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Luigi Musso

2021-02-19 23:00

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Luigi Musso

Luigi Musso was born in Rome on July 28, 1924. The son of a wealthy family, Luigi Musso is the youngest of three brothers. His father served as diplom

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Luigi Musso was born in Rome on July 28, 1924. The son of a wealthy family, Luigi Musso is the youngest of three brothers. His father served as diplomatic in China. Sadly, his father died when he was 16. He started racing as a horse rider, but thanks to his family he became passionate about motoring at an early age, but since they would never allow him to drive their cars he decides to buy a Giannini to participate in some races in the early 50’s. Actually he bought a Fiat Topolino in 1947, too young to have a driving licence, and spent his father’s heritage in gamble.

 

Only in 1952 his brother gave him his Stanguellini with which he managed to stand out, so much so that Maserati decided to offer him a contract, placing him in the stable together with the young Mantovani and Giletti. In 1953 he will then be able to become Italian champion of prototype sports in the category for two-liter engines. Furthermore, he’s second in the Targa Florio and Third in the Mille Miglia. He'll get the same results one year later.

 

Musso made his debut in 1953 at the Italian Grand Prix driving a Maserati 250F. On the finish line he’s in seventh place. The following year he still remained in the Italian team, with which he obtained a second place in Spain. He also won a non-championship round: the prestigious Coppa Acerbo, in Pescara. In 1955 he continued with the Modena manufacturer, but the victory still did not arrive. However, in Zandvoort he will finish on the podium, third, after qualifying fourth. Three other podiums, all second places, come in non-championship rounds, in the races of Bordeaux, Naples and Syracuse. Many times he shares the car with Mantovani or Schell. He becomes Italian Champion in Sport Class 2000 in 1955.

 

The great occasion turns out to be the 1956 Argentine Grand Prix with Ferrari, driving a Lancia D50 paired with Fangio. Here it comes the first, and sadly the only, Formula 1 win for Musso. He’s third in qualifying and leaves his car to Fangio who had problems with the fuel pump on his car. On the finish line they’ll have a half-minute advantage on Jean Behra, the only other to finish the race full-laps.

 

Luigi will take to the track on three other occasions during 1956, but he will not have anywhere near the luck he had in the opening race. He will race in the Monaco Grand Prix, and then reappear in the two final rounds, in Germany and Italy. The result, however, will always be the same: withdrawal. Outside from the championship he’s second in Syracuse. Driving for Ferrari also in SportsCars races, he arrives third in Mille Miglia and, pairing with Schell, second overall in the Sebring 12 hours. Nonetheless, Ferrari reconfirms him for the following season. Luigi has the chance to race the Argentine Grand Prix again, but without repeating the result of 1956. He will once again be forced to retire, for the fourth consecutive time.

 

Musso is back on track in France for the fourth round of the year, managing to get on the podium thanks to an excellent second position. He will be able to repeat himself the following weekend, in England, but will then have to settle for a final fourth position in the German Grand Prix. The last two races will not bring him the same results. In Pescara he will be forced to retire and in Monza he will not go beyond the eighth place. Outside from the championship five podiums will arrive: third in Buenos Aires and Naples, second for the third consecutive time in Syracuse, and then in Modena, and winner of the Reims Grand Prix, on the same track which will be fatal to him one year later.

 

Fangio suggested him non to drive into Calvaire turn full gas, because the powerful cars used since 1957 wouldn’t keep the track if not loosing some speed. In SportsCar races, he wins the race of the 1000km of Buenos Aires, driving a Ferrari 290MM in a dream team featuring him, Castellotti and Gregory. The 1957 season will be the best for Musso, also rewarded by the third place in the championship, and 1958 will also start in the right direction for the Italian, who will get two consecutive second positions in Argentina and Monte Carlo. He finds himself leading the F1 World Championship for the first time, with a 4-points advantage over Striling Moss and Maurice Trintignant. Between the two races, he has time to finally win the Syracuse Grand Prix.

 

Sharing his drive with Olivier Gendebien, he won Targa Florio driving a Ferrari Testa Rossa. He is then third overall in the Race of Two Worlds in the Monza banked oval, sharing his car with Hill and Hawthorn. Again with Gendebien, he’s second in Sebring, and then he wins the Targa Florio on a Ferrari Testa Rossa 58. He had a rivalry with Hawthorn and Collins, as Fiamma Breschi, Musso’s girlfriend, will tell years later:

 

"The Englishmen - Hawthorn and Collins - had an agreement. Whichever of them won, they would share the winnings equally. It was the two of them against Luigi, who was not part of the agreement. Strength comes in numbers, and they were united against him. This antagonism was actually favourable rather than damaging to Ferrari. The faster the drivers went, the more likely it was that a Ferrari would win".

 

Apparently, at the time of the French Grand Prix Musso was in debt because of gamble, and by winning the race he could have enough money to solve it. The good period will soon end, as Luigi will not go beyond the seventh position in the Netherlands, only to have to finish the Belgian Grand Prix prematurely due to yet another retirement. Arriving at the French Grand Prix, raced in Reims, on lap 10 Luigi finds himself in pursuit of teammate Mike Hawthorn, who leads the race, but becomes the protagonist of a very bad accident at the Gueux curve, also known as the Calvaire curve. His Ferrari ends up in the ditch outside and rolls over. The pilot will be rushed to the hospital with severe head injuries, but will die a few hours later, while Hawthorn will later be crowned World Champion. A short career that of Musso in Formula 1, which managed to give him a victory and a third place in the overall standings of a World Championship.

 

Alessandro Cappelli

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