Just over 50 years ago, when Emilio Bombassei set up a small family-run workshop just outside of Bergamo, he might have never imagined his humble brake manufacturing concern would grow into the titan it is today. These days, it’s still headquartered in Bergamo, namely at the Kilometro Rosso (Red Kilometre) science park along with a host of other high-tech engineering firms, but its operations have gone global, is listed on the Italian stock exchange and reported a turnover of some 1.3 billion euros.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way – in the early days, Brembo’s operations were strictly local and it wasn’t until 1964 (three years after its founding) that Brembo manufactured its first Italian-made brake discs for the aftermarket segment. Up until that point, all its discs were imported from Britain.
Things moved quickly for Bremo and Bombassei after that, with the production of brake discs soon followed by other braking system components. In 1972, another milestone was achieved, with Brembo becoming an OEM supplier to Moto Guzzi’s motorcycles.
But the event that really consecrated Brembo as a brand synonymous with ultra-high performance brakes was when it was first tasked in 1975 with supplying stoppers for Ferrari’s Formula One efforts. The rest, as they say, is history, with Brembo-supplied teams going on to win over 200 world motorsport titles to date. Some of those titles include 18 Formula One Drivers’ and 23 Constructors’ championships.
Needless to say, the brakes used on today’s Formula One cars are a far cry from those used on Niki Lauda’s Ferrari in 1976, as seen in the recent Formula One film, Rush, to say nothing of how just his and Clay Regazzoni’s cars were equipped with Brembo brakes.
These days, Brembo supplies brakes to half the teams on the Formula One grid and its calipers feature an aluminium-lithium-alloy construction, along with carbon fibre rotors.
If you’re thinking all this space-age technology will never make it onto road cars, think again. Brembo’s new Extrema caliper, made extensively with knowledge gleaned from its Formula One efforts, is specified as original equipment on the Ferrari’s latest hypercar, the LaFerrari.
Elements of that race-inspired technology include an aggressive machining process that sees a total of 3kg shaved off the calipers (over a conventional production method), while still retaining the requisite amount of stiffness and stopping power, says Brembo.
The Extrema calipers will have to perform, given how Maranello’s latest hypercar is pretty much capable of hyperdrive, packing 963bhp from its 6.3-litre V12/electric motor combo, shooting from zero to 100km/h in under 3 seconds and will hitting a top speed of over 350km/h.
Naturally, with that sort of performance on tap, Brembo places a high premium on the reliability of said stopping ability, with the LaFerrari’s Extrema calipers tested and calibrated in real-world conditions at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track, not in a simulator.
Even on Brembo’s “lesser” brakes, its reliability testing is something that, if you had even an ounce of mechanical empathy, will make you wince (something we witnessed for ourselves while in its factory). Brembo’s brakes are tested to extremes you or I will likely never encounter on the road.
All said, it’s comforting to know that the 700 engineers at the Brembo headquarters are working hard to make the next generation of Brembo brakes an even more arresting experience.