Umberto Maglioli was born in June 5, 1928, Bioglio, an Italian town in the province of Biella, the home of motorsport icons such as Carlo Felice Trossi, Antonio Brivio and Giovanni Bracco. The son of a doctor and a housewife, as well as the grandson of a school principal, Umberto has three brothers. The future Ferrari driver shares a love of racing with one of them, Claudio. Claudio, on the other hand, will establish himself first as a driver, and later as a trainer and responsible for technical development for Lancia.
Umberto began his engineering studies at the Polytechnic of Turin, but dropped out at the end of the first two years to devote himself to mechanics. Initially, he assembled a BMW motorcycle engine on a Fiat Topolino chassis, to which he had mounted a body that he built himself, and later took the car, renamed Berenice, to the circuit in Novara and then in Parma. Not surprisingly, Umberto defines himself:
"A preparatory metalworker with great respect for mechanics".
In the same year, 1947, the driver from Biella met Giovanni Bracco thanks to mutual acquaintances: the two met in the hospital, where Bracco was hospitalized following an accident in Modena. Maglioli soon became friends, and from 1948 became his co-driver, with Bracco providing him with training for sports driving. Together they are first in class in the Giro di Sicilia driving a Lancia Aprilia, they get eighth place overall at the Targa Florio, and with the same car they are third in class in the Mille Miglia. The same couple switched to a Ferrari 166 S for 1949, with which they run the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio, both finished with a retirement, but the two will be able to make up for it in 1950, being fourth overall with a Ferrari 166 MM.
Back at Lancia, in 1951 they drove an Aurelia B20 and took it to second place in the Mille Miglia, behind only Luigi Villoresi. During this period, Umberto Maglioli also began to race solo, immediately managing to obtain good results: thirteenth in the Tour of Sicilia, then sixth in the Gold Cup on the Maserati A6GCS. Subsequently he was 1952 Italian International Tourism Champion in the category reserved for engines of over 1500 cubic centimeters, and in that same period he brought the Lancia Aurelia D20 to the Carrera Panamericana paired with Bornigia, winning fourth place.
The car suffers compared to the new Alfa Romeos, so much so that Lancia is already developing the D20 under the supervision of Vittorio Jano, designed exclusively for racing and not retrofitted like the Aurelia. For 1953 the new D20 is ready: this is equipped with a V6 engine with a displacement of three liters, for a power of 215 horsepower. In the intentions of Gianni Lancia, this is a platform for developing a car to be sent to the World Sports Car Championship, and therefore many of the D20s will be converted into the new D23 Spider and D24.
In the meantime, however, with the D20 Umberto Maglioli wins the Monte Pellegrino time trial in Palermo, and shortly after the Targa Florio. In this edition of 1953 already before the race there is an accident between Bonetto and Bignami, who collide while driving their cars on the starting grid; the two drivers will not be able to take off, as both will be injured, as will their respective mechanics. Then, during the race Piero Taruffi on a Lancia finds himself in the lead at the start of the last lap on the Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie, but is forced to retire due to an accident from which he emerges unharmed. Maglioli thus brings his car, number 76, to the top step of the podium.
At the Coppa d 'Oro he once again gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari, the 375 MM, taking it to third place. Then he drives the same car, sharing it with Hawthorn in the 12 Hours of Pescara, winning on the very long Abruzzo track which still holds the record for the longest track to have hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix valid for the world championship. After the Le Mans-style start, Marzotto and Villoresi quickly take the lead and it seems that nothing can stop them, until the car reports a mechanical failure that forces them to give up.
Thus the Italian-British couple finds themselves undisturbed in command, and remains there until the checkered flag. Of the forty registered, only thirteen will cross the finish line. The race remains marked by the absence of Jaguar (only one registered car, however unofficial) and the Ferrari disaster: despite the victory, only two of the eleven entered cars cross the finish line. In the Carrera Panamericana Maglioli finished sixth overall and obtained three stage successes, in an unfortunate edition for him, with episodes such as the unhooking of a rear wheel while racing. In Guadalupe, Umberto returns to success.
These brilliant results earned him the call of Enzo Ferrari, who selected him to participate in the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix. With an official car, the 553 with which Ascari will win the world championship, the Biella-based driver qualified eleventh and in the race comes eighth. In January 1954 Maglioli took part in the Temporada, which as it is known develops in three stages. In the first round, at the Argentine Grand Prix, valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, Umberto is ninth, at the wheel of a Ferrari 625.
For the World Sport Prototypes, instead, Umberto wins the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires paired with Giuseppe Farina, aboard a Ferrari 375MM. Subsequently he will return to triumph again at the Imola Grand Prix, with a Ferrari 500 Mondial, and at the Senigallia Grand Prix with a Ferrari 750 Monza. In the 1954 edition of the Mille Miglia there are many big names in Italian motoring: Giuseppe Farina, Alberto Ascari, and obviously Umberto Maglioli, who will be forced to retire during the race.
For Maglioli, the year continues with alternating fortunes: at the Giro dell'Umbria he retires due to mechanical problems, but in the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix he returns to success paired with the British Mike Hawthorn, aboard a Ferrari 735. The battle for first place he is with Behra on Gordini and González on Ferrari, and to complicate the race comes the rain. The fate turns again against the good driver from Biella on the occasion of the 10 Hours of Messina, as Umberto is forced to retire after the first part of the race.
Subsequently, Maglioli returns to the wheel of a Formula 1 at the Swiss Grand Prix: the Biella driver marks the tenth time in qualifying, but will be able to reach the finish line seventh in an elimination race that will see eleven of the nineteen registered drivers out of action. Maglioli returns to use a Ferrari 625 in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, but he is not brilliant in qualifying, being only thirteenth out of twenty-one registered, and in the race he shares the car with Josè Froilán González (stopped by a breakdown in his car) : the first drives for the first thirty laps and the second for the remaining forty-eight. At the finish line they arrive third, and the Argentine even scores the fastest lap. For Maglioli this is the first placement in the points and the first podium in Formula 1.
On the other hand, the results obtained in extra-championship races are meager: retired from the International Trophy, seventh in Bari, he will not start either in Rome or in Pescara. Subsequently, Maglioli tries again to make him the Carrera Panamericana. Ferrari supplies him with a 326 horsepower 375 Plus, and Umberto wins the competition by running along the entire route at an average of 174 km/h, setting the absolute record. The stage wins will all go to Umberto Maglioli and Phil Hill, both on Ferrari. 1955 opens with second place in the Giro di Sicilia, aboard a Ferrari 118LM, and third place in the Mille Miglia, paired with Monteferraio, in the year of Moss and Fangio’s domination with the Mercedes 300SL.
At the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix Maglioli drives a Ferrari 750 Monza paired with Hawthorn towards second place, behind the Behra-Musso couple on Maserati, but for the Ferrari crew the disaster that ruins the splendid race occurs during the refueling operations, since they take double the time necessary due to a mistake in the driver change and in the refueling itself. With the same car, however, Maglioli will win the Mugello Grand Prix, and subsequently is second again with a Ferrari 500 Mondial at the Shell Grand Prix. Finally, he will win the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo hillclimb aboard a Ferrari 750 Monza. Despite a wound in his arm, Maglioli took part in the Mille Miglia and finished third at the finish line, forty-five minutes behind Moss.
He then took part in Formula 1 races twice, first in a Ferrari 625, then in a Ferrari 555, at the Argentine and Italian Grand Prix. In Buenos Aires, with Farina and Trintignant driving Maglioli and González's cars alternating at the wheel, the Italian's car is third at the finish line, while the Argentine's is second. Qualifying is still not the strong point of Maglioli, who starts twelfth at the Italian Grand Prix. However, in the race he recovers, also thanks to the many retirements, and reaches the sixth position. At the end of the year, Umberto abandons Ferrari: in 1956 the driver from Biella will race with Porsche in the World Sportscar Championship, and with Maserati in Formula 1.
In a Porsche 550 he gets the class victory in the 1000 Kilometer of the Nurburgring paired with Wolfgang von Trips; with Von Hanstein, on the other hand, he won the Targa Florio, marking Porsche's first success in the Sicilian race. With the Maserati he races on the Silverstone, Nurburgring and Monza circuits, but on all three occasions he will be forced to retire: in Great Britain a gearbox problem stops him, in the other two stages a broken steering wheel. The adventure in Formula 1 for Maglioli can be said to be over here, given that he will race only on one last occasion, in the 1957 German Grand Prix. In this circumstance, with the Porsche 550RS the driver from Biella completes only thirteen of the twenty-two laps planned, being then forced to retire due to an engine problem.
In May 1957 Maglioli will be present at the tragic Mille Miglia, where he will finish fifth, and subsequently with Edgar Barth he will not go beyond fourth place in the 1000 Kilometers of the Nurburgring. In the meantime, the driver from Biella participates in the European Mountain Championship; and it is precisely on the occasion of the Salzburg-Gaisberg, in Austria, that Maglioli and Barth, his co-driver, collide with Rottner's Borgward, being thrown out of their respective cars. Maglioli survives, but reports the fracture of the femur on the right leg and of the jaw: the season is over for him. As if that weren't enough, doctors are perplexed about his chances of even walking again. But Umberto will be able to recover, while remaining for almost two years away from the races, and will marry a Venezuelan girl of Austrian origin, even becoming a father.
Recovered from his injury, the Biella driver is ready to get back on track but will not be able to achieve significant results: in 1959 the only noteworthy placement will be fourth place at the 1000 Kilometer of the Nurburgring, driving a Porsche 718RSK. The early 1960s for Maglioli represented a long sequence of retirements, interrupted only by a fifth place at the 1961 Targa Florio, aboard a Maserati Tipo 61 driven in tandem with Nino Vaccarella. The satisfactions return in 1963, as Umberto manages to get on the podium at the 1000 Kilometers of the Nurburgring, aboard a Ferrari 250 TRI of Count Giovanni Volpi's Scuderia Serenissima, paired with Carlo Maria Abate. Subsequently, with the Ferrari 250P of the official team he runs the 24 Hours of Le Mans paired with Mike Parkes, reaching the podium again.
During the 1960s, Maglioli also kept in touch with Colin Chapman to develop an all-wheel drive Formula 1, but the two did not produce any cars, and only a few drawings remain of this idea. Maglioli returned to success on March 21, 1964, in the World Sportscar Championship, aboard a Ferrari 275P driven in tandem with Parkes. The two drivers, in the first ten hours of the race, maintain the third position, before emerging in the eleventh hour taking the lead and remaining first until the finish. For 1965 Maglioli returned to racing for Porsche, with which he achieved third place at the Targa Florio, aboard a 904/6 paired with Herbert Linge, while in 1966 he was only fifth paired with Claude Bourillot in a Porsche 906 of the Filippinetti Scuderia. After the terrible accident that occurred in 1957, despite various ups and downs, Maglioli struggled to repeat the successes it previously usually obtained.
The only important placements will be the third place in the 500 Kilometers of Zeltweg, in 1967, paired with Nino Vaccarella in a Ford GT40, the victory of the Targa Florio in 1968, and the second place in 1969 paired with Vic Elford, at steering wheel first of a Porsche 907, and then of a 908/2. In his latest Targa Florio, Maglioli drives the Alfa Romeo 33/3, but goes off the road and is unable to resume the race. For the driver from Biella, this accident represents the end of a brilliant career. Maglioli later moved to Switzerland and founded a watch company, his great passion together with antique furniture, to which he dedicated himself until his death, which arrived on February 7, 1999, in Monza. Umberto Maglioli remains one of the most successful drivers in the history of Motorsport as far as road races are concerned, and perhaps the best rider in this special section of his time, sharing the record of victories at the Targa Florio with Vaccarella and Gendebien.