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#164 1968 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-11-27 23:00

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#164 1968 Monaco Grand Prix

Sunday, May 7, 1967, Monaco Grand Prix, lap 81: a red bolide emerges from the descent on the harbor, undulates through the chicane, as if crazed it ru

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Porsche's fourth victory of the season in the 1000 kilometers, the sixth round of the World Constructors' Championship, held on Sunday, May 19, 1968, on the Nurburgring circuit: the German manufacturer, which had already won at Daytona, Sebring and the Targa Florio, places two of its cars in the top places, and can now consider itself almost certain winner of the title. Although there are still four races left to the conclusion of the championship they should in fact all be won by Ford to take the prestigious trophy away from Posche. At the Nurburgring, the new three-liter with the Elford-Siffert pair finished first at a record average of 152.950 km/h; second was the 2200 of Hermann-Strommelen at three minutes third was the Ford GT 40 of Ickx-Hawkins; fourth again was a Porsche 2200, driven by Neerpasch-Buzzetta. Then the Alfa Romeo 2000 of Galli-Giunti, confirming the promising talents of the Milanese car. The most immediate notation on the sporting level concerns Vic Elford, the British driver who has gained experience in rallies, and who probably thanks precisely to his training in this kind of competition has become one of the most interesting racers in wide-open speed races. This year, in addition to the Monte-Carlo Rally, Elford had already established himself with Porsche at Daytona and the Targa Florio.

 

At the Nurburgring he was the real star of the race: when he relieved Siffert, after a pit stop refueling that lasted longer than expected, he restarted in fourth position, more than a minute behind the outdistance driver, who at that moment was the Ford GT 40 of Ickx and Hawkins; but as already on the Madonie, the Englishman began an exciting chase, which ended on the eighteenth pass For the rest, the winning pair (Siffert won the fastest lap at over 161 km/h average) was excellently supported by the car, the three-liter one that had made its mediocre debut a month ago in the 1000 km of Monza, and which the engineers of the Stuttgart-based company quickly managed to fine-tune in an excellent way. The now tried-and-true 2200s performed as expected, that is, very regularly, as did the Alfa Romeo 33, which in addition to the fifth place of the talented Galli and Giunti and the seventh place of Schuetz-Bianchi (with the 2500 cc model), finished tenth with Schultze-Vaccarella. The Ford GT40s, which were less agile and maneuverable than the Porsches, fought very honorably, and the Ickx-Hawkins pair gave the German squadron no small amount of trouble, in which Ludovico Scarfiotti was unable to come to the fore, due to mechanical woes.  Meanwhile, The condition of Englishman Chris Irwin, who was very seriously injured on Friday during practice, remains worrisome.

 

Sunday, May 7, 1967, Monaco Grand Prix, lap 81: a red bolide emerges from the descent on the harbor, undulates through the chicane, as if crazed it rushes against the straw bales from the side of the sea, rears up, falls overturned crawling for about thirty meters on the asphalt, suddenly catches fire. It is Lorenzo Bandini's Ferrari, it is 5:07 p.m. It is the beginning of a tragedy that will end after three days of frightening agony with the death of the young Italian champion, and that will leave behind a long trail of bitter criticism, controversy, and bitter regrets. Some believed that Bandini's sacrifice would have decreed the end of the city circuit of Monaco, unanimously recognized by now as inadequate for the modern powerful This single-seater Formula 1 not so much for its planimetric configuration, glove for the narrow width of the roadway, for the raised sidewalks that flank it, for the stretch of quay along the marina, which even before last year's disaster had caused so many accidents, albeit without such dramatic consequences. Instead, everything is back to the way it was before, or almost. The organizers have arranged a few more straw bales, forbidden some short stretches to the public, moved the damned chicane forward, an efficient fire-fighting service is provided. The only really concrete measure is the reduction of the distance of the race from 314.500 to 251.600 kilometers, that is, 80 laps instead of 100: by the way, the Monegasque track imposes superhuman physical fatigue on the drivers, and as we have recalled, poor Lorenzo Bandini lost control of his car precisely on passage 81.Reservations and perplexities are certainly not dispelled, so much so that Ferrari decided to refrain from participating in the Grand Prix, at the cost of jeopardizing its drivers' chances in the World Championship, of which the Monegasque one is the second seasonal episode.

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On Sunday, May 26, 1968, therefore, Ferrari's two drivers, Amon and Ickx, will be absent, as well as Jackie Stewart, who has injured an arm; so the picture of the race's protagonists is qualitatively expired, as is its technical interest, although the debut in races valid for the World Championship of the new French Matra single-seater is awaited with interest. It's a bad time for competitive motor racing, but it goes on anyway; there are new names of cars and racers, such as the French Matra with its Beltoise and Serzov-Gavin, as well as Englishman Jackie Oliver, hired by the Lotus team. World Champion Denny Hulme will not rehearse during the first qualifying session, as he will be flying back to Indianapolis to try to qualify for the Indy 500 scheduled for Thursday, May 30, 1968; on Sunday he will be back in Monaco-if he can land in Nice, whose airport is paralyzed by the general strike in France-to participate in the Grand Prix. These are things that should be avoided or prevented, if one wants to give full meaning to that greater safety of racing that is desired by all. But unfortunately, this sport is also made up of such enormities. Their two car entry is therefore handed to Matra, entering Jean-Pierre Beltoise, and Dan Gurney in the Eagle-Weslake. Lotus-Ford Cosworth were arguably the most intriguing entries, as Graham Hill and Jackie Oliver arrived with their two new Lotus 49s. The two cars were officially the B-spec version of the car, featuring new winglets on the nose, and a sweeping spoiler on the back, designed to channel air around the oil cooler. Both cars were also given the new team colours of red, white and gold, as a new era of aerodynamics and team sponsorship began to dominate the world of Formula 1.

 

The other invitational entries were largely to be expected, and unmodified from the Spanish Grand Prix. Brabham-Repco were given two entries for Jack Brabham, using the newest car, and Jochen Rindt, while McLaren-Ford Cosworth had Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme accepted as their two entries in unmodified cars. B.R.M., Honda and Cooper-B.R.M. completed the invitational realm, although they were only guaranteed one starter each. The other entries would have to fight for six other grid slots, although there would be quite a lot of shuffling as driver lineups changed ahead of the weekend. Chris Irwin, for example, remained in hospital after a heavy crash at the Nürburgring, so Reg Parnell Racing decided to employ Richard Attwood once again, using the Englishman to partner Piers Courage. Yet, B.R.M. made a late attempt to poach Attwood, with an agreement reached between the teams, where Attwood joined the factory squad, while Tim Parnell got factory support to run Courage, much as they had done for Irwin through the second half of 1967. Another change was at Cooper-B.R.M., where Pedro Rodríguez was guaranteed a race start, while Brian Redman opted to honour his Ford commitments at the 1000 Kilometers of Spa. Lucien Bianchi therefore got another of his rare outings, as Ken Tyrrell entered Johnny Servoz-Gavin in the junior Matra International, for favoured driver Jackie Stewart remained sidelined with a broken wrist. Elsewhere, Jo Siffert would have his Rob Walker Racing Team Lotus 49, Jo Bonnier had the second oldest McLaren, the oldest being entered for Keith St. John, while Silvio Moser rounded out the field with his Brabham-Repco. 

 

David Hobbs was also entered with Bernard White Racing, although the car, as usual, never gave a hint of materialising. Hill had taken over control of the World Championship with his first victory in over a season in Jarama, taking over from the late Jim Clark who had dropped to second. Hulme was into third as the new McLaren-Ford Cosworth ignited his title defence, with Rindt slipping to fourth, level on points with Redman. The luckless Amon found himself level on points with Ludovico Scarfiotti and Beltoise, the latter rounding out the eight scorers. Lotus-Ford Cosworth were heading the charge in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, having scored maximum points at the first two rounds. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were up to second thanks to Hulme, whose work also left them ahead of his old employers Brabham-Repco. The defending Champions were tied on points with Cooper-B.R.M. and one ahead of Ferrari, with Matra-Ford Cosworth and McLaren-B.R.M. (the old McLaren factory car) rounding out the table. Practice would run over three days once again, with the Friday session being held at 8:00 am to appease local tradition rather than the locals themselves. The sessions on Thursday and Saturday were, in contrast, held in the afternoon lasting for two hours each, with differing conditions across all three. The modifications to the circuit, meanwhile, meant that the circuit record of 1'27"6, set by Jack Brabham on his way to pole in 1967, was not expected to be threatened, with most predicting the best times to fall around a second off of the Australian's mark. There was some confusion caused by the programme with regards to times, both in terms of records and session starts, but when the first practice session of the weekend opened on Thursday these issues were resolved. 

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On the circuit, meanwhile, it was the two Matras that set the ball rolling, Johnny Servoz-Gavin taking the Ford Cosworth engined car out for an early run, quickly joined by Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra-Matra. The circuit soon became flooded with the sound of Grand Prix engines as the entire field got out to complete at least an exploratory lap, with the two Matras rather stealing the show as Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin threw their cars around the narrow streets. Yet, the fast and furious start to the weekend in Monte Carlo could only last so long, and when Jo Siffert broke a driveshaft, it was problems, rather than times, that came thick and fast. John Surtees was an early casualty with a stripped crown-wheel, Ludovico Scarfiotti dropped a driveshaft in the Cooper-B.R.M., while Dan Gurney had to abandon the new Eagle-Weslake car after a spectacular engine session after only a handful of laps. Other teams such as McLaren and Matra were experimenting with bodywork, the latter running without a nose cowling at all for most of the session, leaving the updated Lotus 49 in the hands of Graham Hill to top the times, the Englishman ending the day with a 1'28"9, almost a second faster than his nearest challenger Jochen Rindt. The early start on Friday caused logistical issues for some teams, Gurney forced to sit out the session in its entirety as he awaited a new engine from England, while Brabham would only get a few late runs in after his parts arrived. Once again, a flurry of improved times was followed by a flurry of failures, with Jackie Oliver the latest to hit driveshaft trouble, the new Lotus racer having to walk back to the pits with the failed part in hand. Bruce McLaren, Siffert and Surtees had identical failures on their cars, all driveshaft related, a particular headache for Siffert who had just bested Hill's time from Friday.

 

Yet, time wise, the very end of the session would see several drivers managed to get a stronger time out of their cars, headlined by a stunning lap by Hill at the end of the session. The Englishman hustled his 49B round to record a 1'28"2, particularly impressive given that he had managed to hit a kerb with enough force to deform his left rear wheel rim. Servoz-Gavin also impressed, putting the test car through its paces to best Siffert's time by a fraction of a second, with Surtees finally got a trouble free run to leap in the 129"0. Sadly, the upward trend for the pace setters would not continue, for Saturday dawned with dark clouds and drizzle, while the track had gained a fair amount of oil after two Formula Three heats. For the most part, Saturday would be limited to simply testing out repairs, with Beltoise and Gurney both putting in a series of runs to test out their new engines. Servoz-Gavin, meanwhile, had his official entry changed so that he could run the test car, in which he had done his best times so that he could keep his second placed grid slot, while Surtees was left to abandon his car on the circuit for a third day in a row as he broke (surprisingly) a driveshaft. Suddenly, the relative calm on the circuit would be broken near the end of the session, when Lucien Bianchi finally put together a strong lap, despite the conditions, and got out of the relegation zone. The Belgian was just one of eight cars fighting for six qualifying spots, and his time was strong enough to get him ahead of Scarfiotti and Gurney, both automatic starters. Jo Bonnier and Silvio Moser duly scrambled out of the pits to try and qualify, and although the both bested the times of Scarfiotti and Gurney, neither made the cut.

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Raceday was a perfect day for racing on the Mediterranean coast, with blazing sunlight and a cloudless sky creating the most cliche sight of the season. French fans flocked to the circuit as news of a Frenchman on the front row spread across the city, prompting Louis Chiron, the de facto race director, to deliver the pre-race meeting in French. As there were only five drivers who spoke the language, there were quite a few puzzled faces among the sixteen starters, who would just assume it would be business as usual when the flag dropped to signal the start. One of the puzzled drivers proved to be pole sitter Graham Hill, who crept even so slightly forward as he saw the flag being prepared. Chiron immediately made the Englishman stop, just as the starter waved the French tricolour, allowing Johnny Servoz-Gavin to leap into the lead. Hill's reaction was instant although he was powerless to stop the Matra-Ford Cosworth from leading the field up the hill after Saint Devote, with Jo Siffert leading the rest through a huge cloud of dust kicked up by the leading duo. It was in the midst of the first lap dust bowl that the first casualties of the race, the action having really kicked off through the tunnel. Bruce McLaren found himself at the back of the leading pack as the field streamed into the semi-darkness, when his car suddenly slid sideways and threw itself into the barriers. The New Zealander was just winding down his crippled car when the chasing group came thundering past, and it was no surprise when the limping McLaren got collected by an unsighted Jackie Oliver. Both escaped without injury, although the McLaren and the Lotus would be out of action until the next race. The field was therefore down to fourteen cars at the end of the opening lap, and at the rate that Servoz-Gavin was already working his Matra, it looked as if that number would be further reduced. 

 

Indeed, after three laps in the Mediterranean sun, the race lead managed to clip the wall, break a driveshaft and ruin his race once the suspension failed too. As he came to a disappointed halt in the pits, Piers Courage rejoined the action after stopping with a brake issue, Ludovico Scarfiotti having been the other early stopper with a gearbox issue. With Servoz-Gavin out of the way Hill duly inherited the lead, and one that he would steadily grow with assistance from the older Lotus 49 in the hands of Siffert. The Swiss racer was pushing the Englishman on to escape the clutches of John Surtees in the Honda, who was now getting harassment from Jochen Rindt, Richard Attwood and Pedro Rodríguez. Just behind the first group came Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra, followed by Jack Brabham, with Dan Gurney and Denny Hulme keeping them occupied, well ahead of the early stragglers. For several laps the leaders simply followed one another, although that relative peace would only last so long. As it happened the changes came thick and fast after lap seven, when Brabham stopped at the Station with suspension failure. A lap later and it was Gurney's turn to drop, the American's engine getting rougher and rougher, prompting him to retire the car, collect his starting money, before getting himself psyched up for the Indy 500. Back with Brabham, and his car was causing havoc on the side of the road, denying Rindt the chance to dive down the outside of Surtees for third. The Austrian's charge continued, however, and when the pair came through Casino Square a lap later everything looked set for the Brabham-Repco to snatch third place. Surtees, however, did everything he could to defend the position, forcing Rindt onto the dusty side of the track, throwing up another cloud of dust.

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In the midst of the cloud he was creating, the Austrian, speared himself into the barrier after locking up the rear wheels, leaving him with a severely bent Brabham, just a few yards up the road from the collapsed car of the gaffer. The casualties were piling up already, and after just ten laps there were only ten cars left in the order, although this was to be a footnote. On lap eleven Siffert suffered a rather harsh transmission failure while keeping Hill honest, with the Swiss driver limping in to retire, just as the third of the French speaking contingent found a kerb. It was Beltoise in the previously healthy Matra engined Matra, with the Frenchman's slide into the kerb at Massanet to bend the front right suspension. A lap after Beltoise went out, Courage decided that his original brake issue, combined with an all new handling issue, was enough to force him to call time on his race. A brief hiatus allowed the seven remaining cars to be accounted for, just before Pedro Rodríguez made a mistake while chasing after Surtees, the Mexican slamming into the barriers at Mirabeau to end a promising race. Patience, as it turned out, would have been the better choice, as Surtees dropped out at the end of the lap when his gearbox imploded to leave just five healthy cars after sixteen laps. The remaining quintet settled into a steady rhythm, with Lotus making sure that Hill knew exactly where his rivals were, or at least those who he had not seen climbing out of ruined machinery. Richard Attwood was his only active threat, with the B.R.M. racer pushing on to try and force Hill into a mistake. 

 

The Englishman, however, was driving with the intelligence of a former World Champion, simply pacing himself against the charging BRM as his Lotus was untested in terms of the suspension setup, and its combination with the new aero. The race was a rather drab affair come half distance, with Hulme looking vulnerable to being lapped, with Lucien Bianchi and Scarfiotti already two laps down in the painfully slow Cooper-B.R.M.s. The only incident of note at that point would be caused by the man running last, when Scarfiotti slithered into the chicane and smashed a wheel, although the Italian was able to limp back to the pits for a change. Hulme, meanwhile, would have to stop to have a driveshaft replaced, the delay allowing the two Coopers to scamper up the road, while the New Zealander suddenly came under threat from not reaching the minimum race distance. The final laps saw McLaren urge Hulme to up his pace, the orange car providing ample entertainment on his own as he drifted through every corner. Hill and Attwood were only a few seconds up the road, and if the New Zealander fell another lap down he would not score any points at all, despite finishing. On the final lap Hill eased off having just pulled within sight of the orange car, deciding that his six second margin would be enough to keep Attwood at bay. Indeed, the Englishman's impeccable judgement proved correct, as he duly swept home a lap later to take a record fourth win around the Principality. It was a close run thing however, as Attwood recorded a new lap record of 1'28"1 on the final lap to close the gap to a little over two seconds. 

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He would be one of two maiden podium finishers, as Bianchi beat Scarfiotti to the podium in the off pace Cooper battle, while Hulme collected two points for finishing fifth, before joining a number of his colleagues to board a plane to the United States. A second consecutive victory, combined with a second place at the season opener, left Graham Hill with a daunting advantage at the top of the World Championship standings, the Englishman leaving Monte Carlo with a fourteen point lead. Denny Hulme proved to be the closest challenger, and the only other man in double figures for the season, just a point ahead of the late Jim Clark. Ludovico Scarfiotti found himself in fifth, tied on points with fourth placed Richard Attwood, while Lucien Bianchi found himself tied with fellow third placed finishers Jochen Rindt and Brian Redman. It had been, points-wise, a perfect start to the season for Lotus-Ford Cosworth, with three wins out of three starts to lead the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers. Cooper-B.R.M. and McLaren-Ford Cosworth were level on eight points, the New Zealand backed effort ahead through Hulme's second place earlier in the season, with the pair of them already nineteen points off of the Norfolk squad. B.R.M. found themselves ahead of Brabham-Repco, while Ferrari were level with new comers Matra-Ford Cosworth outside of the top five. 

 

Englishman Graham Hill in a Lotus scored a frank victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, the third round of the World Championship, held at the Monte-Carlo circuit. It was an even monotonous race, dominated by the solid driver that is Hill, the only one, in twenty-six editions of this race, to have won four times, and characterized by impressive selection. Only five cars, of the sixteen starts, completed the race. The gradual elimination was brought about by a series of mechanical failures, but also by accidents fortunately without serious consequences, which affected Oliver and McLaren (lap 1), who collided at the beginning of the usual chicane; Rindt, on lap 8, crashed into a guardrail on the descent to the train station. His B.R.M. had a wheel come off, and a shattered piece of the hood struck a firefighter, injuring him slightly in the head. Finally Pedro Rodriguez, in turn ended up inside the protective barrier at the same spot, losing his two front wheels. Ludovico Scarfìotti - the only Italian driver in the race - also crashed with the right front wheel of his Cooper against a variant shelter, but he was able to continue racing and after having the wheel itself replaced at his box he resumed the race, finishing fourth. Graham Hill, in great form now that he no longer has the complex of the great Jim Clark, became the stalwart of Lotus. Starting on the front row but caught up in the turmoil of the start, Hill had to settle for following Servoz-Gavin. The young French Matra driver, amid ovations from the crowd, took off like a fury, staying in the lead for four laps, then a broken transmission coupling stopped him. From that moment, and that is for the remaining 76 laps, Graham Hill led the race, at first tailed by a few meters by Siffert (Lotus), Surtees (Honda) and Attwood (B.R.M.). 

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But between the tenth and fifteenth passes, of this small group of pursuers only Attivood remained in contention, whose highly efficient B.R.M. enabled him to hold up the very fast pace set by Hill. This duel, which lasted practically to the end, was the only reason to keep interest high, although no one could have had any doubt that the class and experience of the Lotus racer and the perfect performance of the latter (present in the new version with a wedge bodywork for aerodynamic reasons) would get the better of the tenacity of the no longer very young Richard Attwood. However, Hill could not afford the slightest distraction, which explains the progression in lap time improvement by Hill himself: 1'29"7 on lap 26, 1'29"4 on lap 31, 1'28"9 on lap 46. But it was Attwood himself who won the best overall performance, with four laps to go, with a time of 1'28"1, corresponding to an average 128.513 km/h, setting a new circuit record by the way. The relentless selection, which showed a certain limit to the tightness of the Formula 1 single-seaters, brought to the sparse field of finishers - apart from the first two - drivers who, while not shining, relied on the regularity of the running: in third place was Belgian Lucien Bianchi, in a Cooper; in fourth was the good Ludovico Scarfìotti, also in a Cooper, who showed good underfoot skills in his debut on this circuit; and in fifth and last was World Champion Denny Hulme, who had had to stop more than seven minutes in the pits to have an axle shaft replaced on his McLaren. Hulme arrived directly from Indianapolis after noon, not even three hours before the start of the Grand Prix. Last Thursday and Friday he had been in Monte-Carlo for Grand Prix practice, then he had flown across the Atlantic and on Saturday had made his final qualifying runs at the famous American track for the Indy 500, scheduled for Thursday, May 30, 1968. Hulme looked very fresh before the race, and he recounted that reports of his alleged crash at Indianapolis were unfounded: 

 

"I slowed down suddenly because I felt there was something wrong with the engine, and a fellow driver following me went wide, in a perfectly normal maneuver. I qualified and will be back at Indy tomorrow to complete my race preparation".

 

Also in Indianapolis will be Graham Hill, at the wheel of a mighty turbine-powered Lotus. After the race, the driver most surrounded by journalists was not the very good winner at Monte-Carlo, but Denny Hulme, the protagonist in recent days of a tour de force perhaps admirable from a sporting point of view, but certainly not to be approved of on a human level, now that measures intended to improve the safety of auto racing are being advocated. Truly an extraordinary physical form, but one wonders if it is permissible for the sporting powers to allow such situations. The great Fangio had the only serious accident of his long racing career, at Monza, precisely because he wanted to cope with the commitments of two races, one in England and the other in Italy, within forty-eight hours. However, on Thursday, May 30, 1968, American Bobby Unser, at the wheel of a supercharged 2800 cc Eagle-Offenhauser, won the Indy 500, achieving a new average-record of 244.620 km/h; in second place was Dan Gurney in an Eagle-Ford. The highly favored turbine-powered cars of Leonard, Pollard and Graham Hill literally collapsed after always remaining in the leading positions: the first two with about forty kilometers to go, the Lotus of the British ace losing its left rear wheel after 370 kilometers of the race: a spectacular accident that resolved itself - fortunately without consequences for the driver - against the outside wall of the straight opposite the grandstands.

 

The car of Al Unser, brother of the winner, also suffered the same fate: his left front wheel sheared off on the first lap, and after a series of frightening spins it came to a halt just a palm away from the safety net. These were the only accidents in a race that has seen far more dramatic editions in the past. The selection, moreover, was extremely tough because of the numerous mechanical mishaps that took out of the race, among others, Italian-American Mario Andretti, who can't seem to get lucky in the Indy 500, and Austrian Jochen Rindt, a well-known driver of Formula 1 cars. Bob Unser, who in qualifying had posted the third fastest time and started on the front row, had a magnificent run: first after 100 miles of racing, second after 200 miles, first again at 300 miles, never allowing himself to be surprised by the slightly faster (but less ready to accelerate) cars powered by Pratt c5r Whitney aviation turbos. His average, which was nearly 253 mph at mid-race, was eventually 1.3 mph higher than that set last year by Foyt. Also good was the performance of Hulme, the Australian Formula 1 World Champion, who set his race on regularity, taking a good fourth place.

 

Nicoletta Zuppardo

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