Alboreto – Fast driver, real Man

The gentleman driver who, in that mocking 1985, gave the dream of all the F1 fans to see again an Italian driver win the Formula One Championship with the “red one”. Michele Alboreto earned the esteem and respect of everyone who lives in the Automotive world, moreover for his speed and talent as a pilot, also thanks to his polite and serious manner of behaving in the paddock, as Enzo Ferrari said. In the collective imagination, he is remembered by all with affection, as a man of great modesty though endowed with extraordinary skills.
Alboreto started his Formula One racing venture in 1981, at the age of 25, debuting with the Tyrrel-Ford at the San Marino Grand Prix. His competence and deep knowledge of engines (he was a mechanical expert) gave him the ability to provide engineers and mechanics with precise and detailed guidance to improve the performance of the car. Thanks to his ability to drive and the skill to develop the car, his close-friend Conte Gughi Zanon persuaded Ferrari (who did not want to hear about Italians driver in his Team) to engage Michele for the 1984 season, who repays the confidence of the Drake at the third race in red, winning the Belgium Grand Prix.
He is the last Italian to win a Grand Prix in a Ferrari, and also the last Italian to drive a Ferrari Formula One, arrived 11 years after the previous Italian pilot in Ferrari, Arturo Merzario. In 1985 went close to climb the Olympus of F1 World Champion (just two Italian drivers in early ’50s succeeded – Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari) leading for half the season the table and then mocked by the fate. Indeed, trying to find more power, Ferrari replaced the turbochargers: together with this change, the reliability went, and the engine got worse and worse, reporting continuous failure. Prost’s McLaren MP4/2B were too reliable, and Michele has no chance to get where all drivers want to get, close to the Title but just second in the World Championship.
That year, Conti Editore published a book with the title “Piloti, che gente…” reporting a comment on Alboreto by Enzo Ferrari, who made almost an admission of guilt about the issue of reliability of the car did not allow him to win the Championship in 1985. “He’s a young man who drives so well, with so few mistakes. He’s fast, good-looking: qualities that remind me of Wolfgang von Trips, to whom Alboreto also resembles in his polite and serious manner. I argued that he is among the six best drivers in Formula 1 and that with a competitive car, he will certainly not waste the chance to become champion.” Unfortunately, that chance never came for Michele.
After five years in Ferrari, Alboreto left Maranello’s Team closing a cycle where he didn’t get what his talent deserved. Then he raced six years for minor teams, returning to Tyrrel first and finishing in 1994 with Minardi his twelve years F1 experience. He never thought to put an end to his racing career and, aged 38 he wanted to return in endurance racing – in the early ’80s he’d raced for Lancia in Sports Prototype Class driving the LC2 several times and achieving good results. Back to the origin in Sports Prototype, satisfaction returns in 1997, when he wins at Le Mans 24 Hours driving a TWR-Porsche entered by Joest Racing Team. His last victory is at the Sebring (Florida) 12h in 2001, driving an Audi R8 Prototype joined by Audi Sport North America.
Then, on the 25th of April 2001, something unforeseen and tragic happened in Dresda, close to Berlin. In Lausitzring racetrack, during a test session on an Audi R8 in preparation for the forthcoming Le Mans 24h, Michele Alboreto died after his car somersaulted over a barrier on the high-speed oval section. Causes have not been completely clarified, but a rear tyre burst or the suspension failure has been assumed. This fatal crash left a hole in Motorsport and, what for many Italians is a day of Celebration (Anniversary of Italy’s liberation), for Motorsport fans is instead a day that has marked one of the saddest pages of racing.
Michele is a rider who has conquered all by himself, racing in an extremely competitive era for F1. He has had to face drivers as Nikki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Renè Arnoux, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and so on, having the ability to impose himself as a great driver together with them. In the last years of his life, this fantastic guy and CSAI President – Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana -, though to a new Formula that would contain costs and allow young drivers without an “economic power” behind, to open the doors of motoring. Having had a hard time getting into Motorsport himself, he had the sensitivity, heart and kindness to dedicate time and resources taking care of others, tomorrow’s drivers. A motorsport hero, excellent driver and lovely guy. Thanks Michele.


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