Enzo Osella had raced sportscars for the Abarth garage during the 1960s and by the end of the decade was running the Abarth factory team under the Abarth-Osella name. When Abarth sold out to Fiat, Osella went solo and founded his own team near Turin, running a variety of sportscar and hillclimb cars, but really seeking a way into the single-seater market, which he eventually did by hiring Antionio Tomaini to pen a Formula Two racer, which was entered by Giorgio Francia in 1974’s European Formula Two championship. The Osella team continued in Formulas Three and Two along with sportscar racing, and in 1977 came second in the European Sportscar series with drivers including Lella Lombardi and Gianfraco “Pal Joey” Palazzoli. By 1979, Osella had his sights set on Formula One and persuaded Eddie Cheever, who had had a clutch of F1 drives in 1978, to drop to Formula 2 to help develop the team, while “Pal Joey” became team manager. Osella made their Formula One debut with Cheever at the wheel and Denim sponsorship in the 1980 season. It was a rough debut. Cheever failed to qualify four times in the first six races, and only finished one race – Monza, 12th – all season. However, Enzo and Joey were convinced that by using pay-drivers they could run two cars and increase their chances of getting the results they wanted. Argentine Miguel-Angel Guerra and Italian Beppe Gabbiani were signed up, both from the Minardi Formula Two team.
Miguel-Angel Guerra had made his way up through the junior formulae into Formula Two, making his debut in 1978 with a couple of races in an uncompetitive Chevron before having a better 1979 in a March – 3rd place at Hockenheim followed by 4th at Thruxton were the highlights. For 1980, he joined Minardi and had a more consistent if less spectacular season to finish 9th overall, but it was his sponsorship dollars that took him into Formula One with the Osella team.
Although it was his money that got him an F1 drive in the end, Beppe Gabbiani was one of the most promising of the young Italians coming through the junior formulae in the late 1970s. He went straight into Formula Three and managed to win his first ever car race – no mean feat – and rapidly progressed to Formula Two where, although saddled with an underperforming Chevron, he managed to turn enough heads to graduate to Formula One in 1978, just one year after his single-seater debut. Sadly, this debut was with the Surtees team that was on its way out, and the 21-year-old didn’t make the most of the limited opportunity and returned to F2 until another chance arose, which it did in 1981 for the Osella team.