Friday, August 20, 2010

Eugenio Castellotti, Italy's Great Hope

On March 13th, 1957 Eugenio Castellotti was in Florence where his girlfriend, Delia Scala, was performing in a play. The phone rang that evening. It was Enzo Ferrari angrily summoning him back to Modena to defend the track record at the local autodrome from Maserati, which was threatening to steal it. Castellotti roused himself at 5 a.m. the next morning and drove to Modena where he was met by a handful of mechanics and an untested Formula 1 Ferrari. He climbed in and blasted down a damp track at more than 100 mph. On the third lap the crew signaled him to accelerate. He bungled a crucial downshift coming out of a curve. After a few desperate swerves his car flipped and rolled into a concrete wall beneath a small grandstand. Castellotti was thrown out and landed on the tarmac. He died instantly of a skull fracture. Don Sergio Mantovani, a local parish priest who was a fixture in the pits, ran through the smoke and debris and knelt beside Castellotti. His left eye was open, but he was fading fast. Mantovani raised his hand and blessed him. Castellotti and Scala were to have been married 25 days later.

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