At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Rinaldo ‘Dindo’ Capello - endurance racing driver

Three times winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours 


Rinaldo Capello was one of Italy's top drivers in endurance motor racing
Rinaldo Capello was one of Italy's top
drivers in endurance motor racing
Rinaldo ‘Dindo’ Capello, one of Italy’s most successful endurance racing drivers, was born on this day in 1964 in Asti, in Piedmont.

During a period between 1997 and 2008 in which there was an Italian winning driver in all bar two years, Capello won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most prestigious endurance race on the calendar, three times.

Only Emanuele Pirro, his sometimes Audi teammate and rival during that period, has more victories in the race among Italian drivers, with five. Pirro won in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007, Capello in 2003, 2004 and 2008.

Capello’s career record also includes two championship wins in the American Le Mans Series and five victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring. He is also record holder for most wins at Petit Le Mans, the race run annually at Atlanta, Georgia to Le Mans rules, with five.

Alongside teammates Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, he was regarded as the quiet man of the all-conquering Audi sports car team, although his contribution was every bit as impressive.

Capello’s ambitions when he began his single-seater career were the same as other young drivers - to work his way up to Formula One.

The Bentley EXP "Speed Eight" that provided Capello with the first of his three 24 Hours of Le Mans wins
The Bentley EXP "Speed Eight" that provided Capello
with the first of his three 24 Hours of Le Mans wins
He raced in Formula Three from 1985 to 1990, winning the penultimate race of the 1987 Italian F3 championship. In 1988, when he was fourth in the Italian championship, he shone in the F3 support race at the Monaco Grand Prix, finding a way through the field in an accident-strewn race to finish fourth, having started from 19th on the grid.

But two years later, he abandoned single-seaters and soon began a relationship with the Volkswagen Audi Group that he would retain for the rest of his career.

Success came almost immediately in Italy’s national Group A saloon car series, Capello winning the title in a Volkswagen Golf. He stepped up to the Italian Super Touring Car championship, scored a first win for Audi in 1994 and was the series champion in 1996.

He made his Le Mans 24 hours debut in 1998. He had to pull out because of accident damage to his car but for the next seven years he never finished below fourth.

Capello at the wheel of his Audi R10 during the 1000km of Silverstone race in 2008
Capello at the wheel of his Audi R10 during the
1000km of Silverstone race in 2008 
He joined Audi Sport Team Joest in 1999 and won several races in the following year’s American Le Mans Series, helping co-driver McNish to clinch the title.  He had a similar season in 2002 when Kristensen won the title and Capello, as in 1999, was runner-up.

Two second-place finishes at Le Mans in 2001 and 2002 were followed by his first victory in 2003 when VAG decided to promote its Bentley brand at Le Mans and Capello shared a Bentley EXP "Speed Eight" with four-time winner Kristensen and Englishman Guy Smith.

It was the first time the Bentley marque had won the race for 73 years, recalling the dominance of Bentley sports cars at Le Mans between 1924 and 1930, when they won the race five times.

The Dane Kristensen, who is the most successful driver in the history of Le Mans, would be one of Capello’s co-drivers again when he scored his second victory the following year and won for a third time in 2008, the other co-drivers being Seiji Aja of Japan and McNish respectively.

With McNish again, Capello won the American Le Mans Series title in 2006 and 2007.

After winning his fifth 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida in 2012, Capello finished second at Le Mans, recording his 10th podium finish in endurance racing’s most famous race.

A month later, he announced his retirement from prototype racing, fulfilling his intention to finish at the top of his game, rather than allow advancing years to compromise his sharpness behind the wheel.

He has continued to appear as an ambassador for Audi and in 2016 was inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame, having been an enormously popular figure around the Florida circuit.

The Torre Comentina is one of Asti's surviving medieval towers
The Torre Comentina is one of Asti's
surviving medieval towers
Travel tip:

Asti, a city of just over 75,000 inhabitants about 55 km (34 miles) east of Turin, offers many reminders in its historic centre of its years of prosperity in the 13th century when it occupied a strategic position on trade routes between Turin, Milan, and Genoa. The area between the centre and the cathedral is rich in medieval palaces and merchants’ houses, the owners of which would often compete with their  neighbours to build the tallest towers, which once saw Asti known as the City of 100 Towers. In fact there were 120, of which a number remain, including the Torre Comentina, the octagonal Torre de Regibus and Torre Troyana.

The Palio di Asti is held every September to celebrate a victory over the rival city of Alba in the Middle Ages
The Palio di Asti is held every September to celebrate
a victory over the rival city of Alba in the Middle Ages
Travel tip:

Asti has staged an annual horse race in the centre of the city for longer even than Siena. The Palio di Asti features horses representing the traditional town wards, called Rioni and Borghi, as well plus nearby towns in a bare-back race. The event apparently recalls a victory in battle over Asti’s rival city, Alba, during the Middle Ages, after which some of the victorious soldiers celebrated with a horse race around Alba's walls. The modern reconstruction takes place in the triangular Piazza Alfieri on the third Sunday of September, preceded by a medieval pageant through the historic centre.

More reading:

Giannino Marzotto, the double Mille Miglia winner who finished fifth at Le Mans

How Lella Lombardi defied the odds to race at the highest level

The longevity of Riccardo Patrese

Also on this day:

1691: The birth of Giovanni Paolo Panini, painter of Roman scenes

1952: The birth of auto executive Sergio Marchionne, the man who saved Fiat

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