Showing posts with label Giuseppe Farina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Giuseppe Farina. Show all posts

8 January 2018

Maria Teresa de Filippis – racing driver

Pioneer for women behind the wheel

Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958
Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958
The racing driver Maria Teresa de Filippis, who was the first woman to compete in a Formula One world championship event and remains one of only two to make it on to the starting grid in the history of the competition, died on this day in 2016 in Gavarno, a village near Bergamo in Lombardy.

De Filippis, a contemporary of the early greats of F1, the Italians Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari and the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, qualified for the Belgian Grand Prix in June 1958 and finished 10th.

She made the grid for the Portuguese and Italian Grands Prix later in the year but had to retire from both due to engine problems. 

She managed only six laps in the former but was unlucky not to finish in the latter event at Monza, where she completed 57 of the 70 laps. Although she was at the back of the field, 13 other cars had retired earlier in the race and she would therefore have finished eighth.

These were her only F1 races. The following year she turned her back on the sport following the death of her close friend, the French driver Jean Behra, in a crash in Germany. Only a year earlier, her former fiancé, the Italian driver Luigi Musso, had also been killed.

De Filippis prepares to take the wheel outside the Maserati garage during the 1958 season
De Filippis prepares to take the wheel outside the Maserati
garage during the 1958 season
De Filippis came from a wealthy background, born in Naples in 1926 and brought up in the 16th century Palazzo Marigliano. Her family, with aristocratic roots, also owned the Palazzo Bianco in Caserta.

A keen horsewoman, she also loved skiing and tennis as a teenager but took up car racing in order to prove a point to her two older brothers, Antonio and Giuseppe, who had teased her about her prowess at the wheel.

Determined to prove them wrong, at 22 she entered her first race, a hill climb between the port of Salerno and the town of Cava di Tirreni, 10km (6 miles) inland, and won.

Finding, to her surprise, that she had no fear behind the wheel she quickly progressed to sports car events, finishing second in the 1954 Italian sports car championship.

It was at the sports car race that accompanied the 1956 Naples Grand Prix that De Filippis caught the eye.  Driving a works-entered Maserati 200S on a circuit that followed the walled streets and tree-lined boulevards of Posillipo, an upmarket residential area of her home city, she started at the back of the grid after missing practice but worked her way through the field to finish second.

Maria Teresa de Filippis pictured at the age of 88
Maria Teresa de Filippis pictured at the age of 88
The invitation to compete in Formula One soon followed and it was in the Maserati 250F, the same car that took Fangio to his fifth world title the previous year, that she made her historic debut at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Although a woman in motorsport was not a new phenomenon – the French driver and aviator Camille du Gast had taken part in the 1901 Paris to Berlin rally – Formula One was a wholly male-dominated world and there were considerable barriers to overcome.

Stirling Moss, the British driver she considered a friend, doubted whether a woman had the strength to handle an F1 car at speed, while the director of the French Grand Prix at Reims that followed the Belgian race allegedly barred her from taking part, telling her – in her words – that “the only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdressers.”

It was at the French Grand Prix that Luigi Musso died. Although they had broken off their engagement and he had a new girlfriend, his death hit De Filippis hard nonetheless and made her think about whether she wanted to continue.

As the only female driver, she was never short of attention, but one of the fans to whom she was introduced at her Monza appearance in 1958, an Austrian textile chemist by the name of Theodor Huschek, made a bigger impression than others.

The iconic Maserati 250F
The iconic Maserati 250F
She bumped into him again in Istanbul the following year and after meeting for a third time on a skiing trip they became engaged and married. After living in Austria and Switzerland they moved to Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, then to Rome and next Capri, the idyllic island in the Bay of Naples.

They had a daughter, Carola, and settled in Bergamo area when Theodor began working for the Legler textile firm in Ponte San Pietro, to the northwest of the city. They settled in Gavarno, a village between Scanzorosciate and Nembro.

Despite De Filippis having broken new ground for women in motor racing, the only other female driver to participate in a Formula One race is Lella Lombardi, her fellow Italian, who started 12 times between 1974 and 1976.

In later life, De Filippis was vice-president of the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers.

The facade of the Palazzo Marigliano
The facade of the Palazzo Marigliano
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Marigliano, built in the early 16th century, is the former home of Andrea de Capua, the fourth Count of Altavill and the chief legal executive for the Kingdom of Naples. It was refurbished in the 1750s with frescoes by Francesco de Mura and paintings by Giovanni Battista Maffei. It can be found right in the heart of the city in Via San Biagio dei Librai, which forms part of the historic Spaccanapoli, the narrow, straight thoroughfare that runs in a 2km (1.25 miles) diagonal across the city. Today the beautiful inner courtyard hosts artisan workshops and part of the palace is given over to apartments.

Gavarno is situated in a wooded valley near Bergamo
Gavarno is situated in a wooded valley near Bergamo
Travel tip:

Gavarno is a village of some 1,200 residents a few kilometres to the northeast of Bergamo overlooking the stream of the same name that joins the Serio river at nearby Nembro. Built largely on a gentle hillside, it is in an area popular with walkers, offering pleasant woodland paths. Between Gavarno and Nembro there is a interesting modern church, consecrated only in 2000, dedicated to Pope Giovanni XXIII, who hailed from Sotto il Monte in Bergamo province.

3 September 2017

Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina – racing driver

The first Formula One world champion

Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina had family roots in the automotive industry
Giuseppe 'Nino' Farina had family roots
in the automotive industry
Emilio Giuseppe Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo, became the first Formula One world champion on this day in 1950.

The 43-year-old driver from Turin - usually known as Giuseppe or 'Nino' - clinched the title on home territory by winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

He was only third in the seven-race inaugural championship going into the final event at the Lombardy circuit, trailing Alfa teammates Juan Manuel Fangio, of Argentina, by four points and his Italian compatriot, Luigi Fagioli, by two.

Under the competition’s complicated points scoring system, Fangio was hot favourite, with the title guaranteed if he was first or second, and likely to be his if he merely finished in the first five, provided Farina did not win.  He could have been crowned champion simply by picking up a bonus point for the fastest lap in the race, provided Farina was no higher than third.

Fagioli could take the title only by winning the race with the fastest lap, provided Farina was third or lower and Fangio failed to register a point.

Farina could win the title only by winning the race, recording the fastest lap and hoping Fangio finished no better than third place.  A top-three finish with the fastest lap bonus would do if Fangio did not score at all.

Farina on the cover of the Argentine motor racing magazine El Gráfico in 1953
Farina on the cover of the Argentine motor
racing magazine El Gráfico in 1953
In the event, Farina won and Fangio had a bad day, retiring twice – first in his own car, on which the greabox failed, and then in team-mate Piero Taruffi’s Alfa. He scored one point for the fastest lap, but that on its own was not enough.

It was a third victory of the season for Farina, who had also triumphed in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten.

Born in Turin in 1906, Farina’s roots were in the car business.  He was the son of automotive coachbuilder Giovanni Carlo Farina and the nephew of the brilliant car designer Battista “Pinin” Farina.

Giuseppe excelled at skiing, football and athletics but was always likely to opt for motor sport.  He bought his first competition car while still at university and abandoned a potential career as an officer in the Italian Army in order to fulfil his ambitions on the track.

He made his competitive debut in 1933 and by 1936 was driving Alfas for Enzo Ferrari’s Scuderia Ferrari team. In 1937 he won his first Grand Prix in Naples and by the end of the season was Italian champion, a title he retained in 1938 and 1939, driving for Alfa Corse, then the official Alfa Romeo team.

The Second World War almost certainly robbed him of his best years. In the immediate years following, he fell out with Alfa Corse, but had some successes in a privately-entered Maserati before returning to Scuderia Ferrari. 

Farina in practice at Monza in 1955
Farina in practice at Monza in 1955
In 1950, however, he rejoined Alfa and enjoyed his best season, going back to Ferrari in 1954 only because Alberto Ascari – world champion in 1952 and 1953 - had left Ferrari and switched to Lancia, creating a vacancy for team leader.

Farina retired in 1955, after which he became involved in Alfa Romeo and Jaguar distributorships and later assisted at the Pininfarina factory.  He died in June 1966 at the age of 59 en route to the French Grand Prix, when he lost control of his Lotus in the Savoy Alps, near Aiguebelle, hit a telegraph pole and was killed instantly.

Travel tip:

Apart from the motor racing circuit, Monza is notable for its 13th century Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, often known as Monza Cathedral, which contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones.  According to tradition, the crown was found on Jesus's Cross.  Look out also for Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, which has a sumptuous interior and a court theatre.

The church of Santa Giulia in Borgo Vanchiglia
The church of Santa Giulia in Borgo Vanchiglia
Travel tip:

Giuseppe Farina’s father established his coachbuilding business in the historic Borgo Vanchiglia district of Turin, near the confluence of the Dora Riparia river and the Po. The neo-Gothic church of Santa Giulia, on Piazzetta Santa Guilia, is at the heart of the neighbourhood, which is renowned for buildings of unusual design.

28 April 2017

Nicola Romeo - car maker

Engineer used profits from military trucks to launch famous marque

Nicola Romeo bought the car manufacturer Alfa of Milan in 1915
Nicola Romeo bought the car manufacturer
Alfa of Milan in 1915
Nicola Romeo, the entrepreneur and engineer who founded Alfa Romeo cars, was born on this day in 1876 in Sant’Antimo, a town in Campania just outside Naples.

The company, which became one of the most famous names in the Italian car industry, was launched after Romeo purchased the Milan automobile manufacturer ALFA - Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili.

After making substantial profits from building military trucks in the company’s Portello plant during the First World War, in peacetime Romeo switched his attention to making cars. The first Alfa Romeo came off the production line in 1921.

The cars made a major impact in motor racing, mainly thanks to the astuteness of Romeo in hiring the the up-and-coming Enzo Ferrari to run his racing team, and the Fiat engineer Vittorio Jano to build his cars.  Away from the track, the Alfa Romeo name sat on the front rank of the luxury car market.

Romeo’s parents, originally from an area known as Lucania that is now part of the Basilicata region, were not wealthy but Nicola was able to attend what was then Naples Polytechnic – now the Federico II University – to study engineering.

Enzo Ferrari at the wheel of an Alfa during his driving days in 1920
Enzo Ferrari at the wheel of an Alfa
during his driving days in 1920
He left Italy to work abroad at first, obtaining a second degree – in electrical engineering – in Liège, Belgium. In 1911 he returned to Italy and set up his first company, manufacturing machines and equipment for the mining industry.

With success in that market, Romeo was keen to expand. He acquired a majority stake in Alfa in 1915, taking full ownership three years later.

As Italy entered the First World War, Italy had a desperate need for military hardware and Romeo converted and enlarged his new factory specifically to meet this demand. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components, compressors, and generators based on the company's existing car engines were produced.

It made a great deal of money for Romeo, who in the post-war years invested his profits in buying locomotive and railway carriage plants in Saronno – north-west of Milan – Rome and Naples.

He did not consider car production at first but the Portello factory had come with 105 cars awaiting completion and in 1919 he decided that, subject to certain modifications, he was happy to finish the building of these vehicles. In 1920, he rebranded the company Alfa Romeo.  The first car to carry the new badge was the 1921 Torpedo 20-30 HP.

Romeo wanted his company to rival Fiat and was particularly astute in recognising talented individuals who would take the brand forward and establish Alfa Romeo's long-term credibility.

Antonio Ascari won the first Grand Prix world title driving the Vittorio Jano-designed Alfa Romeo P2
Antonio Ascari won the first Grand Prix world title
driving the Vittorio Jano-designed Alfa Romeo P2
He retained Alfa’s chief engineer, the talented Giuseppe Merosi, and encouraged a youthful Enzo Ferrari to join the company, soon putting him in charge of his new works racing team and its star drivers Antonio Ascari, Giuseppe Campari and Ugo Sivocci.

When Merosi left to take up a position in France, Romeo pulled off a major coup, sending Ferrari to cajole the Fiat engineer Vittorio Jano to jump ship. The Jano-designed engines propelled Alfa Romeo to the pinnacle of success in motor racing, his P2 car winning the four-race series for the first Grand Prix world championship in 1925.

Jano's first production car, the 6C 1500, was launched in 1927, but Romeo’s personal role in Alfa Romeo ended in 1928.

Some bad investments following the collapse of its major investor, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, had left the company close to going bust.  Under boardroom pressure to quit, Romeo at first accepted a figurehead role as president but then decided to sever his links altogether.

Married to Angelina Valadin, a Portuguese opera singer and pianist, he was the father of seven children. He died in 1938 at his home in Magreglio, a village overlooking Lake Como, at the age of 62.

An Alfa Romeo 20-30 at the Alfa Romeo museum at Arese, about 15km north-west of Milan
An Alfa Romeo 20-30 at the Alfa Romeo museum at
Arese, about 15km north-west of Milan
Luckily for the company, it was kept in business initially by the Italian government after Mussolini decided to promote Alfa Romeo as an Italian national emblem and used it to build bespoke cars for the wealthy, the sleek 2900B being a prime example.

After the Second World War, Alfa Romeo continued its success on the racing circuit, too, with Giuseppe Farina and the Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio winning the first two Formula One world titles, in 1950 and 1951, driving the famous Alfetta 158/159.

The marque’s iconic status was further strengthened in the 1960s when both the Italian state police and the quasi-military Carabinieri stocked their fleets with Alfa Romeo cars.

The Church of Madonna del Ghisallo at Mareglio
The Church of Madonna del Ghisallo at Magreglio
Travel tip:

Magreglio, where Romeo was living at the time of his death, is a village perched on a hill overlooking the south-eastern fork of Lake Como, is famous for its association with cycling, thanks to the nearby Ghisallo hill, which has been long established on the route of the Giro di Lombardia cycle race and has often featured in the Giro d’Italia. The Madonna del Ghisallo was adopted in 1949 as the patron saint of cycling and the church of the same name now contains a small museum dedicated to competitive cycling and an eternal flame burns for cyclists who have died in competition.

Travel tip:

Almost 70 years after his death and on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of his birth, Naples dedicated a street to the memory of Nicola Romeo, called Via Nicola Romeo, which can be found in the Lauro district of the city, above Mergellina and not far from the Stadio San Paolo, home of Napoli football club.

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