Eugenio Castellotti, a comet in the presence of Enzo Ferrari



Eugenio Castellotti was born in Lodi on October 10, 1930, at 7:25 pm. Coming from a family of wealthy landowners, Eugenio is not immediately recognized by his father: it will take nine years for the simple country boy, at Cascina Comella, to become a Castellotti. Until then, the young man will use his mother's name, Angela Virginia.


Eugenio became passionate about cars thanks to his father, the lawyer Francesco Castellotti, who, however, does not look kindly on his son's interest in car racing. The passion for cars is high, to the point that Eugenio promptly decides to ask his uncle to take him to the sea in Savona, not yet seventeen, to be able to drive cars, and three days after turning eighteen he already has a driving license, having attended courses with a few months in advance.


The death of his father, which occurred towards the end of November 1949, gives Eugenio the opportunity to acquire the entire family fortune, and to start his career as a driver after having bought a Ferrari 166 MM. With this car the driver from Lodi took part in various events in the following years, where he obtained a sixth place in the 1951 Mille Miglia, after making his debut in the Giro di Sicilia paired with Pino Rota. For the country boy, who has now become a rich hereditary, life goes on normally in Piazza della Vittoria, in Lodi, albeit with some privileges, as his press will have to write:


"Castellotti represents the young Italian from the provinces: rich and handsome, for whom glory translates into hundreds of ties and a feverish quest for victory".


After having competed in the Tuscan Cup, the Golden Cup of the Dolomites and the Giro della Calabria, which ended in third place in the class, in 1952 Eugenio made his debut in the Formula 2 Championship, and obtained the class triumphs in the Giro di Sicily, and in the Coppa d'Oro on the Syracuse circuit with a Ferrari 2800.


He will be confirmed again in the Senigallia circuit and at the Portuguese Grand Prix for sports cars, while in Monaco he will be second. At the Monza Grand Prix he meets Alberto Ascari; in short, this meeting will turn into a real friendship between the two. During the year Castellotti again participated in the Mille Miglia, finishing second: this result earned him the call of Lancia for the dispute of minor races, and the Carrera Panamericana in November 1953.


In South America Eugenio finishes third behind the idol Juan Manuel Fangio and Piero Taruffi, both of his team mates. In the same year he won the Italian mountain championship in the Sport category.


Given his excellent results, his friend Alberto Ascari gets him a contract with Lancia to make his debut in Formula 1 the following year. The design and development of the D50, however, proved to be more difficult than expected, and the debut was postponed to 1955.


The wait is not in vain and Eugenio, after his debut in Argentina, where the heat crushes him and forces him to sell the car to Villoresi, gets an excellent second place in Monaco. Four days after the Monte Carlo accident, Ascari receives a phone call from friends Luigi Villoresi and Eugenio Castellotti, who warn him that at Monza they would try a Ferrari 750 Sport for the next Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix. What will go through Alberto Ascari's mind from this moment on is unclear. On the morning of May 26, 1955, he says to his wife:


"I have to put my nerves in order, but for this very reason I have to free my nervous system from any residual fear".


But he reassures her that he won't try. Actually, Alberto really has no intention of trying, since he does not bring with him the suit, nor the gloves, nor the helmet that he always wears as an amulet and that he does not let anyone touch, not even his wife. After that he leaves for Monza, where he joins friends Luigi Villoresi and Eugenio Castellotti, arriving however at the end of the practice session. Two minutes before starting his tragic last race, Alberto Ascari tells his wife:


"I do two laps, then I'm at breakfast".


It must have been the acrid smell of gasoline and burnt oils, that intoxicating atmosphere that invades the tracks and ignites the blood that made him forget, he is so superstitious, some rules he had always obeyed until today Alberto Ascari, who since started to fork a motorcycle and then drive a car, he never completed the tests, nor had he participated in races that coincided with the 26th day of the month.


This is because on that day, in July 1921, his father Antonio Ascari lost his life in a car accident during the Monthléry circuit in France. He had never got behind the wheel of a racing car without his overalls, he had never put his foot on the accelerator without his helmet-amulet on his head. The table is ready, mother and children wait a long time, but Ciccio does not arrive.


It was just 12:30 pm when Castellotti stopped his Ferrari 3000 on which he made numerous test laps. The car has responded excellently to all the driver's requests and appears perfectly fine in every device. Ascari talks a little with Castellotti, then suddenly says to him:


"After the blow on Sunday I have to do a few laps: two, three, we'll see, and let's go to breakfast".


He insistently repeats Alberto to Count Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi, to Villoresi and to Castellotti, who ask him if he is really well, if he does not mind the broken nose and the sore back.


"You can maybe do it tomorrow, you have plenty of time, listen to us".


Friends suggest him while he starts the engine. But, in the roar of the car, Alberto, smiling, shouts:


"But Nuvolari also ran with a plaster bust, if you remember".


With a broken nose and a bruised back, Alberto seems to have by now given up on racing the Monza Mille Kilometer, a race for sports cars in which he intended to participate with a car other than the Lancia on which he was used to racing. Instead he starts the laps to test right on day 26. Alberto is not wearing the suit but borrows his helmet from his friend and disciple Castellotti.


The young driver certainly does not think the worst; in front of a runner like Ascari everyone bows. He takes off his helmet and hands it to her. Then she helps him settle into the small seat.


Who knows, perhaps Ascari wants, with this sum of contradictions, to challenge the bad luck that for some time he believed had haunted him, but he does not take into account his impaired physical condition after the Monte Carlo accident.


Alberto starts fast, runs the first lap in 8'8 "at an average of 177 kilometers. In the second lap he forces his pace but no sign of weakness shines through from the man or the engine. The average rises to 187 km, a negligible speed Ascari: At that hour the track is deserted, the other riders have stopped practice and are at the bar freshening up.

On the asphalt ring, Alberto Ascari is alone. At the middle of the third lap, exiting the Serraglio curve, on the external part of the track, almost in front of the central stands, the tragedy occurs.


Some workers of the Luca shipyard, who work a hundred meters from the place where the tragedy takes place, hear only a crash and run. Alberto Ascari is on the edge of the track, lifeless, with the car a little further away, still shaken by the vibrating engine.


Faced with this image, the workers decide to climb over the barbed wire fence and run to the bar to warn the racers and managers of the racetrack: Villoresi and Castellotti are launched, followed by some technicians. Once on the spot, Alberto is lifted and transported to the Monza hospital. However, there is no longer any hope.


For Eugenio, seeing his friend lying on the ground is already traumatizing in itself; seeing him with his helmet is even more impressive. Precisely from Ascari he will inherit a series of superstitions and customs that will follow him in his career, such as having to put on the right shoe first, cleaning the glasses carried out only by his friend Glauco, not giving tips to mechanics because - as Alberto says - it's something for Sunday drivers, and a gold plate that he will put on the dashboard with the image of Mother Cabrini, patron saint of Sant'Angelo Lodi: a gift that will be given to him by his friends after the victory of the Mille Miglia.


That same evening, Eugenio returns to Lodi, picks up Glauco Fiocchi, the friend he always takes with him to European races, and heads towards Piazza della Vittoria, where at midnight he decides to run for a whole minute at full speed, under the surrounding arcades.


"I'll keep running for him, in his name. There must be someone to continue what he left behind".


He declares Castellotti, who will not play the Supercortemaggiore. Among other things, the disappearance of Ascari during an accident in a test in Monza on a Ferrari 750, led the Turin manufacturer to leave the Formula 1 World Championship prematurely, despite the fact that the car promised excellent results.


However, the Lodi was allowed by Gianni Lancia to race at the Belgian Grand Prix with a Lancia D50, on the occasion of which he obtained his first and only pole position in his career, inflicting a half second gap even to a champion of the caliber of Juan Manuel Fangio:


"And after ten minutes he was shaking in the box".


Paul Frère, journalist and Formula 1 driver, writes. He will then be forced to retire during the race, due to the breaking of the differential. After the Belgian race, Castellotti lands in Ferrari and disputes the remaining seasonal races.


Eugenio obtained the fifth place in the Netherlands and a sixth in Great Britain, while for the Monza race Ferrari fielded the Lancia D50s given to him by Gianni Lancia for the first time, which did not take long to suffer from some problems during the day of testing.


Eugenio, in order to race with the most powerful Turin single-seaters, declares to Enzo Ferrari that he wants to sign a discharge of responsibility against him, a will that is denied him. Also because, on the horizon, the rivalry with Luigi Musso was emerging. In the race he still comes third behind Fangio and Taruffi, closing the season in the same position in the world championship standings with 12 points.


For the Lodi driver, 1956 should be the year of the turning point, given that Mercedes retires from competitions, and the D50s donated to Ferrari are acquiring the reliability they need. Instead, Fangio arrives in Maranello, the only true leader among the drivers in the team, and especially Luigi Musso.


Understanding Lodi's troubles, but above all appreciating his skills, Fangio asked Ferrari to run both the Buenos Aires Thousand Kilometers and the 12 Hours of Sebring together with him.


For Eugenio, 1956 was a year of double commitment: in fact, in addition to racing in Formula 1, he also participated in races dedicated to sports cars, where he obtained a second place with Fangio at the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring, and two victories, one of which respectively at the 12 Hours of Sebring and one at the Mille Miglia with bad weather conditions, which is why the Automobile Club decides to thank him with Lodi wallpaper posters:


"To our Italian champion, who dominating the fury of elements and adversities of all kinds with his iron will and his youthful ardor planted the banner of Lodi Sport on a famous peak next to the Flag of Italy, we publicly express our enthusiasm and our gratitude".


On May 5, 1956, Eugenio returns to driving a Grand Prix car, to participate in the Naples Grand Prix, not valid for the purposes of the Formula 1 World Championship. But when he arrives in the city of Campania, he discovers that his car has a problem with the front suspension and lubrication system. Castellotti manages to complete the qualifying tests with Musso's car, but for the race his car is irreparable, both due to the short time available and the lack of spare parts:


"Give me Musso's car, after all the public expects to see me win, the winner of the Mille Miglia".


But Musso doesn't want to know. Therefore, to resolve the dispute between the two Italian drivers, Amorotti tosses a coin, which decides that the car remains with Luigi. Eugenio will stop on the third lap of the race.


The season in Formula 1, on the other hand, sees him fourth in Monaco, after having recovered the car abandoned by Fangio halfway through the race, while in the French Grand Prix, when he is in command of the race, the team order is imposed by him from sporting director Eraldo Sculati, who requires him to pass Peter Collins as he was better placed in the general classification, having to settle for second place, just three tenths of a second behind his teammate. At the end of the race, Castellotti is furious:


"I don't want to race anymore, if that's the way I have to do it".


He confesses to Fangio, who replies:


"I'm with you: if Castellotti doesn't race for Ferrari anymore, neither does Fangio race for Ferrari".


Having created a lot of chatter about the incident, in defense of Sculati's choices, on Paese sera, the newspaper from which the Ferrari sports director comes, will be written, two days later:


"In the first two positions, Collins and Castellotti, always very fast, gave the impression that they did not agree very much on who should win the race, even though they were teammates from the same house. The order from the pits indicating that Collins was the winner was interpreted in various ways, and some have judged it not strictly sporty. However, it must be considered that a car manufacturer with limited availability cannot jeopardize a victory already acquired by leaving two young men of the class of Collins and Castellotti free to compete in the race in the last laps, with the probability for both of them to go astray, risking, among other things, their safety".


It should also be emphasized that Ferrari's son Dino had recently passed away and that Peter Collins had entered the manufacturer's family, both because he was a close friend of the young engineer and because of his affinity with his father. This too had led to the decision to let Collins win. Not surprisingly, Collins, Castellotti, Fangio, Portago Hawthorn and Gendebien wear the black band on their left arm as a sign of mourning for Ferrari.


In the following days, Eugenio heads to Maranello, to talk to Ferrari, but finding him in difficulty due to the death of his son, he is moved and goes back in his footsteps, deciding to continue racing for Ferrari. Castellotti is convinced that Ferrari considers him a son, having also spent a lot of time with Dino, during the last days of his life.


In addition, Ferrari invites Castellotti to participate in the race for sports cars that would be held in Rouen: Eugenio accepts the invitation, and wins. At the finish, the journalists ask the driver from Lodi how the dispute with Collins was resolved:


"The rivalry between two true sportsmen ended as it must end: we respect each other, we admire each other, we exchange courtesies, then whoever has to win wins, that is, who deserves more".


Then comes the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza. Ferrari is sure that the title will go to one of its drivers, so let Castellotti and Musso go free. Fangio, who just needs to finish third to win the championship, tells the two:


"I am here to win the title, not the race. One of you will win the race: for me it is enough to finish third and win the World Championship. If you are calm at the beginning, behind me, I will lead the race and ten laps. from the end I will give you the go-ahead".


Eugenio agrees, Luigi does not. Therefore, the two start with the idea of ​​having to confront each other from the beginning. Musso starts in the lead, but Castellotti passes him. The fight is so close that the two are already forced to return to the pits on the fifth lap with the left rear tire dechaped due to the vibrations that are created in the raised ring.


Back in the race, Castellotti was forced to retire on lap nine because at the exit of the South Curve, the ring at high speed, the left rear tire bursts. The car with Eugenio on board is lost in two spins, then stops close to the entrance to the pits. The driver from Lodi comes out white in the face, amid the applause of the public who, despite everything, loudly support him.


"The race was set incorrectly by Musso, who started like lightning. Wasn't it better to have a waiting race and then play everything in the last five or ten laps? I thought so, but since Musso was leaving I had to show do not stay behind him. Anyway, in the end it is always me who pays".


Eugenio will comment at the end of the race. The championship ends with a sixth-place finish and 7.5 points scored. In 1957 should be his season, but there is fierce competition for the red seats. Contending for a place are Castellotti, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn, Alfonso De Portago and Luigi Musso. And it will be above all with the Italian that the challenge will continue to feed. Both Italian Champions in 1953, one title each between 1954 and 1955, the two are at the antipodes: impetuous Eugenio, precise Luigi.


And so, on September 30, 1956, in Imola, on the occasion of the Schell Grand Prix, with the same car, an Osca 1500, Eugenio wins. But Luigi goes back to Castelfusano, on October 21, 1956, on the occasion of the Rome Grand Prix, where he triumphs also taking advantage of the retirement of the Lodi driver.


"Last year I wanted to win the Mille Miglia and I succeeded, this year I have to take the world title".


Eugenio declares that with Fangio's departure from the team he believes he will finally have the chance to win the Formula 1 World Championship. But not everything will go as planned. First of all, the Lodi has recently met Delia Scala, but her mother is not inclined to accept her in her life, and she pushes Eugenio to prefer staying in a hotel rather than going home. Meanwhile, Ferrari has written in the yearbook:


"Generous and daring, he makes up for his youthful experience in the Formula 1 Grand Prix with a great fighter's heart. When this gap is filled, beating Eugenio Castellotti will be the most sought-after destination for the most celebrated drivers".


Ferrari is known for its willingness to raise the tension among its drivers by getting the best out of them. After reading these lines, Eugenio sees what is written for his rival Luigi Musso, and is convinced that the Modenese builder prefers the latter. For this reason he decides to go to Rome, to clarify his position with Luigi: at the end of the meeting, the Lodi is much more serene.


However, 1957 does not start in the best way. Greeted at the airport by Delia, Eugenio flies to Argentina, where he meets his friend Fangio together with Portago and Hawthorn. Then, on January 13th, he disputes the Argentine Grand Prix.


On board the Ferrari 801 the season was inaugurated with a disappointing retirement, after he had been leading the race for a few laps, only to be delayed due to problems with the carburetion of the engine, until the final abandonment due to the breakage of a spindle of the left rear wheel. The Argentine Temporada will not get better. In the first heat he leads until the tenth lap, until he is forced to be overtaken by Fangio and Behra. He finishes third.


In the second heat he is again in the lead, but on the second lap he ends up spinning. For the sum of the results, Eugenio finishes behind Fangio, Behra, Collins and Hawthorn.


"Castellotti once again let himself be carried away by his instinctive, combative, admirable but ultimately unprofitable character. He must impose a brake on his exuberance".


The Gazzetta dello Sport writes, to which Eugenio replies on his return from Buenos Aires:


"In the second heat of the Buenos Aires Grand Prix I did not go off the road as everyone published. Due to the new tires the car did not have the grip necessary for a demanding chase. Behra had only fifteen seconds of advantage, and forcing I spun".


On February 25th Eugenio would have the opportunity to redeem himself: by participating in a race for sports cars, at first he starts badly and is forced to chase, then in the last stint he breaks the engine.


Back in Italy, on Sunday March 10, 1957, Ferrari summons Castellotti to Modena to carry out tests. The pilot from Lodi shows up with Delia Scala at 12:30 pm, coming from Florence.


"The machine is fine: it should be possible to do something good".


Bellentani says to Castellotti. In the pits there is also Perdisa, who, like Eugenio, runs fast, setting a time of 1'2"1, under the watchful eye of Enzo Ferrari, leaning against the pit wall, silent. Then Castellotti sets the new record time, 59"8, and when he gets out of the car Perdisa claps him on the shoulder to congratulate him. After the tests, Eugenio and Delia return to Florence.


On Tuesday March 12, 1957, Castellotti returns to his eight-cylinder Ferrari, but he is listless. On the same day, Jean Behra, with a twelve-cylinder Maserati, set the new circuit record. This is a factor that the following day is even reported in the Gazzetta dello Sport, in the Notes Modenesi section.


"Eugenio Castellotti and Jean Behra put on a show yesterday at the Modena airfield. A great feat was accomplished by the French, official Maserati driver, who, driving the brand new twelve-cylinder Formula 1, set a new record on the Modena track by turning in 59"6. The previous record belonged to Castellotti, who had lapped two tenths more on the eight-cylinder Ferrari single-seater the day before yesterday".


This setback by Maserati does not go unnoticed by Ferrari, who again summons Eugenio to Modena to carry out a further test:


"The Commendatore is waiting for you tomorrow at the racetrack to test the car for Monte Carlo".


Eugenio, in reality, is called by Enzo Ferrari to beat the lap record set by the fast French driver Jean Behra with the Maserati. After Ferrari's Argentine debacle, nothing else is being talked about in Modena.


The Lodi arrives from Florence on Thursday 14 March 1957, despite having slept little, having fallen asleep at 4:00 am in the morning and having left by train at 8:30 am with Delia's brother, Giorgio Scala, and immediately starts driving after having arrived in Modena at 11:00 am and having driven his Lancia Aurelia parked outside the station, to the aerodrome.


The night before, Eugenio had gone out with Delia after her show was over. But strange things happened, for a superstitious driver like Castellotti: the taxi has the number thirteen, at the table they pour oil and salt, the moon is almost full and it is March 13th. But perhaps more importantly, after having dinner, the two go to a place to have a drink. A quarrel arises between them, when Eugenio discovers that Delia will go to the USA to shoot a film, and on the morning of March 14th he was supposed to meet Sabbatini for a breakfast.


"Why, we have to get married and you are going to talk about a film to make in America?"


Eugenio exclaims.


"So what about you? Didn't you promise me you'd stop? First you said in Cuba. Then you said in Sebring. Now go try the car to Monte Carlo. See? I do just what you do".


In the morning, before leaving by taxi towards the station, around 8:30 am Eugenio greets Delia, who sees her boyfriend wave a smiling hand from the window of her mother's hotel room, before sending her a kiss on the tips of her legs. fingers. Once in Modena, Castellotti goes to Maranello, but Ferrari is not present. The driver from Lodi leaves a folder with an envelope for the administration, then goes to the workshop, where the preparation of the car that he will drive in the afternoon is being completed.


"Oh, Eugenio, how are you?"


Seligardi, one of the mechanics, asks him.


"I had a comfortable night".


Castellotti answers, asking how long it takes for the car to be ready. Selligardi replies that it is almost over, and that rehearsals will begin at around 4:00 pm. Therefore, Eugenio and Giorgio leave for the Modena airfield, where at 12:30 pm the driver from Lodi meets Nello Ugolini, now the sporting director of Maserati, and has lunch with him. Shortly before, around 12:00 am, Eugenio had called Delia, and had confessed to her:

"If I meet Ferrari I tell him this is the last time".


After lunch, the driver from Lodi and Giorgio Scala go to the hotel to try to rest in view of the tests. But if Giorgio cleverly manages to sleep, Eugenio struggles and thinks back to the discussion with Delia, whom he calls back at 4:00 pm.


"Guess who I'm sleeping with? With your brother. I'm going now, don't worry, I'll be over soon. See you tonight."


The driver from Lodi goes back to the circuit at 4:20 pm, but does not find the Ferrari truck that will arrive later, as he has to take advantage of the fact that the drivers are free to set up the cars in view of the Syracuse Grand Prix, and after the Monaco Grand Prix, given that shortly thereafter both the drivers and the technicians will have to leave for the United States, where the 12 Hours of Sebring will be held, in which the Modena manufacturers will officially participate in full force.


While waiting for the mechanics to unload the car from the truck, Eugenio lights a cigarette. Ferrari is not yet present, and it is good for the driver from Lodi, who intends to tell the manufacturer of his will to stop and retire from racing.


"What have you got Eugenio?"


Cassani asks.


"I went to bed late, I have some troubles in the family".


But Cassani countered:


"You can't be a runner without sleeping at night".


Eugenio immediately replies:


"And what do I have to do?"


A moment of silence follows, then the driver from Lodi asks what they would have felt:


"The usual car".


Martino Severi begins, under the watchful eyes of Massimino, Amorotti, Bellentani, the Ferrari mechanics, and of Behra, who arrived on purpose to see Eugenio's tests, who takes the place of the test driver and makes a couple of laps under the watchful eye Ferrari, who in the meantime arrived at the circuit with the Gazzetta dello Sport in his jacket pocket, open on the page relating to the circuit record recorded by Maserati.

Upon returning to the pits, Eugenio does not have the courage to talk to Ferrari about his intention to retire from racing, to marry Delia. At 4:45 pm he starts again, completes three laps, has the tire pressure checked, then he starts again and completes another five laps. The car is well tuned, so the mechanics don't understand why Eugenio stops in the pits and asks to unload the front torsion bar. Then he makes two more laps, and stops again.


"Let's let the brakes cool down, then I'll get back up".


Meanwhile, Jean Behra approaches, who with his inseparable black poodle tells him:


"So Eugenio, how are you doing? Slippery track today, huh?"


Indeed it is true, the track is slippery, but Castellotti replies:


"You can do better than the day before yesterday, Jean".


And Behra replies:


"May the best win, Eugenio".


Then Eugenio puts his helmet back on, and at 5:09 pm he returns to the track, while Behra goes to esse Stanguellini, to follow the tests. The first lap is done in a clear minute despite the standing start and the new track record is already expected. He tries again in the following minutes, but he can't lower the time: 1'4"8, 1'1"1, 1'0"4, 1'1, 1'0"8, 1'0"7.


He is discontinuous and spins right at Stanguellini, ending up against the curb.

Then, the driver from Lodi reaches about seventy meters from the mouth of the Stanguellini curve at over 190 km/h and inexplicably does not change gear. At the edge of the track, near the fence, there is a short rounded rise, painted in black and white horizontal stripes to mark the limit.


It is 5:18 pm when the low nose of the Ferrari touches the rise and the car stands up, then skids forward, flies over a hedge, hits the concrete fence - forty-five centimeters high - destroying it, and flying over a net in iron wire two meters high, beyond which the public is normally present.


Then, continuing its crazy flight, the car jumps over the two concrete palisades, finally crashing into the middle of the covered tribune of the Circolo della Biella, reserved for the public. On the grandstand there are two spectators, who entered clandestinely by climbing over the boundary wall.


Two engaged couples, who have only been up for a few seconds, turn around in fear; the car crashes within two meters of them, leaving them unharmed. Castellotti, meanwhile, was already thrown out of the car at the moment of the collision against the first fence and was catapulted to the ground. In the dynamic he loses a shoe, which remained inside the car, as happened to Alberto Ascari, the glasses and the helmet.


Jean Behra, who is about forty meters away, and who had brought himself close to the variant to study how Castellotti faced the first semi-curve, rushes to the accident site together with Enzo Ferrari, the technicians and the mechanics. They immediately load the unfortunate driver into the ambulance, while Cassani checks the gearbox, the first thing he looks at along with the steering and brakes, and discovers that the third is engaged. Four minutes after the accident, at 5:22 pm Eugenio expires inside the ambulance that is taking him to the hospital. Enzo Ferrari, who until a few moments before was in the pits, will declare shortly after:


"I saw him face the curve with the usual confidence, then I distinguished only a large white cloud and, in the midst of the dust, I saw the car rise up, flip over and disappear beyond the fence. Coming out of the curve, the racing car seemed going mad, as if he no longer responded to commands".


While Jean Behra, the person closest to the crash site, will declare:


"I don't know how the drama happened. Eugenio knew that curve as much as I do, we had tried it hundreds and hundreds of times. Only in the last few days we had been riding here on the track, for hours and hours. I realized that something was wrong. as soon as I saw him enter the curve. I had not heard the noise of the shifting. I thought that Eugenio wanted to show me one of his feats. Both he and I know that changing ten meters later in that curve means saving many seconds on the final time and Castellotti today wanted to lower the record average. Then I realized that he would not make it anymore. I felt the engine rev up, then resume normally. I believe that, realizing that it was too late to put his hand to the gearbox, Castelloni tried to approach the curve in direct drive. He did not even brake, in fact. But the speed was too much and the car did not respond to the steering, it pulled straight, touched the bump at the edge of the track, then rolled over".


Courses in the hospital, Enzo Ferrari will inform Eugenio's mother at 5.30 pm, asking her to reach Modena, telling her only that the driver was in serious condition. After that he will stay for over three hours sitting on a low bench, with his face in his hands, incapable of a gesture, of a single word. Attilio Pasquarelli, the man who perhaps most closely witnessed the rapid establishment of the young Lodi, welcomes the tragic news with shining eyes:


"Eugenio Castellotti came to us young in body and very young in spirit. He always had a light-hearted air, like a cheerful boy without serious worries, intent on looking for something that would bring him some satisfaction, small or big it didn't matter. He affirmed himself in the stable Lancia, which I had recently been in charge of with the task of taking care of the racing department, winning the Italian mountain championship in 1953. It won the Susa-Moncenisio, the Catania-Etna, the Bologna-Passo della Raticosa on one of our sports. , the Pontede elmo-Giovi. Then, at the Mexican Carrera he experienced the thrill of his first international triumphs, when he finished third overall".


"In the following November he made his debut in Formula 1 that Lancia had set up, but he had the first crush of his career as a racing car driver. The terrible heat, 60 degrees, and the thrill of competing in the Argentine Grand Prix in front of 200.000 spectators they betrayed him. He recovered immediately, on his return to Europe, and at the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo, on May 22, 1955, he finished second. Another placement took him in Turin, in the Valentino Grand Prix, where he finished fourth, behind Maestro Ascari , in Behra, and Villoresi".


"The death of Alberto Ascari brought a still unknown pain in the soul of the very young ace: he learned what it meant to suddenly lose the dearest and most esteemed of his fellow fighters. And in Francorchamps, on June 5, 1956, left alone to defend the Scuderia Ferrari, he achieved on a track he had never seen before one of the most extraordinary exploits of his career: during the tests, a few hours after he had beaten Fangio, the new absolute track record, lapping at 196.946 km/h".


At about 10:00 pm, Eugenio Castellotti's mother arrives from Lodi with a family member. Mrs. she does not yet know that her son is no longer alive, as she was told that he was seriously injured, but that he was still alive. When she arrives, Ferrari comes to meet her. When the lady enters the hospital, instead of pointing her to the room towards the clinic, she is shown another corridor; she informed by a doctor, she instantly understands what has happened and falls prey to a fit of tears. Then he recovers with great courage and enters to embrace his son for the last time, before returning in the evening to Lodi, where the coffin will arrive the next day, as soon as the investigation by the judicial authority is concluded, the nullity will be granted- stopping for the transport of the body.


The woman demonstrates exceptional fortitude by entering her funeral home alone. Her son's body had been reassembled and dressed in a hazelnut sports dress she had in her suitcase. The marble counter on which the pilot lies is half-buried by large bouquets of flowers. The champion's mother has, as mentioned, a fit of tears, so she hugs the body of her son, calling him affectionately by her name, and kissing him on her face. Meanwhile other family members have arrived from Lodi, Bologna and Como.

Delia Scala, on the other hand, will only see Eugenio's coffin secretly on Saturday March 16, 1957.


The news reaches the actress through Lola Braccini, informed by her brother, at 18:00, while she is still at the Savoy hotel. Lola informs her crying, while she is still in the room. Delia then sinks into bed, and begins to look at the photos of her, first in the album, then scattered on the bed.


The news of the disaster, released by an American news agency, also reaches the presidency of the Automobile Club Milano shortly before 6:00 pm, who immediately asks for confirmation and details from Modena, later worrying to carry out the sad task with all caution. to inform Castellotti's mother in Lodi before the newspapers came out; but from Modena also comes the assurance that everything has been prepared with the possible expedients. World Champion Manuel Fangio, who last Monday afternoon had tried very fast with the twelve-cylinder Maserati 2500 on the same track in Modena, is astonished when a journalist communicates the sad news to him by telephone, anticipating the evening newspapers that came out later. in extraordinary edition.


Fangio, who will remain in Milan for a few more days waiting to leave for Sebring, was about to leave the hotel that hosts him, near the central station, when he was informed of the tragic accident. The visibly disturbed world champion returns to his room asking in a low voice:


"But how was it?"


To then declare, later:


"Trials are often more dangerous than races. He was already a great driver, despite his young age, and I think I still see him at the wheel, like last Tuesday on the Modena track".


Meanwhile, starting at 11.00 pm, the body is watched over by four Ferrari mechanics in overalls, with black armbands, while Signora Ferrari continues to recite the rosary for the missing young man. Bundles of flowers are still brought to the hospital by the hundreds, until the door of the Polyclinic hospital closes at 1:00 am. Outside the photographers remain. Inside, in a shabby courtyard, in front of the funeral parlor where Eugenio Castellotti was composed, a group of friends is formed. Giovanni Bracco (the driver had immediately come from Biella as soon as the news was known), two relatives of the rider, a schoolmate, his personal doctor Bianchi, all of them from Lodi.


Together with Behra, an eyewitness to the accident, he tells how the sudden tragedy unfolded. Steering wheel champions come to Modena from all over Italy to pay the utmost homage to Eugenio, including Perdisa, who was linked by a sincere affection to Castellotti, Scarlatti, Musso, and Scotti, while from Bologna Dr. Assirelli, director of the Automobile Club. A cold and luminous moon paints strange painful shadows on everyone's face. Bracco tells of many years ago, when he told Eugenio during a Giro di Sicilia:


"You will become a real runner".


Bracco struggles to speak, as if to wipe away the memories that crowd into his memory:

"Eugenio had a heart: without a heart one does not run in a car. He thinks, lulls his ambitions, but his foot does not press the accelerator. Our job is not reasoning, it is heart, heart I tell you".


The others nod and cite distant facts and locations. Porto, Monza, Brescia with its Mille Miglia, Reims, Spa, etc. A little later a beautiful blonde girl appears accompanied by her brother. She comes from Milan. A friend, a good friend of the runner. She enters the funeral home for a moment and immediately closes her eyes. Castellotti is dressed in his elegant middle-class clothes: a brown flannel jacket with the Ferrari badge in the buttonhole, gray trousers. But his face is terrible. The right side of him, one big bloodstain from the eye to the chin. On the forehead a large plaster to hide the mark of a blow. The beautiful stranger says a prayer and leaves.


In the meantime, Carini, having come by car from Livorno, enters for a moment and leaves almost immediately crying. The long vigil of Castellotti's closest friends continues, but Delia Scala does not arrive. A few hours earlier it was rumored that the young actress and the tragically disappeared pilot had secretly married in recent days, but it was a misunderstanding; Eugenio had the wedding ring on his finger, but it was a memory of his father. Delia and Eugenio would be married within a few days.


The news of Castellotti's disappearance is received with great despair in the automotive world. Former World Champion Giuseppe Farina was given the news a few minutes before he left home to go to a meeting. Farina struggles to immediately realize what is being said to him in a hurry, and asks for confirmation. Once obtained, the Italian pilot remains silent for a moment, then passes a hand slowly over his head, leans his face to one side and murmurs in a low tone:


"Poor boy, poor, unfortunate boy".


The memories come immediately after, a little strained, as if Farina wanted to see them first in his heart, one at a time:


"It was like the wind, really. He faced the tests as if they were races and the races as if each day were to be the last. I had been a rival and also a teammate: on the tracks, together, we had found the last time on the eve of the 1955 Monza Grand Prix. When the tragic end of Ascari practically made a void in our motor sport, I thought that Eugenio, one day, might perhaps be able to take his place. always had in our life and in our career as car racers, he arranged otherwise. Now even that of Eugenio Castellotti has become an enormously sad memory, to carry in the heart".


Farina then wanted to point out that:


"Up to now, there are no reference points of any kind and certainly cannot be judged without seeing things clearly. It is the first fatal accident that hits an Italian Formula 1 driver on the track of the Modena airfield, and it seems difficult to me. Explain. Evidently the main cause of the frightening whirlwind made by his car is to be found in the step that delimits the edge of the track. Probably if there had been the well-known Monza protections, the elastic sheet guardrails, things would not have gone in such a tragic way".


"It is clear, however, that mine are simple thoughts, not supported by concrete evidence. I therefore do not want and cannot insert myself into the arguments that the technicians in charge of the investigation will draw. The only thing I can say with certainty and that I am deeply saddened saddened by the disappearance of a friend and brave driver like Castellotti. I met him for the last time by train, Sunday morning. I was going from Florence to Milan, while Eugenio stopped in Modena to train In view of the 12 Hours of Sebring . Almost jokingly, I warned him to be careful, because the tests for us pilots are more malicious than the races, and he replied that he would save himself for the American race".


The sporting director Romolo Tavoni is present that day, who will clearly describe the dynamics:


"When Eugenio passed away I was present at the Modena Autodrome. The tragedy must be seen in the personal situation that the Lodi champion was experiencing at that moment. Castellotti's story can be traced back to his mother, a servant of the Castellotti family, who is in a relationship with the Notary Castellotti, landowner with immense real estate capital. From this relationship, when his mother Angela was only sixteen, Eugenio was born, who was initially baptized with the surname Clerici, that of his mother, and was recognized by his father only when he was nine years".


"Then the two parents will also join in marriage, and the mother Angela, becoming Mrs. Castellotti, will begin to expect a future marriage for her son with a high-ranking person suitable for the rank of the family. The father dies when Eugenio is eighteen years old. , but inherited the infinite properties, he had to pay over sixty million lire in inheritance taxes when the average salary of an Italian was 30.000 lire a month. First you buy a Ferrari and start racing".


"The mother could not allow her son to bring a ballerina into the house. She loved Eugenio, he was her son, you have to understand the feelings of a mother inserted in the morality of the time and in the lived situation. Eugenio loved his mother, but he was in love with Delia, he had to make some choices. If you marry her, don't show up in this house again, his mother told him. When he showed up in Lodi with Delia, his mother looked at the actress and told her she could go to the next room as well the kitchen, reserved for the service staff, because only that could be his place".


"Enzo Ferrari wanted Eugenio to test the new car in Modena. Jean Berha with Maserati had set the new track record by snatching it from Ferrari, all the local newspapers had talked about it, that record had to be re-established, a proud performance was needed and Eugenio he was the driver of the moment, the one destined to re-establish hierarchies in the land of motors".


"That morning he left Florence after a sleepless night. He also spoke with Ferrari about his story: my mother doesn't understand reasons, but I love and want to marry Delia, confessed Eugenio. Enzo Ferrari understood him. The same thing happened to him when he introduced him. Laura Garello to her mother Adalgisa Bisbini. Ferrari and the future Signora Laura had recently met and immediately wanted to marry, but their mother Adalgisa was against".


"Eugenio Castellotti got behind the wheel of the single-seater with Delia Scala and her mother in his head. He was a boy in the throes of too many tensions. Two, three laps at full throttle, then he took the curb at the esse Stanguellini, the car overturned and ended in the air against the grandstand of the Circolo della Biella. There was no mechanical problem. Some were talking about the gearbox, the brakes, but nothing is true. The car was then checked in the workshop. It was a human error".


During the morning of March 15th, in Modena, the body is still visited by many friends and athletes. Behra, who had taken his Maserati to the track near the racetrack, and Buffa, who also had to try a two thousand, stop the cars so that the scream of the engines does not disturb those who pray or cry next to Eugenio Castellotti. Sighinolfi's father, the recently appraised test driver of the Maranello house, rushes to pay homage to that inanimate body that reminds him in a burning way of the pain he felt for the loss of his son.


The archbishop of Modena blesses the body, after which the coffin is carried on the shoulders by the Ferrari mechanics on the hearse at around 2:00 pm, to face the return journey to Lodi, passing through the Via Emilia in front of the Modena airfield, carpeted with flowers. As he passes through Parma, Piacenza and Lodi, the shops close in honor of him, while the procession of a hundred cars follows him home.


A few hours later the body of the unfortunate rider enters the courtyard of the Castellotti house, in an old building that the driver was modernizing. In these days, work should have begun to transform the red-tiled roofs and the lawn into a swimming pool, while the owner's stables had long since become garages. The funeral home is set up in these rooms. To enter it you have to pass in front of a huge showcase in which the cups are lined up: there is the small one of the first race won, and there are almost one-meter-high trophies of the Mexican Carrera and the Mille Miglia.


Mrs. Angela, overwhelmed by grief, awaits her son on the threshold of the funeral home; one would have thought that the lady was about to receive Eugenio while he was returning alive from one of his victorious races, instead he gets out of a van, on the shoulders of the Ferrari mechanics. Fangio, Luigi Villoresi, Sergio Mantovani, Giuseppe Farina, Bracco, Umberto Masetti, all riders used to high speeds, are pale, their lips contracted with emotion. Among the crowd, which overwhelms the ancient wrought iron gate, among the authorities of Lodi, among friends and relatives, after having had his son's helmet and glasses, and after having placed his yellow T-shirt and blue trousers on the coffin, Castellotti's mother sees the person who more than anyone else could understand her, so she throws herself into the arms of Mrs. Elda Farina:


"You know how we always suffer when they run. Nino is left to you, I have nothing left in the world. You can understand me".


The two women go up into the house, leaving the large portrait of Eugenio behind them.

Meanwhile, a continuous parade continues in front of the coffin; telegrams arrive by the hundreds. Many of them are not even open yet, given the ever-increasing number. So Castellotti returned to his Lodi on a journey that moved those who participated.


As he leaves the house of Eugenio Castellotti, the former World Champion Giuseppe Farina disappears 50.000 lire. The Turin ace had put five ten-thousand-dollar bills in the right pocket of his trousers, wanting to have them handy in the florist's shop, where he was about to order a wreath for Eugenio's funeral. In the crowd, probably, the sum is stolen by a stranger after having bumped into Farina. The Turin driver hopes that at least the keys relating to an engine will be returned to him, and the characteristic ticket holder that was a dear memory for him.


Eugenio's mother will not sleep, but she will be present at the funeral the next day; the day in which Castellotti should have received the gold medal and the official nomination of champion of Italy during a ceremony at the headquarters of the Automobile Club of Milan.


Instead, in the morning, at 10:00 am, the solemn mass takes place in the parish of Mary Help of Christians, while at 3:00 pm on Saturday March 16, 1957, the funeral takes place in the church of Sant'Agostino at the expense of the municipality of Lodi.


On March 17, 1957, the Scuderia Ferrari held a meeting to decide whether to be present at Sebring. But Ferrari, who has overcome many hours of anxiety, will once again be able to fight for his factory and for his workers.


"Three hundred and fifty families depend on my work. I can't have weaknesses".


He had already told the press Enzo Ferrari. The hypotheses formulated following the accident are many, including the possible fatigue of Eugenio, who often traveled between Modena and Florence, where his girlfriend Delia Scala held theatrical performances, while another hypothesis is that of a possible failure of the tree transmission of the car, of which however there is no evidence.


The news was received with great despair in the automotive world, so much so that all of his fellow drivers attended his funeral, held on March 16, 1957.


The news was given to former world champion Nino Farina a few minutes before he left home to go to a meeting. Nino Farina finds it hard to immediately realize what is being said to him in a hurry and asks for confirmation. Once obtained, the Italian pilot remains silent for a moment, then passes a hand slowly over his head, leans his face to one side and murmurs in a low tone:


"Poor boy, poor, unfortunate boy".


The memories come immediately after, a little strained, as if Farina wanted to see them first in his heart, one at a time:


"It was like the wind, really. He faced the tests as if they were races and the races as if each day were to be the last. I had been a rival and also a teammate: on the tracks, together, we had found the last time on the eve of the 1955 Monza Grand Prix. When the tragic end of Ascari practically made a void in our motor sport, I thought that Eugenio, one day, might perhaps be able to take his place. always had in our life and in our career as car racers, he arranged otherwise. Now even that of Eugenio Castellotti has become an enormously sad memory, to carry in the heart".


Farina then wanted to point out that:


"Up to now, there are no reference points of any kind and certainly cannot be judged without seeing things clearly. It is the first fatal accident that hits an Italian Formula 1 driver on the track of the Modena airfield, and I it seems difficult to explain. Evidently the main cause of the frightening whirlwind made by his car is to be found in the step that delimits the edge of the track. they wouldn't have gone so tragically".


"It is clear, however, that mine are simple thoughts, not supported by concrete evidence. I therefore do not want and cannot insert myself into the arguments that the technicians in charge of the investigation will draw. The only thing I can say with certainty and that I am saddened, deeply saddened by the disappearance of a friend and brave driver like Castellotti. I met him for the last time by train, Sunday morning. I was going from Florence to Milan, while Eugenio stopped in Modena to train In view of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Almost jokingly I warned him to be careful, because the tests for us drivers are more malicious than the races, and he replied that he would save himself for the American race".


On that day the sporting director Romolo Tavoni is present, who will clearly describe the dynamics:


"When Eugenio died I was present on the track at the Modena Autodrome. The tragedy must be seen in the personal situation that the Lodi champion was experiencing at that moment. The story of Castellotti can be traced back to his mother, a maid of the Castellotti family, who has a relationship with the Notary Castellotti, landowner with immense real estate capital. Eugenio was born from this relationship when his mother Angela was only 16 years old, who was initially baptized with the surname Clerici, that of his mother, and was recognized by his father only when he nine years".


"Then the two parents will also join in marriage, and mother Angela, becoming Mrs. Castellotti, will begin to expect a future marriage for her son with a high-ranking person suitable for the rank of the family. The father dies that Eugenio is eighteen years old, but having inherited the infinite properties, he had to pay over sixty million lire in inheritance taxes when the average salary of an Italian was 30.000 lire a month. First you buy a Ferrari and start racing".


"The mother could not allow her son to bring a ballerina into the house. She loved Eugenio, he was her son, you have to understand the feelings of a mother inserted in the morality of the time and in the lived situation. Eugenio loved his mother, but he was in love with Delia, he had to make some choices. If you marry her, don't show up in this house again, his mother told him. When he showed up in Lodi with Delia, his mother looked at the actress and told her she could go to the next room as well the kitchen, reserved for the service staff, because only that could be his place".


"Enzo Ferrari wanted Eugenio to test the new car in Modena. Jean Berha with Maserati had set the new track record by snatching it from Ferrari, all the local newspapers had talked about it, that record had to be re-established, a proud performance was needed and Eugenio he was the driver of the moment, the one destined to re-establish hierarchies in the land of motors".


"That morning he left Florence after a sleepless night. He also spoke with Ferrari about his story: my mother doesn't understand reasons, but I love and want to marry Delia, confessed Eugenio. Enzo Ferrari understood him. The same thing happened to him when he introduced him. Laura Garello to her mother Adalgisa Bisbini. Ferrari and the future Signora Laura had recently met and immediately wanted to marry, but their mother Adalgisa was against".


"Eugenio Castellotti got behind the wheel of the single-seater with Delia Scala and his mother in his head. He was a boy in the throes of too many tensions. Two, three laps at full throttle, then he took the curb at the esse Stanguellini, the car overturned and ended in the air against the grandstand of the Circolo della Biella. There was no mechanical problem. Some were talking about the gearbox, the brakes, but nothing is true. The car was then checked in the workshop. It was a human error".


Eugenio Castellotti will be the first of five young Ferrari drivers to lose his life in just twenty-two months. Immediately after his death, the American and European newspapers recall the victory of the Lodi driver in the classic Sebring race, in Florida, while in Italy newspapers trace extensive biographies of him listing his victories that have given great prestige to the nation and continued the great tradition. car of Nuvolari.


In 2019 the story of the Lodi becomes a comic created by Alessandro Colonna, called Eugenio Castellotti, the legend is beyond the finish line, which traces the career of the pilot while the latter is preparing to arrive in Modena on March 14, 1957, aboard a Lancia Aurelia B20 Coupè, after leaving Florence.


It was not easy to understand Eugenio Castellotti. Those who questioned him about his secrets often felt answered in the form of paradoxes such as the Mille Miglia is won by going slow. And in the meantime his dark eyes shone an ironic look as his fine, well-shaped mouth folded into a smile, as if he didn't take himself seriously at all. Perhaps very few have understood it, perhaps only his mother or his great teacher Alberto Ascari. Or the other great Bracco runner, who left him a photograph with this dedication:


"Don't be in a hurry, Eugenio: you will become a champion".


But it was fate that was in a hurry, that ended Eugenio's flight forever.


Andrea Rasponi

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