Italy's first world champion on two wheels
|Bruno Ruffo in action on the track|
He shares with Nello Pagani the distinction of being Italy's first world champion motorcyclist, Pagani having won the first world title in the 125cc class in the same year.
Ruffo wanted to race from the age of eight, having become fascinated with the motorcycles and cars that his rather repaired in his workshop.
He was able to drive a car at the age of 10 and was given his first motorcycle by his father as a 16th birthday present. He entered a race for the first time the following year at Montagnana near Padua and won. The minimum age for participants was 18 and it later transpired he had falsified his identity papers to take part.
The Second World War interrupted his progress. Drafted into the Italian Army, Ruffo served for 20 months on the Russian front.
After the war, he bought a Moto Guzzi 250, which he raced privately, enjoying considerable success in 1946, when he won nine of the 11 races he entered in the cadet class.
He was Italian champion in the senior 250cc class in both 1947 and 1948, his victory in the Grand Prix of Nations at Faenza in the second of those years earning an invitation to join Moto Guzzi's official team when the Grand Prix World Championship was launched in 1949.
Victories in the French and Ulster GPs in a championship expanded to eight races in 1951 enabled him to clinch his second 250cc world title and he was hot favourite to land a third in 1952 only for a crash in Stuttgart in July to rule him out of the last three events.
Injuries sustained in another crash in 1953 persuaded him to retire from racing on two wheels but he continued his career in motorsport, switching to cars. Driving for Alfa Romeo and Masarati, he had several podium finishes.
He quit racing for good in 1958 after a miraculous escape when his Maserati overturned at 200kph in an uphill time trial. He had to be cut from the wreckage but recovered from his injuries and decided not to push his luck any further.
Cars remained central to his life after his racing career ended with the establishment of a successful vehicle rental business in Verona.
|The bronze monument to Bruno Ruffo in Verona|
The award put him in the company of Giacomo Agostini, Pier Paolo Bianchi, Eugenio Lazzarini and Carlo Ubbiali as recipients of the award for their success in motorcycle racing.
Ruffo died in 2007, aged 86. His life is commemorated in Verona with a monument in bronze depicting a human figure crouched over a speeding motorcycle, and in Colognola ai Colli with a sports hall named in his honour.
The monument to Bruno Ruffo, created by the artist Marco da Ronco, can be found a short distance from Verona's central Piazza Bra, in a small garden at the junction of Via Roma and Via Morette. Piazza Bra adjoins the Arena di Verona, the Roman amphitheatre nowadays used as a venue for music concerts and in particular opera, for which it is among the most famous outdoor settings in the world.
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|Montagnana's medieval city walls are still intact|
Montagnana, where Ruffo won his first race on a dirt track, is best known for having one of the best preserved medieval city walls in Europe, as well as two castles, the Rocca degli Alberi and the Castle of San Zeno. Andrea Palladio's Villa Pisani is another nearby tourist attraction.
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Giacomo Agostini, Italy's 15 times World Motorcycling Champion
Enrico Piaggio - creator of Italy's iconic Vespa scooter
Luigi Fagioli - Formula One's oldest winning driver
Also on this day:
1920: The birth of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the minister who took Italy into the Euro
(Picture credits: Montagana walls by Zavijavah; Giacomo Agostini by Gede; both via Wikimedia Commons)