Nanni Galli, and his dream of racing for Ferrari



Giovanni Giuseppe Gilberto Galli, nicknamed Nanni, was born on October 2, 1940 in Bologna. His approach to the world of motors takes place in a particular way; at an early age, crashing into the structure of the family business in Prato.


Perhaps also for this episode, at the beginning his parents do not want Nanni to become a professional driver, but his will is stronger and at the age of twenty he gets on a Kart for the first time, convincing himself even more on what his path is.


Therefore, in 1962 he decided to race by car: but when on May 1st he enrolled in the Garda Circuit, just to face the opposition of his mother and father, he did not use his surname when he entered the race, but the pseudonym. Nanni. At the debut, Nanni finished tenth at the finish.


This performance gives him further motivation for the continuation of his career. So, a year later the Targa Florio is at the start, which is disputing with an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but a technical problem forces him to retire, while on May 24, 1964 he participates in the Coppa della Consuma with a Fiat 500 derivative, the Steyr-Puch. loaned to him by his friend Roberto Benelli, with whom he triumphs despite a head and tail.


Galli wants to raise the level of competition, and decides to buy a Mini Cooper to participate in the 1964 Italian Touring Championship; winning ten out of eleven races held in the 1150 class, he became Italian Speed ​​Champion, demonstrating what immense talent he is gifted with.


These excellent performances do not go unnoticed: this allows him to compete in the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring in 1965 with Scuderia Sant Ambroeus, in which Nanni is unable to reach the finish line due to a gearbox problem, as well as being forced to retire in the Gran Mugello Award.


In the first race of 1966, on board an Alfa Romeo, Nanni obtained a good seventh place at the 4 Hours of Monza. Then, after arriving 24th at the Targa Florio always with an Alfa Giulia, he climbs to the lowest step of the podium at the Mugello Grand Prix with the Auto Delta.


A few months later comes the turning point of his career: Nanni, who until now has raced as a driver of the Scuderia Sant Ambroeus, during the tests of the 4 Hours of the Jolly Club, in which he marks the fourth time, complains that he cannot have of the latest Alfa model.


To try to calm him down, Carlo Chiti, general manager of Auto Delta, arrives in the pits and offers him to try the GTA in a test to be carried out on the Baiocco track. Galli accepts but during the test, after being advised not to take any risks, in the pits the insiders get angry at seeing the stopwatch: when he is invited to return the car to the garage, Nanni leaves the Alfa mechanics stunned stating that he was only taking confidence with the car and circuit, and had not sought performance. Chiti, informed of what happened by the sports director Siena, decides to hire him in the official team, putting him alongside De Adamich, Russo and Giunti.


After taking part in the 12 Hours of Sebring with the Autodelta team's Alfa Romeo T33, on April 2, 1967, in Aspern, Galli took his first career victory at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. In the same year he took part in the 1000 kilometers of Monza, where he finished fifteenth with a Ferrari 275 GTB/2, while with Autodelta he came close to the podium at the 3 Hours of Belgrade, finishing fourth.


He also performed well at the 1000 Kilometers Nurburgring, where he crossed the finish line in fifth position together with his teammates De Adamich, Bussinello and Zeccoli. A few weeks later, Nanni returned to the podium finishing third at the ETCC in Budapest, while in the last race of the season paired with De Adamich he was fourth at the 6 Hours of the Nurburgring. Overall, the experience with Autodelta in 1967 was characterized by good results and several withdrawals.


In 1968 Galli should take part in the 24 Hours of Daytona, but he skips it due to an accident, while at the 4 Hours of Monza he retires due to a puncture. Subsequently, he participates in the 6 Hours of Brands Hatch closing the race in fourteenth place, while he crosses the finish line second at the Targa Florio, paired with Ignazio Giunti.


A month later, on June 2, 1968, he returned to victory at the end of the Grand Prix of the Republic of Vallelunga, and at the end of July he allowed himself an encore by climbing on the top step of the podium in the Mugello Grand Prix, again with the Alfa Romeo T33/2 of the Autodelta team.


After the sixth place obtained in the Brno Grand Prix aboard the Giulia Sprint GTA, Nanni obtained the third podium of the season at the 500 Kilometers of Imola, where under the checkered flag he is second with the Alfa Romeo T33/2. This series of results allow him to arrive at the first 24 Hours of Le Mans with the right confidence in his means.


Galli, despite making his debut in the prestigious French race paired with Giunti, is third when nine hours have passed since the start. Position occupied also on Sunday morning, with the dream of the podium that seems to become concrete lap after lap, until in the final the Porsche of Neerpasch and Stommlen overtake the two Italians: Galli and Giunti thus have to settle for fourth place, while winning in category 2.0.


The 1969 season opens with yet another retirement at the 12 Hours of Sebring, always paired with Ignazio Giunti, aboard the Alfa Romeo T33/3, followed by fifth place in the 4 Hours of Monza. In the next two races Galli collects two retirements, respectively at the Targa Florio and at the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring, due to an accident in the first episode, and for the engine failure in the second.


Then, on June 15, 1969 Nanni is called by Matra to participate for the second time in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he will compete with the MS630/650, following Alfa's decision not to take part in the race following the disappearance of Lucien Bianchi, during a test session in anticipation of the French classic. Compared to the previous year, Galli will not be able to fight for the top positions, crossing the line in seventh position.


In the rest of the year Nanni will not be able to obtain brilliant performances, but only good placings: in the 6 hours of the Nurburgring he is sixth; at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and at the Mugello Grand Prix he was forced to retire; at the 1000 km of Zeltweg and at the 500 Kilometers of Imola he does not go beyond the twenty-second and eighteenth position.


Even the beginning of 1970 will be complicated for Galli: at the 1000 km of Buenos Aires he does not reach the finish line, while he is only eighth at the end of the 200 miles of Buenos Aires. Subsequently, at the 12 Hours of Sebring he is ninth, and at the 1000 km of Monza he is seventh. A new disappointment comes at the end of the Targa Florio, as he retires due to an accident, but he redeems himself at the Budapest Grand Prix, where he finishes fourth at the finish.


In the Brno Grand Prix, at the 1000 Kilometers of Spa and at the Nurburgring he collects three other retreats. Nanni entrusts his hopes of redemption in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he will compete again with the Alfa Romeo T33/3, paired with the German driver Rolf Stommelen, but even in this case the result will not be happy.


At the Tourist Trophy he is again fourth with the Alfa 2000 GTAm, but soon after he arrives two negative results following a further retirement at the 6 Hours of the Nurburgring, and the thirteenth position collected in the Mugello Grand Prix. He will follow the sixth position at the Zandvoort Trophy.


Although until then the season was proving to be disappointing, surprisingly McLaren, which uses Alfa Romeo engines, decided to hire Nanni to compete in the Italian Grand Prix. Galli, however, fails to start the race as he is twenty-sixth in qualifying, stopping one second and four from Eaton, the last driver to be able to line up on the grid.



A week later he redeems himself by crossing the finish line in second position in the 500 km of Imola, which is followed by a good performance also at the 6 Hours of Jarama, where he places sixth, while closing the season with the withdrawal at the 1000 km of Zeltweg.


The 1971 season begins immediately on the right foot. At the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires, always at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo T33/3, he is third, and then, on March 20, 1971, he comes second in the 12 Hours of Sebring. And after disputing the 1000 Kilometers of Brands Hatch with no luck, he comes fourth in the 1000 Kilometers of Monza. This excellent start to the season reopens the doors of Formula 1 in Galli: in fact, March decides to sign him starting from the Monaco Grand Prix.


However, the Monegasque weekend ends already on Friday, as Nanni closes qualifying in twenty-first place. After finishing fifth at Hockenheim in an extra-championship race, the appointment with the debut in a Formula 1 race is postponed to the Dutch Grand Prix, held on June 20, 1971 at the Zandvoort circuit. In qualifying, Galli did not go beyond the twentieth time with his March powered by Alfa Romeo, while in the race he retired on lap seven due to an accident.



Also, in France, Galli marks the twentieth time in qualifying, but a problem with the Ford-Cosworth engine, mounted on the March instead of the Alfa, prevents him from starting. After the brief spell in Formula 1, as soon as he returns to racing with the Autodelta team's Alfa, Galli wins third place in the 1000 kilometers of Zeltweg. Performance that gives him confidence in view of the British Grand Prix, in which he gets the first place in Formula 1, passing eleventh at the finish.


After hitting the victory at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen paired with Andrea De Adamich and Ronnie Peterson, at the German Grand Prix, held on the tortuous Nurburgring circuit, in qualifying he is twenty-first, while in the race he does not go beyond the twelfth position, so as it will do in Austria.


At Monza, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix, Nanni hopes to be able to improve his performance. However, after setting the nineteenth time in qualifying, during the race he was forced to retire on lap 11 due to another reliability problem, this time due to the malfunctioning of the electrical system.



The situation did not change in the last two races of the world championship: in Canada Nanni did not go beyond the twentieth position, while a steering failure forced him to close the season with another retirement at Watkins Glen, in the United States.


In 1972 Galli returns to Tecno, but before the debut of the world championship which will take place only in Belgium, on the Nivelles circuit, he concentrates on endurance racing with Autodelta.


Back at the wheel of the Alfa T33/TT/3, at the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires, paired with De Adamich, he did not cross the finish line due to an engine problem, while a month later he obtained a good performance at the 6 Hours of Daytona, finishing fifth at the finish.


Subsequently, yet another withdrawal at the 12 Hours of Sebring, caused by a puncture in a tire, was canceled with the fourth places obtained in the 1000 kilometers of Brands Hatch, and at the Imola Interserie.


Three weeks pass, and after having disputed the 1000 kilometers of Spa without success, he hits second place paired with Helmut Marko at the Targa Florio. With these results, Nanni Galli is preparing to compete in the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship in Belgium, which however does not start in the best way: in Belgium, Nanni qualifies twenty-second, but in the race he is involved in an accident during the fifty-fourth lap.


Fortune turns its back on Galli at the 24 Hours of Le Mans too. Paired with Stommelen, when he is fighting for the podium together with the other Alfa cars, a problem with the differential forces him to retire just a few hours from the end.


The redemption comes in a test outside the Formula 1 World Championship, in the Grand Prix of the Republic of Vallelunga, where he manages to get on the lowest step of the podium by crossing the finish line in third place, behind Fittipaldi and De Adamich.


A few weeks later, while preparing for the French Grand Prix, an unexpected call arrives for Galli, which will allow him to fulfill that dream he had cultivated since childhood, when still in the first years of his life, a little rebellious, he opposed the choice of the family and decided to become a professional driver: Enzo Ferrari must replace Clay Ragazzoni, so he thinks of the Tuscan, offering him the opportunity to take to the track at the Clermont-Ferrand circuit with the 312 B. The lack of knowledge of the Maranello car allows him to finish qualifying with the twentieth time, but in the race he is thirteenth after having recovered seven positions from the start.



From the following British Grand Prix, Galli returns to Tecno: at Brands Hatch, at the end of qualifying, he is eighteenth, but a spin he falls victim to during the ninth lap does not allow him to finish the race. The world championship will end with two more retirements, in Austria due to an oil leak, and in Monza due to an engine failure.


Galli is once again the protagonist when he drives sports cars. And so, with the Lola he is sixth in the 500 Kilometers of Imola, but above all in the 2 Hours of Jarama crossing the finish line second, closing the season with four podiums. In 1973 Galli changes team again to Formula 1, and is hired by Frank Williams' team.


Despite the ambitions of revenge, the reliability of the British cars continue to condition Galli’s path in the top flight. And so, after an encouraging sixteenth place achieved at the end of the official practice of the Argentine Grand Prix in Buenos Aires, in the race, during the first lap, the water pump forced him to retire for the first time of the season.


The situation improves in Brazil, given that in qualifying he doesn't go beyond the twentieth time, but in the race he comes back and finishes in ninth place, behind Niki Lauda, ​​future World Champion.



After missing the South African Grand Prix, Nanni also achieves a good result in Barcelona, ​​Spain: on the Montjuïc street circuit, starting again from the twentieth place, Galli crosses the finish line in eleventh position. Instead in Belgium in the official tests he marks the seventeenth time, but retires due to an engine problem. Even during his last race in Monaco, Galli was forced to leave his car on the track due to a transmission failure.


In the Principality he will therefore compete in his last Grand Prix in Formula 1, given that due to lack of money he will not be able to compete in the race scheduled in Sweden. Thus ended the 1973 season, while in 1974 he only raced two more races with sports cars: at the wheel of the Abarth-Osella, paired with Rosselli, he ranks twenty-third in the 1000 kilometers of Monza, while in the 1000 kilometers of Imola he retires.

That of June 2, 1974 will be his last race.


Nanni Galli leaves racing with three wins and as many pole positions, as well as twelve podiums, and from now on he returns to take care of the family business, but will return to the circus a few years later sponsoring Williams. Galli passed away on October 12, 2019, in Prato.


The driver born in Bologna, but of Tuscan adoption, is remembered today as that rebellious boy who for just one Grand Prix crowned the dream of all children who grew up with the legend of the Ferrari: to race for the most important team in the world.


Massimiliano Amato

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