design became instantly popular and was soon added as an option to the replacement disc range alongside the G88 and Sport Japan. Still in use today, the F2000 design remains the default facing for TAROX brake conversions and has even been adopted by other performance disc manufacturers.
The dawn of the new century also saw a change of pace to meet the challenges of the changeable economic climate. TAROX now had a substantial range of calipers in its range and many new discs and pads codes in the catalogue. What had started as a small handcrafted-based organisation now needed to adopt a structure to manage the upscale in production and official certification to break new markets.
In 2002, the first TUEV certificate for discs and brake kits was awarded, and in the same year the process to obtain ISO 9000 certification began before approval in 2004. At the same time,the manufacturing process was declared compliant by the German Ministry of Transport, and in 2010 authorised to the serial production by the Italian Ministry of Transport. At this time, the company also embarked upon the first test for ABE approval on brake discs.
As compliance was progressing, more measuring equipment was added to the company portfolio: from the caliper pressure-testing machine to the inertia dynamometer for caliper, discs and pads fatigue test.
Since the late 1970s the doors of TAROX have been open to customers who are looking to re-manufacture discs that are no longer available through the normal aftermarket outlets or from the car manufacturers.
In other cases we are requested to engineer an uprated Tarox version of an existing disc; sometimes by creating a two piece arrangement instead of the standard OE single piece structure, others just TAROX’s high tensile cast for improved durability and resilience.
At the beginning of 2010s, it was decided to make the “dischi speciali” available to customers via the creation of bespoke catalogue, and so far it is proving to be one of the most successful aftermarket lines.
Gianni Taroni left us in September 2012, when his daughter Valeria took the reins of the company with the intention of following her late father’s philosophy centred on innovation and customer service. To date, if a customer needs replacement parts for any of TAROX’s brake systems they can easily find them, and whoever needs discs no longer in production can knock at TAROX’s door and have it remanufactured.
Products are continuously developed and tested both on the test bench and on real, long term test cars. TAROX activity continues to be split in three main areas: aftermarket, OEM and motorsport. Any new project is a challenge, and challenges are what keep TAROX at the forefront of brake technology.