There are men who are interested in the history of speedboat racing and there are men who make the history. Like Fabio Buzzi. Story by Bruno Cianci. Photos by Carlo Borlenghi and Bruno Cianci.

Buzzi’s name appears on 10 offshore world speedboat championship titles, as well as 45 world titles established in vessels designed by him. And then there are more than 50 other speed and endurance records.
He set his latest record in March this year aboard a ‘three-point’ hull on Italy’s Lake Como – at the age of 75 – the world speed record for a diesel-powered motorboat: 277.515km/h (149.84 knots). While it cannot be certified, he has probably also established a record as the world’s oldest marine speedster!

The success comes after almost two years of development, to get this ‘three-point’ hull prepared for the attempt. But the genesis of the streamlined, carbon-built vessel began much further back in time. With a collaboration between FB Design, the studio founded by Buzzi in 1971, and FTP Industrial, the supplier of industrial engines that Buzzi modifies. In collaboration with FTP staff, Buzzi transforms basic engines into extraordinarily powerful beasts.
The engine used in this most recent record, for example, is a FTP Cursor 16 (16-litre straight six), more commonly used in combine harvesters. In its basic version it generates 764hp. The one in the boat develops some 1800hp – 235 percent over the original plant.

New Diesel Power Boat World Speed Record: 277.5 Km/h
Driver Fabio Buzzi – FB Design
Engine FPT Industrial Cursor 16

The 35-year collaboration between FB Design and FTP (Fiat Powertrain Technologies) has led to numerous marine engine innovations: steel pistons, variable geometry turbo-charging systems, a sophisticated aluminium extruded exhaust manifold and a cooling system that features a single-direct circuit, with a water intake step-change solution inside the boat’s titanium rudder.
A speed record, both for land vehicles and for boats, is established over one kilometre or one nautical mile. It is mandatory to complete at least two passages in both directions within a maximum time of one hour. If multiple attempts have been made, the two best attempts can be chosen. The final speed is obtained by calculating the average of these attempts.
The record is only stands if the previous one has been bettered. The previous Diesel Powerboat World Speed Record (252 km/h) was set back in 1992 by Buzzi and certified by the Guinness World Records.
No such luck. Despite his 75 years, Buzzi is unlikely to give up new record attempts – he says it’s too difficult to renounce the adrenaline of speed after a life lived fast and intensely. Research is what drives the challenges. A qualified mechanical engineer, Buzzi is a lover of technology and innovation, efficiency and reliability is in his genes.
He is the CEO of FB Design (based in Annone Brianza, near Milan) but a visit to his office clearly reflects his hands-on involvement with the firm. Even at weekends you’re likely to find him seated in his office overlooking a showroom packed with winning hulls, accompanied by his beloved dogs and parrots. He’s always sketching on a piece of paper, developing new ideas.
Among the trophies that surround him is the Harmsworth Trophy – a bit like a sculpture in a museum hall. The firm’s core business has been the design and construction of racing hulls – and many became legendary. They include the Gran Argentina and the Cesa 1882-Red FP, which won the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes in 2008 and 2010 respectively, 23 and 25 years after they were first launched.

New Diesel Power Boat World Speed Record: 277.5 Km/h
Driver Fabio Buzzi – FB Design
Engine FPT Industrial Cursor 16

And there’s an additional stream to the company’s business. From the late 1990s FB Design has used the skills and competence acquired over years of speedboat competition to build and market boats of a totally different nature: hulls for coastal defense and patrolling inland waters.
Today, 45 military corporations worldwide have FB Design boats in commission, among them Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Albania, Gibraltar, Belarus, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakstan, Hong Kong and Latin America.
Buzzi’s designs are unsinkable and most are self-righting. Thanks to a Structural Foam patent (one of the many from FB Design), the boats are able to stay afloat even if they’re literally sawn in two. This is the benefit of having six or more closed, longitudinal cells filled with polyurethane.
Three categories of boats are built: semi-rigid hulls (RIBs), rigid hulls (between 17-80 feet LOA), and the revolutionary Stab line (available in three sizes: 38, 42, and 48-feet).
The Stab features lateral inflatable side elements aft which increase the stability of the boat without sacrificing the sleek, streamlined hull. Advantages include a superior weight/power ratio, performance and overall safety. The FB 42 Stab, for example, can reach 70 knots.
The Stab 38 SF is available in an unmanned and remotely controlled drone version. Creating this was based on Buzzi’s view that it is rare to find good pilots, even among the armed forces personnel. “A good drone is better than a vessel with a bad pilot.”
Ask Buzzi about FB Design’s future, and he says priority will always be given to research – “without it FB Design has no reason to exist.”
He recently unveiled a concept to be built when a strategic partner is identified: a displacement 24m catamaran. With a 9m beam and a surface area of 201m2, the very low wetted surfaces


equate to superior energy efficiency and an estimated range of four thousand nautical miles.
The vessel – fitted with 1600hp engines and equipped with a helipad – won’t be geared to breaking any records – except perhaps to challenge the title for the world’s oldest boat designer.
The first diesel powerboat speed record was set in 1939 by Gert Leurssen, a German manufacturer who reached a speed of 68km/h. In 1967 Don Aronow was the first to break the 100km/h barrier and, 10 years later, Tullio Abbate reached 140km/h, a record exceeded only two years later by Buzzi with 191km/h.
First to pass the 200km/h mark was the Milanese financier Carlo Bonomi in 1982 in Venice. He reached 213km/h, and in 1985 exceeded this with a new record of 218 /h. Buzzi regained the record in 1992 (252 km/h) and it stood until March this year.