Jano was born Viktor János in San Giorgio Canavese, in Piedmont, to Hungarian immigrants, who arrived there several years before the birth of Jano. He began his career at the car and truck company Rapid owned by G.B. Ceirano. In 1911 he moved to Fiat under Luigi Bazzi. He moved with Bazzi to Alfa Romeo in 1923 and designed the Alfa Romeo P2. The P2 was notorious, winning its first race, the French Grand Prix, with driver Giuseppe Campari but killing driver Antonio Ascari in the same race the next year. Alfa refused to race them, but Enzo Ferrari took them over, continuing to race P2s through the 1930s.
Turning to sports car racing in 1929, Jano designed the 1750 Sport and P3. Once again, Alfa turned away from Jano's cars and Ferrari took them over to great success. Now designing aircraft engines, Jano watched as Tazio Nuvolari drove a P3 to victory in the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring in 1935.
Ferrari requested that Alfa have Jano work on a new car, the Alfetta, in 1937. In 1945, after World War II, Jano moved to Lancia's Grand Prix efforts. His car, the Lancia D50, was introduced in 1954, but 1955's loss of Alberto Ascari and the 1955 Le Mans disaster soured the company to GP racing. Ferrari took over the effort and inherited Jano that same year.
Jano's contribution to Ferrari was significant. With the encouragement of Enzo's son, Dino, Jano's V6 and V8 engines pushed the older Lampredi and Colombo engines aside in racing. After Dino's death, Jano's "Dino" V6 became the basis for the company's first mid-engined road car, the 1966 206 Dino. The V6 and V8 went on to displace Ferrari's V12 focus and their descendants continue to be used today.
Like Enzo Ferrari, Jano lost his own son in 1965. He became gravely ill that same year and committed suicide in Turin.
- "Vittorio Jano". motorsportmemorial.org. http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/LWFWIW/focusLWFWIW.php?db=LWF&db2=&n=78. Retrieved on 27 February 2008.
- Grand Prix History - Hall of Fame, Vittorio Jano