Near Verona, Italy – This weekend, motor racing fans will have the chance to see the “Superstar racing experience, “a new event debuting on CBS that aims to compete with NASCAR. Some of the sport’s best drivers will compete behind the wheel.
And as CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reports, the shuttlecock himself has an unlikely connection to the Catholic Church.
American racing cars pride themselves on their handling, engineering and speed. But all that power can’t turn a spin without the craftsmanship of northern Italy and attention to detail that has even caught the attention of two popes.
So what do 200 mph race cars have in common with the 2,000 year old Catholic Church? It’s all in the tailoring: the sewing of the handmade ruffles and the popes’ hats.
MPI is an American company that manufactures bespoke steering wheels – each forged from aluminum and then custom-wrapped in high-quality leather – outside of Verona, Italy.
The steering wheel may seem like a small part of a race car, but since this is where the driver’s skills come into direct contact with the machine, every little detail has a huge impact on the track.
Each flounce is embroidered by husband and wife duo Rosanna Castagna and Armando Benini. Their client list stretches from NASCAR to the Vatican.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, not to mention dozens of cardinals, wore pairwise embroidered clothing – papal hats called mitres, with the stole worn around the collar.
No matter the client, whether holy or more down to earth, Armando and Rosanna always pay obsessive attention to the details of their work.
“You have to be crazy to do this job,” Armando told Livesay, holding a needlepoint representation of a Picasso classic. “We’re not doing it for the money. We’re doing it just to see if it’s possible.”
Armando said it was very satisfying to see his work accelerate on a racetrack, especially knowing its broadcast on televisions around the world.
“I might be an old man, but I’m in love with my job like I’m a little boy,” he told Livesay.
Armando and Rosanna, and many other artisans who work in the area, make so many racing car steering wheels – more than anywhere else in the world – that the picturesque backdrop they live in is known locally as ” valley of the steering wheel “.