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Andrea De Adamich

2021-03-19 23:00

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Andrea De Adamich

Andrea De Adamich was born on October 3, 1941, in Trieste. His career has been linked to two teams still today among the most important and well known

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Andrea De Adamich was born on October 3, 1941, in Trieste. His career has been linked to two teams still today among the most important and well known in the world, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, and he did not leave the world of motors even after his retirement, as he continued commenting on the Formula 1 races for the Italian television network Mediaset. The man from Trieste discovers that motoring is in his destiny in a very ambiguous way: thanks to his colleagues. In fact, he understood that he wanted to get on a racing car, in 1962 making the timekeeper in a very important discipline in those years, the autosciatoria, a sports competition in pairs, one of which participates in a car race and the other to a ski trial.

 

Upon returning home, Andrea asks his mother to be able to take part in a course to obtain a driver's license, and a few months later he enrolls in the Italian Hill Climb Championship, which he will close in second place at the wheel of a Triumph TR3 of the Trivellato Scuderia, while in the world of specialties, held in Zurich, he will finish sixth. These results are noticed by Alfa Romeo, which at the end of the season chooses him to compete in the Carri Cup. At his debut in a sports car, De Adamich amazes everyone, climbing the podium for the first time after crossing the finish line in third place. In 1963 Andrea took part in the Formula Junior with a used Lola-Ford, which marked the definitive turning point in his career.

 

Mario Angiolini notices the young driver from Trieste, and decides to hire him in his team, the Jolly Club: De Adamich repays his trust, and in 1965 he wins the Italian Formula 3 Championship. These results push Autodelta, the Alfa racing team to decide to let Andrea race in the same team, but in the ETCC. Once again, De Adamich meets expectations, and becomes European Champion for touring cars in Division 2 (up to 1600 cc) in 1966 and 1967. In 1965, making his debut at the 4 Hours of Monza, he made it clear to the managers of the Milanese company that they saw it right, as he won his first career victory at the wheel of the Giulia Ti Super.

 

In the following months the Italian driver did not find continuity also due to some retirements: as the best positions he obtained seventh place at the 1000 kilometers of Monza and at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, while he finished tenth at the Hill Climb Axamer Lizum. The following season will be that of consecration: in the first race of the year, at the 4 Hours of Monza, he wins with the Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA paired with Teodoro Zeccoli. Then, in mid-April, he took second place at the ETCC in Aspern, while at the 1000 kilometers of Monza and Nurburgring he did not go beyond eleventh and twenty-first places. Still on the German track, De Adamich cancels these unhappy performances by winning his second seasonal success at the 6 Hours of the Nurburgring.

 

A similar situation a few weeks later: within a few days he obtained two consecutive victories at the 500 kilometers of Snetterton and in Zandvoort, while in the last seasonal engagement, at the 4 Hours of Budapest, he did not pass under the checkered flag, but won the championship. The 1967 season opens as it had ended the previous year: at the 4 Hours of Monza he fails to score an encore due to a disqualification. However, Andrea changes the face of his season by winning at Zolder, Oulton Park, Budapest, Nurburgring and Zandvoort, winning the title of champion for the second consecutive year. These results push Enzo Ferrari to put him to the test, making him carry out some tests:

 

"In 1967, through Marcello Sabbatini, director of Autosprint, I was called to carry out a test on the Ferrari 312, in Modena. That was a crazy track. If you missed a braking, you ended up on Via Emilia. The car was prepared for Chris Amon, so with the cockpit for a small one. I am over six feet tall, but there was no time to adjust the pedals. You know, in those days you would end up thinking that the driver would fit in. I had never driven a car with that weight/power ratio: 440 hp for 500 Kg. Morale, on the second lap I remember thinking: it's not my job. But instead I go back to the pits and it turns out that I have set competitive times. So they decide to send me to test in Monza, with the aim of making my debut in Spain, in Jarama. In Monza I lap better than the times set by Amon during the qualifying of the previous Italian Grand Prix. In Ferrari, everyone is amazed. Then they send me in Vallelunga. There I drove a second under the time of Ickx, who had set the record with Formula 2. In short, they are convinced in Ferrari and send me to race in Spain".

 

The driver from Trieste, who has lived in Milan for many years, accompanied by his girlfriend Donatella Odoardo and by Ferrari managers and technicians, getting into a Formula 1 car for the first time, albeit in an officially private form, proves that he is not a driver only from sports cars: on November 12, 1967, in the Spanish Grand Prix, not valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, the young Italian reached the finish line ninth, delayed by five laps by the winner Jim Clark, due to a puncture in a tire, while he was fourth and in the wake of Jack Brabham.

 

"It was a long rusty nail that got into the right tire. I got to the pits slowly, the mechanics were very good at changing my wheel in a moment, but unfortunately it wasn't enough. It was a real bad luck. laps, Brabham hit a rubber cone with his car placed near a curve to delimit the carriageway. The object shot up like a bullet and hit the windshield of my Ferrari like a bomb. The windshield is shattered and the cone hit me in the face and also broke my goggles. I managed to stay on the street by a miracle. Also, I burned my feet quite seriously. At the bottom of the car, near the pedals, the water and oil pipes pass. During the race there are temperatures of about 100 degrees and I hadn't put my shoes with asbestos protection. Furthermore, ignoring the reason for its arrangement, I had also had a wooden insole removed by Chris Amon at the point closest to the pipes. So, I suffered the pains of hell and now I find myself with feet full of burns. Patience".

 

Overall, however, De Adamich's debut did not disappoint having made an honorable race, always in contact with the leaders. When asked about the prospects for the future, Andrea does not commit:

 

"Engineer Ferrari will decide".

 

Ferrari decides, and at the end of the race offers him the opportunity to run six races in Formula 1, and to compete in the Formula 2 European Championship. Obviously De Adamich accepts, and two months later he made his debut in Formula 1 at the South African Grand Prix, on 1 January 1968, even if it must be said that the Italian driver had already been previously registered for the Italian Grand Prix in 1967, which was supposed to compete aboard a Cooper-Maserati of the Filipinetti Scuderia. During qualifying, Andrea confirmed his talent again, setting the seventh fastest time, two tenths ahead of Chris Amon. Worried about the fact that the young rookie could get his head around, engineer Mauro Forghieri, with whom relations will not be good from the start, tries to downsize De Adamich's performance during the briefing:

 

"I remember that in Jarama I had set the fourth time in practice, and he didn't tell me to be more calm, that I was going too fast, to stay calm. He should have done this, as a tutor. Instead he said to me: You know, in the curve before the finish, I see the others faster than you".

 

The next day, at the start De Adamich is overtaken by Amon, but just when he is about to find the rhythm, starting to think about where to attack his teammate to recover the lost position, he ends up on an oil spot and goes to crash into the barriers. A few months later, Andrea has the opportunity to redeem himself in the Race of Champions, race at Brands Hatch: however, in the first free practice he loses the duel with Amon, from which he feels a gap of eight tenths. Therefore, in the second round he enters the track with the aim of being the fastest Ferrari driver. But in one of the first laps launched, at the Paddock Bend Hill curve, after the main straight, he brakes to the limit and ends up against the marshals' post, destroying the car and breaking a few teeth. Initially, the Italian driver feels only a little pain in his shoulder, but later it turns out that the third and fourth cerebral vertebrae broke in the collision:

 

"The fear came to me later, for the way the English doctors treated me: they put a foam collar on me and sent me back to Italy. At the London Clinic they wanted me to lie in bed with the pillow behind my head, but my neck hurt so I took it off. And the nurse: No, you have to lie down with the pillow. And I: No, I'm sick. And she kept pushing me down. Oh, I had to punch her in the face. Missing a hair they throw me out of the hospital. When they visited me at the Gaetano Pini, one of the chief physicians - a friend of mine - said to me: Andrea you're lucky. Now stay still though. Three and a half months of pinstripe minerva. The imperial one, which also included the forehead. I also had a broken tooth and with the straw I was able to eat a little. When I lost weight, I also started to chew a little".

 

Saved from the flames, thanks to the intervention of the firefighters, the recovery will be longer than expected: only at the end of September, Andrea feels ready to get back in the car. Subsequently, during the Canadian Grand Prix, Jacky Ickx also went off the track during practice, and broke a leg, so the Trieste driver hypothesized that Ferrari could ask him to replace the Belgian driver.

 

"After I recovered, I was ready to race in Canada, instead of Ickx, who had broken his leg, I think. I said to myself: okay, I'll go".

 

However, Enzo Ferrari is not of the same opinion, and communicates it to him in his office by responding to his request to get back behind the wheel of the Prancing Horse in this way:

 

"She'll be back racing in my car when I tell her".

 

And so it will be. In fact, only in December he will return to drive for Ferrari, who will make him compete in the Temporada Argentina.

 

"After eight months of not driving, they sent me to race Temporada Argentina".

 

In this circumstance, De Adamich proves to have recovered at 100%, beating champions of the caliber of Ragazzoni and Reutermann, winning second place in the first race, and winning the following two, finishing in first position in the drivers' classification. But despite this, on his return from Argentina he makes a difficult decision, especially for an Italian driver who grew up with the legend of the Prancing Horse: to say goodbye to Ferrari.

 

"When I returned to Italy, I realized that another mistake with Ferrari would ruin my career, and I decided to look elsewhere. That of Ferrari was too professional an environment for my experience. To say, when I signed the contract, Forghieri was in Tasmania and I think he did not take very well the fact that he was overtaken by Ferrari, in choosing an Italian driver. after Bandini".

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In 1969 the Italian returns to Alfa Romeo, with which he will be involved in races to be held on sports cars: even on this type of car, Andrea soon proves to be back in shape, since after retiring at the 12 Hours of Sebring he arrives second to Coupes de Vitesse. Subsequently, he will finish fifth in the 1000 kilometers of Monza, while at the Martini Trophy 300 and the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring he finishes in eighth and seventh position. After the disappointing 6 Hours of Brands Hatch, which ends twentieth, Andrea conquers three consecutive podiums, again finishing second in the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, finishing third in the 6 Hours of Mugello with the Lola, and taking his first win of the season at Zeltweg. The latest races do not seem to give him much satisfaction, but after two retirements and a fifth place in Michigan, where he runs a Can-Am championship race at the wheel of a McLaren M12, he convinces the Woking team to bring him back to Formula 1 for the 1970 season.

 

On April 19, the moment comes to return to the circus, but things do not go as hoped: in Spain, on the Jarama circuit, his McLaren, which is fitted with an Alfa Romeo engine, is not competitive and fails to qualify for the race. The same situation is repeated in Monaco and the Netherlands, and in the middle between the two Formula 1 races comes the disappointment of retiring at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Alfa Romeo T33/3. In fact, despite having an agreement with the British team to race the Formula 1 World Championship, at the same time he will continue to compete in sports car races at the wheel of Alfa Romeo, and with this he wins the Grand Prix of the Nurburgring. The situation, on the other hand, does not improve in Formula 1, so much so that even in Germany he fails to qualify.

 

Fourteen days pass and De Adamich gets his first place in the Austrian Grand Prix: in the official tests he sets the fifteenth time, in the race he recovers three positions by crossing the finish line twelfth, three laps from his former team Ferrari, who with Ickx and Ragazzoni wins a brace. This result helps him regain morale in view of his debut in Monza, where he will get the best result of the season, finishing eighth. Italy is doing well for Andrea, who a week later finishes second in the 500 kilometers of Imola. The retirement in Canada, and the new non-qualification in the last Grand Prix in the United States, made him close the season without points, but the disappointment was offset by second place with Alfa in the 1000 kilometers of Zeltweg.

 

In 1971 De Adamich decided to change team again to Formula 1 and moved to March, which had closed the previous season in third place in the constructors' standings. Despite this change, his year will be two-faced again, dependent on when he will compete in the circus and with sports cars. If with Alfa Romeo he finishes fourth in the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires, in the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship, in South Africa, after a bad qualifying in which he marks the twenty-second time, he manages to recover nine positions and cross the finish line thirteenth.

 

The redemption always comes with the Alfa Romeo T33/3, with which he climbs to the lowest step of the podium at the 12 Hours of Sebring, and obtains his first seasonal success at the 1000 kilometers of Brands Hatch. The ups and downs continue in the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix, which will see him abandon the race due to a differential problem, while with Alfa Romeo he wins three podiums in a row, crossing the finish line third at the 1000 kilometers of Monza and that of Spa, and second to the Targa Florio.

 

Even in the third Formula 1 race that he will run in France he is forced to retire, while in Great Britain, during Saturday's practice he is last, and cannot take the starting grid. The disappointment of a career in the circus that is not going the way he dreamed is swept away a week later by the victory in the 6 Hours of Waktins Glen. On the other hand, March's reliability problems make him collect another retreat in Germany and the Italian Grand Prix. He will pass under the checkered flag for the first time in the last race in the United States, at Watkins Glen, finishing in eleventh position, finishing another world championship with zero points.

 

In 1972, as in the previous year, the driver from Trieste changed team again to Formula 1 and moved to Surtees, while continuing the pairing with Alfa in racing with sports cars. On his debut with the Casa del Quadrifoglio he immediately went on the podium at the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires. Otherwise, two weeks later, Andrea will not be able to repeat himself in the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship, which is also held in Argentina: on the circuit of the capital, after starting from the seventh row with the fourteenth fastest time, he retires in the course of the eleventh lap due to a problem with the fuel system of the TS9B.

 

As in 1971, the ups and downs also continue in subsequent races: if at the 6 Hours of Daytona he gets a good fifth place, in the South African Grand Prix valid for the Formula 1 World Championship once again De Adamich fails to reach the finish line, but wins another third place at the 6 Hours of Sebring as soon as he gets back on board the Alfa Romeo. De Adamich touches the podium again at the 1000 kilometers of Brands Hatch, finishing fourth, then finally on May 1st he gets his first great result in Formula 1, at the Spanish Grand Prix, at the Jarama circuit. After finishing thirteenth qualifying, Andrea recovers nine positions in the race and finishes fourth, also conquering the first points in the drivers' standings. This performance gives him great confidence, and also in Monaco he gets a new good position: starting nineteenth, Andrea makes another great comeback and crosses the finish line in seventh position, three laps behind the winner Beltoise.

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The good moment continues a week later, when Andrea gets back behind the wheel of the Alfa T33/TT/3 and climbs for the third time on the lowest step of the podium in the Targa Florio, then repeating himself at the 1000 kilometers of Nurburgring. At Spa, in the Belgian Grand Prix, he seems to be able to repeat the performances of Jarama and Monte Carlo, setting the tenth time in qualifying three tenths from his teammate Mike Hailwood, instead a technical problem forces him to abandon the race during the course of the fifty-fifth round. The redemption comes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, played in tandem with Nino Vaccarella: the two Italians, despite the clutch and engine problems, remain fighting for the podium until Sunday morning, when a few hours from the checkered flag De Adamich went off the track due to the rain, and the Alfa number 18 crossed the finish line fourth behind Joest-Weber-Casoni Cevert-Ganley, and the winners Pescarolo-Hill.

 

The podium escaped in France, Andrea hits it with Surtees at the Grand Prix of the Italian Republic, in Vallelunga, finishing second, in a race that is not valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. Instead, in ordinary races he returns to struggle as in the years passed, and in the next four races he finishes fourteenth twice in Austria and France, and thirteenth in Germany, while he retires in Great Britain. The smile returns, as usual, every time he gets back on the Alfa, as he wins in Monza, where instead the following week with the Surtees he fails to cross the finish line due to a new reliability problem, and finishes third in the 500 kilometers of Imola.

 

The Formula 1 world championship ends badly, with two other retirements in Canada and the United States, finishing seventeenth in the general classification, with only three points conquered. With Alfa Romeo, on the other hand, he conquered the podium at the John Player Challenge Trophy and Copa Brazil Interlagos. Given the alternation of good results, Surtees confirms De Adamich also for the 1973 season, but decides not to let him play all the races. In response, when the English team fielded him in South Africa, Andrea immediately showed off: starting only twentieth, also thanks to the many retirements caused by the many technical problems that afflicted the cars of his rivals, Andrea took his TS9B to the finish line in eighth position.

 

This performance does not go unnoticed, therefore Brabham offers him the opportunity to become their driver, and De Adamich accepts. However, in Spain things seem to go the same as on previous occasions: in fact after having struggled again in qualifying, closed in seventeenth place, a problem with one wheel during the seventeenth lap does not allow him to finish the race. Surprisingly, even with Alfa, things are not going better at the start of the season, as at the 1000 kilometers of Spa he fails to take off due to an accident in practice, and it is still a collision that prevents him from trying to get on the podium to the Targa Florio.

 

The difficult moment De Adamich overtook him in the Belgian Grand Prix, repaying the confidence of the Brabham team. If in qualifying he still shows some limitations, in the race he crosses the finish line in fourth position, ahead of Niki Lauda, ​​and also repeats himself in Monaco, where he accomplishes a small feat recovering on a track where it is almost impossible to overtake, from the last position to which he started, passing in seventh place at the finish line. After missing the Swedish Grand Prix, and retiring with Alfa at the Zeltweg, Andrea goes to France with the intention of further improving. The conditions seem to be there, given that in the official tests he gets the thirteenth time; however, a problem with the transmission removed him from the scene in the early stages of the race.

 

At Silverstone De Adamich is determined to erase this bad memory, but from the beginning things do not go as he hoped: the Italian driver closes qualifying only in twentieth position. The next day, Andrea expects to be able to make another comeback, as he had already been able to do in the past, but his race ends a few moments after the start. After the green light Jackie Stewart makes a masterful start and, from fourth place, manages to hoist himself in the lead; Behind him, however, Scheckter spun on the bend that leads to the straight line of the finish line, beats against the wall and returns to the track. The carom that follows is dramatic, with ten cars involved, all forced to retire. The one who pays the greatest consequences is Andrea, who breaks both legs: the doctors give him morphine and pull him out of the cockpit after fifty-two interminable minutes, in which the Italian driver gives directions and advice to those who help him to free himself. De Adamich recounts the accident in which he was involved, putting an end to the season and his career in Formula 1.

 

"In 1973, at Silverstone, I broke both legs. Jody Scheckter turned around after the start and fifteen of us ended up in it. An official March had started a bit late and, when it got to the corner, she crashed into the stationary cars before hitting the wall".

 

Remembering what happened in 1968 at Brands Hatch, Andrea does not want to be operated on in England, so Bernie Ecclestone, owner of Brabham, makes his personal helicopter available to him to return the next day to Italy. It will take many months to recover from this accident, and it will be Alfa Romeo in 1974 that will give him the opportunity to get back into the car. De Adamich exploits the opportunity as best he could not, finishing third in the 1000 kilometers of Monza and immediately sending a message to those who doubted his chances of still being competitive.

 

Andrea also confirms himself at the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring and at Imola by finishing third again, while at the 1000 kilometers of Zeltweg he wins the best result of the season and the last podium of his career, crossing the finish line second. In fact, in the last race at the wheel of an Alfa GTV he was only seventeenth. De Adamich retires with a palmares of twenty-five victories, forty podiums and three pole positions, but remains in the world of motors by launching the Marlboro Leisure War clothing line, and managing it with his own company. At the same time, in 1975 Andrea was called to lead the Gran Prix television program, which will subsequently pass under the control of Mediaset, for which he will comment on the Formula 1 races from 1991 to 1996:

 

"In 1975, those from Rusconi Editore, who at the time owned Antenna Nord, called me to make Grand Prix. When Berlusconi bought it, he made it Italia 1, and the only thing he decided to keep was my transmission and me".

 

Subsequently, in 1986 FIAT bought the Alfa Romeo from IRI and became the owner; after that, he entrusted Andrea with the management of the Centro Internazionale Guida Sicura project, having been the symbolic pilot of the Quadrifoglio for years. It is precisely for the bond and emotions experienced intensely with Alfa Romeo that De Adamich is remembered, even today, as the symbolic driver who left Maranello to continue pursuing his dream.

 

Massimiliano Amato

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