OZ Racing has built a reputation for design and durability in the harshest of environments-motorsports. The OZ story has many common threads when compared to other successful endeavors. It was founded by individuals with a commitment to quality and it can trace its roots to rather humble beginnings. Silvano Oselladore and Pietro Zen were the founders of OZ; the company's name is a combination of the initials of their last names. OZ opened its doors for business on January 4th 1971 in a gas station located near the present factory in San Martino di Lupari, Italy.
From the start, OZ wheels reflected the "passion" of the founders and the duo's drive for perfection in wheel construction. The first production run adopted the technology of the day-gravity casting in metal molds. Amongst the initial production run was the Number One style that was specifically designed for the Mini Cooper. The typical size for this application was 10x5. OZ's reputation for quality workmanship quickly reached many markets outside Italy. In 1974,a significant percentage of OZ's production run was exported.
In 1978, Mr. Isnardo Carta became president and major shareholder. The arrival of Mr. Carta coincided with the decision to build a brand-new factory. At the beginning, the plant was just 1800 square meters. However, as the demand for OZ wheels grew, so did the size of the factory. Today, the OZ Racing facility encompasses 72,000 square meters, 45,000 of which are covered. The typical manufacturing operations, such as foundry and assembly, are located within the covered area with storage, recycling and other such things taking up the outside space.
In the '80s, OZ produced the first aluminum alloy wheels, adding silica and small quantities of strontium to improve the quality and strength of the wheels. The high quality of OZ wheels and the exclusivity of its brand name, attracted the best in the car industry. OZ supplied wheels to selected manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus and McLaren on an OE basis and created designs for many tuners.
In 1984, Mr. Claudio Bernoni joined the OZ team as manager of OZ Racing. Under Mr. Bernoni's direction, OZ developed the first-ever F1 modular wheels which equipped the Alfa Romeo Euroracing F1 team with drivers Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever. OZ quickly became a world leader in racing activities, which constitutes the most brutal and beneficial testing ground possible.
However it is the early '90s that OZ underwent its most dramatic evolution. Through intense R&D efforts, OZ introduced Magnesium to F1 cars. Carlos Sainz won the 1990 World Rally Championship in a 4wd Toyota Celica shod with OZ wheels. OZ also established a specific facility (in 1992) for OZ racing activities and OZ renewed its partnership with the Williams Formula 1 team which won the overall championship rolling on OZ wheels.
The resulting surge in sales in the major markets required OZ to restructure its distribution network. It appointed new importers and developed subsidiaries in the key markets. OZ Deutschland and OZ France started operations in 1996. By 1996, 90 percent of OZ production was exported and this trend continues today. In 1999, OZ America and OZ Scandinavia were founded.
In 1996, OZ and Williams F1 Team, celebrated the 25th partnership anniversary by winning the F1 World Championship. During the same year, OZ was victorious in the Superturismo with Audi, and the national championship in England, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Australia and South Africa.
In 1997 and 1998, just one year after its arrival in the U.S.A., OZ won the CART Championship, Indianapolis and the IRL Championship.
It should be mentioned that in 1998, OZ's quality standards conformed with the International Standard Organization (ISO 9001). The conformity auditing exercise was conducted by the German auditor KBA, which is traditionally very strict in its evaluation.
In 1999 OZ was victorious in Formula 1 supplying OZ-built, Enkei-badged wheels to the McLaren team. OZ also took top honors in CART with Juan Montoya and Target Chip Ganassi team and the Indy Racing League with a win at Indy and the overall championship.
For the new millennium, OZ plans to continue its torrid support of motorsports and bring a number of new street designs to market. The company is implementing a globalized marketing and distribution effort which poignantly illustrates how far OZ has come from its gas station days.