Arturo Merzario

2021-02-21 23:00

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Arturo Merzario

Arturo Francesco Merzario was born in Civenna, a town in the province of Como, on March 11, 1943. The son of a building contractor and a teacher, he c


Arturo Francesco Merzario was born in Civenna, a town in the province of Como, on March 11, 1943. The son of a building contractor and a teacher, he cultivated a passion for motors from an early age and in 1962 he made his debut in the world of racing at Coppa Fisa in Monza, at the wheel of his father's Alfa Romeo Spider, finishing eighth. His excellent debut immediately attracts the attention of the founder of the Jolly Club team, Mario Angiolini, who offers him an engagement to compete in the Rally of Sardinia. Arturo takes part in driving the new Giulietta SZ that his father Giorgio had given him, and wins the GT category.


In 1964, Merzario stood out at the wheel of a Fiat-Abarth 1000, which the driver from Como had bought with the help of his father, and relied on Samuele Baggioli to prepare for the races. With Fiat, he is close to the title of Italian touring champion, and also obtains several interesting placings in the European championship for the category. Three years later, on board a semi-official Fiat Abarth 1000, Merzario ranked third in the European Touring Championship for the Scuderia to Lario, and in 1968 he became the official driver of the Scorpione team, with which he won the Italian Mountain Championship. driving the 1000SP boat.


The turning point in his career, however, will take place the following year, when, at the age of twenty-six, he wins at Mugello at the wheel of an Abarth 2000, and participates in the European mountain championship where he finishes second overall and first in the Sport category. In 1970 Merzario will repeat the success at Mugello again with the Abarth, and the Cesana - Sestriere will also win. Enzo Ferrari, a great admirer of him, following the continuous success of the driver from Como, asks Franco Gozzi, his secretary, to contact him to offer him a job. Thus, in 1970 he arrived in Maranello.


Merzario is hired to race the World Sport Prototypes at the wheel of the Ferrari 512 S. The man from Como will take part in the 24 Hours of Daytona, in 1970, obtaining third place, and subsequently in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1000 Kilometers of Monza, finishing fourth absolute. In the same year he will also make his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which however will end with a retirement. The following year, Arturo alternates driving the Abarth 2000s and private Ferrari 512s, winning the Shell Interserie in Imola and, at the end of the season, the Ignazio Giunti Trophy in Vallelunga, dedicated to the unfortunate Roman driver who died in the same year during the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires.


Also during the 1971 season, Arturo made his debut in Formula 2 driving a Tecno, supplied by Team Iris Ceramiche, but this proved to be an unfortunate experience. The class of the driver from Como is certainly not in question, given that the following year, paired with Sandro Munari, he won the Targa Florio driving a Ferrari 312 PB, and with the same car he also won the 1000 Kilometers of Spa, sharing the steering wheel with the Englishman Brian Redman. Other placings follow that allow Ferrari to win the World Championship for Makes.


At the end of the year Merzario also won the 500 Kilometers of Imola and the 9 Hours of Kylami, paired with Regazzoni, tests not valid for the World Championship. In the 1972 season the Comasco also became an Osella-Abarth official driver, and won the 2000 European Sport Championship, and in the same year, exactly on July 15th, he made his debut in Formula 1 at Brands Hatch, on the occasion of the British Grand Prix, at the wheel. of the Ferrari 312B2, achieving an impressive sixth place and winning the prize for combativeness awarded by journalists.


Meanwhile, the Como-born helps engineer Mauro Forghieri to develop the 312B2 nicknamed snowplow due to its unusual shape. The 1973 will be a year of transition for Merzario, despite him obtaining excellent results such as second place in Le Mans, paired with Carlos Pace, and in the 1000 Kilometers of the Nurburgring. In Formula 1, also due to a lack of potential of the car and the change at the top of the technical office, the Como-born manages to obtain two fourth places as best result at the Brazilian and South African Grand Prix.


For the following year, Ferrari offers Merzario an engagement to participate in the prototype sports world championship, and possibly attend some Formula 1 races, as well as a future managerial role within the Scuderia Ferrari itself, but the imminent oil crisis that would have led to a reduction in investments, and a consequent unclear future role, leads the Como to reject the proposal. In his book Piloti che gente, Enzo Ferrari will say about him:


"Active, casually daring, he preferred to marry the printed word to those who had brought him to Formula 1. When he was unable to qualify for a Grand Prix and unfortunately he often did, I felt a sense of disappointment, knowing his skills as a driver. The magnificent Targa Florio, which he won with Munari in 1972, has impressed me with the way he drove".


Merzario leaves Maranello, preferring to commit himself to Alfa Romeo, which participates in the prototype sports world championship, and to the Iso - Williams team, which is present in Formula 1. With the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 the Como-born wins the 1000 Kilometers of Monza, while with the Iso - Williams, despite some good performances, the experience ends in the middle of the championship due to differences with the management; he will then participate in the Italian Grand Prix with a Copersucar, finishing eleventh.


In 1975, driving an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33, Merzario returned to triumph in the Makes World Championship by winning the Dijon, Monza, Enna and Nürburgring races, and winning the Targa Florio for the second time, paired with Nino Vaccarella. In 1976 the driver from Como competes in the Formula 1 World Championship driving a Wolf Williams March 761, and will rightfully enter the hearts of all Motorsport fans for having saved Niki Lauda from the stake, after being the victim of a frightening accident. on the second lap of the German Grand Prix. Arturo, years after the accident, still remembers those moments with these words:


"I had just come out of the pits and I saw in the distance, two or three bends ahead, a red Ferrari. Suddenly the car flew into the air, transformed into a ball of fire. In those days there was a lot of magnesium in the construction of a single-seater. , very flammable material. Let alone what happened with the gasoline in the tank. I stopped. There were people petrified. I ran to a tree where a fire extinguisher was leaning. I took it and went to the area of ​​the fire. I tried to put it out, there was Also a lot of smoke. Two other pilots were next to me, Harald Ertl and Brett Langer, but they didn't dare approach. I leaned into the cockpit and tried to open the seat belts. Niki fidgeted. But as he did so he tightened them and I could not maneuver the lever to release them. Then Lauda passed out, the body went limp and I was finally able to extract it. He looked like a child. I lifted him as if he had barely weighed ten kilos. Then help came".


In 1977, due to a fall on skis, Merzario will not take part in the first races of the Formula 1 World Championship; he will thus decide to return as a private individual with his team, driving a March 761B, but with little luck. Merzario will even attempt the adventure of founding his own Formula 1 team, but the economic means to support this initiative are few: the Merzario A1 fights in every race to qualify, and the driver from Como only succeeds in seven races, occasions in which concludes with as many withdrawals.


In 1979, with the A2 and A3 models, Merzario continued his adventure, but the results were slow to arrive, also due to the changed professional level of Formula 1, increasingly reserved for large industrial groups. In 1981 and 1982 the Merzario Team decides to race in Formula 2 with numerous March-BMWs, obtaining good placings with Necchi and Gartner. In 1983, in collaboration with Degan (ex Autodelta), a Merzario with carbon frame will be built, entrusted to the Frenchman Richard Dallest, and the team will also participate in the Italian Formula 3 championship, on one occasion with Merzario himself driving his car.


But once again the few means available will make it impossible to obtain results and, in the middle of the 1984 season, Merzario and his team withdraw from competitions. His experience in Formula 1 ends with seventeen Grands Prix under his belt and three points obtained. But the sacred fire of competitions still dwells in Merzario, so much so that in 1985 he won the Italian Prototype Championship at the wheel of a Lucchini. Then, in 1986, starting from a Lucchini chassis, he built six examples of the Symbol, a racing two-seater with an Alfa Romeo engine. With the Symbol disputes various editions of the Italian Championship, until 1990.


In 1991 Merzario will be the victim of the most serious accident of his career on the Magione circuit, where he will suffer fractures of the lower limbs. However, the recovery will be prodigious, so much so that in October he will return to the Italian sports prototype championship, finishing second in the 6 Hours of Vallelunga. In 1995 the Comasco returned to the world of racing at the request of Maserati, taking part in the Ghibli Open Cup trophy and competing for the victory against Denny Zardo.


In the two-year period 1996-'97 Merzario will fine-tune the Centenari-Alfa Romeo in the newly created International Sport Racing Series, winning its own category, and in 1999 the manufacturer Tampolli will entrust him with one of his cars, again for the ISRS category, which the Comasco will bring. to victory in Monza and Spa. From the 2000s Merzario began to devote himself mainly to Gran Turismo races, alternating driving Ferrari and Porsche, and in 2010 I will be appointed honorary president of the Scuderia to Portello which takes care of the protection of historic Alfa Romeo models. What we like about Arturo is his light-hearted style in facing every competition, but his name, albeit linked to numerous triumphs in different categories and prestigious races, will always remain linked to that August 1, 1976, where he rightfully earned a place in the motorsport memory.


Simone Centonze



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