Former F1 driver now chairs world’s largest pasta producer turning over billions

The life of a motorsport star naturally comes with many twists and turns, a trend that followed Paolo Barilla into his post-racing career as a pasta mogul.

Barilla, 61, showed major promise karting as a youngster and eventually made the climb to the big leagues, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside German duo Klaus Ludwig and Louis Krages in 1985. He contested the legendary French event on six occasions with three separate teams in total, though he failed to finish four of those attempts.

The Milan native was signed by Minardi for the 1990 Formula 1 campaign but frequently failed to qualify and was let go before the end of the season. Barilla called an end to his racing career shortly before his 30th birthday and moved into the family business.

It proved to be a pragmatic decision considering Forbes valued the director of Barilla Holdings as having a net worth of $1.1billion (£895m) as recently as 2018. A fourth-generation heir of the 'world's biggest pasta producer', it's understood Paolo shares 85 per cent of the company with sister Emanuela, as well as older brothers Guido and Luca.

Despite his Formula 1 fascination earlier in life, it's easy to see why leading one of Europe's biggest food brands required a more hands-on approach. Barilla's 2020 annual report cited a turnover of €3.89bn (£3.3bn), with a little more than 8,500 employees on the company books.

Once accustomed to tackling hairpin bends and tight turns, Paolo Barilla's working days are now consumed by spaghetti and bowtie (farfalle) sales. The family business does business in "more than 100 countries" and has two U.S. pasta plants in New York and Indiana.

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Founded in Parma as a bakery in 1877, the Barilla brand has grown to include a much wider range of products in almost a century-and-a-half of business. This includes sauces, biscuits, pastries and cakes, to name a few.

Ex-F1 contender Barilla has been present for much of that change since joining the company business 32 years ago, though his motorsport interests haven't faded. He won the Formula 3 class of the Monaco Historic Grand Prix in 2014 and more recently appeared in a documentary chronicling the restoration of a Ferrari 312B.

For all his achievements in the food industry, driving in F1 and winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans are feats that can't be attributed to Barilla's family connections. As for any fans wondering if the macaroni magnate will return to motorsport, the veteran would likely agree he's way pasta his peak.

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