Ex-F1 driver is now chairman of the world’s largest pasta producer, with billions in revenue

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

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

The Milan native was signed by Minardi for the 1990 Formula 1 campaign but often failed to qualify and was fired before the end of the season. Barilla ended his racing career shortly before his 30th birthday and joined the family business.

It turned out to be a pragmatic decision considering Forbes assessed the Barilla Holdings director as having a net worth of $1.1bn (£895m) as recently as 2018. A fourth-generation heir to the ‘world’s largest pasta producer’, he is heard that Paolo shares 85% of the company with his sister Emanuela, as well as older brothers Guido and Luca.

Despite his fascination with Formula 1 earlier in life, it’s easy to see why running one of Europe’s biggest food brands required a more hands-on approach. Barilla’s 2020 annual report cites revenue of €3.89bn (£3.3bn), with just over 8,500 employees on the company’s books.

Once used to tackling hairpin bends and sharp bends, Paolo Barilla’s working days are now consumed by sales of spaghetti and bow ties (farfalle). The family business operates in “more than 100 countries” and has two US pulp mills in New York and Indiana.

Paolo Barilla spent just one season on Minardi’s books in 1990

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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 activity. This includes sauces, cookies, pastries, and cakes, to name a few.

Former F1 rival Barilla has been there for much of that change since joining the company 32 years ago, although his motorsport interests have not waned. He won the Formula 3 category of the Monaco Historic Grand Prix in 2014 and more recently appeared in a documentary chronicling the restoration of a Ferrari 312B.

Despite all his accomplishments in the food industry, driving in F1 and winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans are feats that cannot be attributed to Barilla’s family ties. As for any fans wondering if the macaroni mogul will return to motorsport, the veteran will likely agree that he’s hitting his prime.