Giancarlo Baghetti

2021-04-02 00:00

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Giancarlo Baghetti

Giancarlo Baghetti was born in Milan on December 25, 1934. From an early age, the Italian driver became passionate about the world of motoring, given


Giancarlo Baghetti was born in Milan on December 25, 1934. From an early age, the Italian driver became passionate about the world of motoring, given that his father is an important entrepreneur of a large steel company. Giancarlo then decides to devote himself to some uphill races in 1956, the year of the beginning of his career, making his debut on April 19th at the Trofeo Vigorelli, with an Alfa Romeo 1900. At his first race Giancarlo is forced to retire, but already in the Mille Miglia he always manages to demonstrate his skills at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo.


He returns to compete in 1958 on the Zeltweg circuit, taking part in a Turismo race with an example of Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce, as a dowry to Scuderia Sant Ambroeus, while in 1959 the Milanese makes the switch to open wheels, participating in the Coupes de Paris and the Coupe de Salon, aboard a Fiat 750 Zagato. In the two races he gets a seventh and an eleventh place respectively. The following year Baghetti took part in some Formula Junior races and won the FISA Cup, a result that earned him the help of the Italian Federation for his participation in a Formula One Grand Prix in 1961, preferring him to his compatriot Lorenzo Bandini. This episode opens the dispute between the two Italian drivers, which will continue over the years and into the careers of both.


The race granted by FISA is the Syracuse Grand Prix, an extra-championship stage, held on board a Ferrari 156. In the race, Giancarlo amazes everyone, obtaining second place in qualifying and winning the race the next day, putting far more drivers behind him experts on him, such as Dan Gurney, Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham. After more than three years of foreign successes, an Italian driver returns to victory in a race by establishing himself with confidence in the eleventh edition of the Syracuse Grand Prix, setting an enviable personal record, winning in the race for his debut among the aces of motor sport.


Baghetti's start is not the happiest: perhaps betrayed by emotion, the Milanese driver inexplicably delays and loses precious seconds that allow Gurney, Surtees, Bonnier, Trintignant and Salvadori to precede him in the first laps. But on the third lap the Milanese already reaches behind Surtees, Bonnier and Gurney, on the fourth he overtakes Bonnier and on the fifth he begins to lead the race, not to give up the first position for a short interlude of fifteen seconds on the twenty-fifth lap. Gurney, in the final, attempts an attack but Baghetti, using a very efficient means, manages to repel the assault of the American and precede the Formula 1 World Champion, Jack Brabham, who finishes fourth, and Stirling Moss, who disappoints the public with his Lotus which is inferior to both Ferrari and Porsche.


The excellent result achieved allows the Milanese to reappear three weeks later at the start of the Naples Grand Prix, also not valid for the world championship, replicating the success of the Sicilian race. Favored by the two recent successes, and by Olivier Gendebien's decision to abandon Ferrari, Giancarlo Baghetti gets the chance to make his debut in an official Formula 1 Grand Prix, valid for the world championship standings. The debut is scheduled for July 2, 1961, on the occasion of the French Grand Prix, aboard a Ferrari 156 F1: Baghetti makes his debut as the shoulder of the three official Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther. The event is greeted with great sympathy in Italy, given that for many years, since the death of Castellotli and Luigi Musso, Italian Grand Prix riders had become a rare exception.


The qualifications are not exciting, and the Milanese only takes a twelfth time, but things improve in view of the race, which sees him as the creator of a splendid comeback and the author of an extraordinary when legendary success. Legendary, because not considering Nino Farina's 1950 debut, what has just occurred, it is still the first and only case of debut victory for a Formula 1 driver. The young twenty-six-year-old Giancarlo Baghetti wins the forty-seventh Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France, after an exciting fight that lasted for about 80 km against the Porsches.


As the tests of the past few days had indicated, from the very first laps the fight for the command posts is limited to a small group of drivers, first of all those of the Ferraris. From the fifth passage, three Modenese cars, piloted in order by Hill, Von Trips, Ginther, whiz by a few meters from each other, while the young Giancarlo Baghetti, who started from behind, progressively recovers almost all his opponents inserts in the first positions, even surpassing Ginther. In the following laps, the world champion Brabham (Cooper) and Von Trips (Ferrari) stop due to breakdowns: the latter, one of the great favourites, crashes on the sixteenth lap due to an irreparable engine failure.


On lap 37, Phil Hill's car also stops shortly after the Thillois corner, at the entrance to the straight stand. A few moments of anxiety follow for the public and the Ferrari technicians, before Hill is able to restart on his own despite being relegated to tenth place. Thus an exciting and dramatic race finale is expected. On the following lap the American Ginther, who took the lead, slowed down and stopped at the Ferrari stand. He starts again shortly after, but Giancarlo Baghetti takes advantage of this very short stop who, at the wheel of the red Ferrari n. 60, had kept a short distance from the American driver. Baghetti thus takes first place, followed a few meters by the two Porsches driven by the American Dan Gurney and the Swede Joachim Bonnier.


The one hundred thousand spectators staggered along the circuit will follow with bated breath the lively conclusion of the French Grand Prix. The Ferrari of the young Baghetti is practically followed closely by the Porsches of Gurney and Bonnier: the Italian driver is alone in defending himself from the onslaught of rivals since Ginther has in the meantime stopped for good. In the final laps the fight flares up furious with Baghetti and Gurney alternating in first place, after the Porsche n. 10 by Bonnier stops at the box. Consequently, a highly dramatic finale was born with two cars almost on the same line, until, on the finish straight, Gurney showed up first with Baghetti's red racing car glued to the wheel; Baghetti then finds the good time for overtaking, but Gurney moves left and right of the circuit, not to give him the way. At 250 meters from the finish, running at a speed of over 200 kilometers per hour, while Gurney believes him to his left, Baghetti parades to his right, winning the Grand Prix. Italy finds in Reims a true ace of the steering wheel.


Giancarlo returns to Italy and returns to Milan on Wednesday July 5th, during the morning, with his car together with his younger brother Marco, where his mother and father who suffered and rejoiced in front of the television screen await him in his home in via Borromei.


"It was an unspeakable emotion. I suffered a lot, but when I saw Giancarlo sprint on the finish straight I could no longer contain my happiness. And I hugged my husband who was even more moved than me. We have never indulged the passion for engines that Giancarlo has developed since he was a kid. However, he still managed to win. I don't deny having spent sleepless nights during the first races. Now my husband and I, we're getting used to it. But I assure you it's a heart-pounding habit".


Giancarlo Baghetti, had abandoned his studies after finishing high school for two reasons: to help his father, a well-known metallurgical industrialist, and to devote himself in his spare time to motoring, as confirmed by his parent, who smilingly admits:


"Now he takes care of the industry in his free hours because the rest of the day is reserved for engines. Giancarlo is young and will have time to devote himself seriously to his work. For the moment we let him have fun racing in the car since for him motoring, it's really a hobby".


After this incredible success, the young Milanese driver participates in two other races during the season, in Great Britain and Italy, always with the Sant Ambroeus team. But on both occasions the result does not smile to Giancarlo, as he is forced to retire at the Aintree circuit and at Monza, except for the fact that on this last occasion he gets the first and only fastest lap of his career. Also in 1961, Giancarlo was also a protagonist in Sport races, where he obtained a second place at the 12 Hours of Sebring with a Ferrari 250 TRI and a fifth place at the 1000 Km of the Nurburgring, aboard a Ferrari 250 GT. In the remaining three races, namely the Acari Cup, the 24 Hours of Spa and the 4 Hours of Pescara, he is instead forced to retire. But the name of Giancarlo Baghetti is already a legend, and as such is immediately associated with the name of Enzo Ferrari, who hires him as an official driver for the 1962 season.


However, the year proved to be very difficult for the Milanese, who obtained a fourth place in the Netherlands and a fifth place in Monza, ending the season with zero successes and a second place obtained at the Mediterranean Grand Prix, a race not valid for the world title, due to the scarce competitiveness of Ferrari, forced by the founder himself to use the winning assets of the previous year in any circumstance. In Endurance races, the results follow the false lines of those obtained in Formula 1, with two retirements at the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, due to an oil leak in the first case and the breaking of the clutch in the second. The only positive result is the second place obtained at the Targa Florio, paired with rival Lorenzo Bandini.


In 1963 Giancarlo decided to follow Phil Hill and Engineer Carlo Chiti to the ATS, along with other technicians who had left Ferrari. The adventure in the Bolognese stable starts with great enthusiasm and high expectations, thanks also to the huge budget that the team has at its disposal. But some internal disagreements between the partners, however, cause Giovanni Volpi and Jaime Ortiz Patino to abandon the stable, considerably reducing the capital available. Thus, the construction of the car begins with severe delays and the situation that has arisen certainly does not foreshadow possible positive developments over the course of the season.


Giancarlo takes part in five races, in which he can see the end only on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, where he only gets fifteenth place. In 1964 he arrived at Scuderia Centro Sud, which manages an old B.R.M. P57, with which Giancarlo took part in six Grands Prix without obtaining significant results. The adventure in Formula One is at the end: in the following three seasons (1965, 1966 and 1967) Giancarlo only races in the three editions of the Italian Grand Prix, first with a Brabham BT7 and then with a Ferrari 246 F1-66 and a Lotus 49, always having to stop due to mechanical problems with the engine.


In the meantime, in the Sport races Giancarlo obtained a victory at the 4 Hours of Monza in 1964 at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Giulia TI Super, while in 1965 he met with systematic retirements, interrupted by eighth place at the 12 Hours of Sebring and by thirteenth place. obtained at the 1000 Km of the Nurburgring, obtained respectively at the wheel of a Ferrari 275 P and a Ferrari 257 GTB. In 1966 more than deserved results arrived for the Milanese, who collected two division victories at the 4 Hours of Monza and at the ETCC stage in Aspern, at the wheel of a Fiat Abarth 1000 TC, and a second success at the Targa Florio at the wheel of a Ferrari Dino 206 SP.


In 1967 Giancarlo Baghetti was the protagonist of the worst season of his career, with six retirements out of seven races disputed, which only came in seventh position at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, obtained aboard a Lancia Fulvia. But still in the same year, in Monte Carlo the Milanese driver is the author of an elegant gesture.


During the Grand Prix, on lap 82, Lorenzo Bandini enters the seafront sector at a much higher speed than the canonical one, and in approaching the chicane of the port he misses the trajectory. The rear hub of his Ferrari hits a ship's mooring bollard, unprotected and hidden by a Shell advertising banner, and the car becomes unmanageable, detaching itself from the ground and then landing upside down a few hundred meters ahead, immediately catching fire, accomplices the bales of hay placed on the track.


The rescue efforts reached by rival and compatriot Lorenzo Bandini are slow and chaotic because the commissioners and the firefighters, seeing the banners torn on the track, initially believe that the driver had been thrown out of the car and ended up in the water, as happened to Alberto Ascari in 1955. Many of them therefore begin to scan the waters of the port.


Within a few minutes, noticing the inconclusiveness of the rescuers and realizing the true nature of the accident, Prince Juan Carlos di Borbone and Giancarlo Baghetti, who were following the race at that point, climb over the barriers and call the firefighters towards the single-seater on fire. It is only at this moment that it is discovered that the driver, now in a comatose state, was trapped inside the Ferrari enveloped in flames.


Fresh from a disastrous season, 1968 reveals itself in terms of results, along the lines of the previous year, with eight retirements out of ten races and only a tenth place at the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring as the best result aboard the Alfa Romeo T33/2. Strongly disappointed by the poor results obtained, Giancarlo Baghelli came up with the idea of ​​hanging up his helmet in 1969, devoting himself to the role of co-editor of Auto Oggi magazine, until his death on November 27, 1995.


Andrea Rasponi

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