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5 min read •

16 de novembro de 2014

Alberto Ascari, an italian champion


Antonio Eiras

I remember in my youth, have been fascinated with the story of glory and tragedy that brought Antonio Ascari and his son Alberto and that I found in an old copy of comics of the 50s.


The adventure of family Ascari in motorsport began in the 20s, with the successes of Anthony at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo factory team, which revealed him as one of the major drivers of the period before the 2nd World War.


The accidental death of the father could have demoted Alberto from motorsport. However, since very young Alberto Ascari attended the middle of the competition and soon revealed an unusual fighting spirit in his participation in motorcycle races, which ventured from its 19 years.


In 1940 he was invited by Enzo Ferrari, a great friend of his father, to drive the first model with his name, the Type 815, on the famous Mille Miglia. The entry of Italy in the 2nd World War forced him to devote more time to managing the family garage in Milan, his hometown. Indeed, during the conflict the requests increased with the maintenance of military equipment of the Italian army. Yet he had time to build a transport company with his friend Luigi Villoresi.


This, after the end of hostilities, would convince him to return to competition and brought him back to Ferrari.


When the Drivers World Championship begun, in 1950, young Alberto was part of the Comendatore Team. He quickly asserts himself as the Ferrari leader and garners a huge popularity for his talent and sympathy.


As usual, Enzo Ferrari was not mistaken in the choice and, after a winless inaugural year, the second championship revealed the virtuosity of Ascari in a duel with Fangio who he just lost in the last race by his team’s clumsy choice of tires.


In the two years that followed and after the abandonment of competition for Alfa Romeo, was in effect a technical regulation that limited to Formula 2 cars the participation on the World Championship. Ferrari aligned with its 500 model and Ascari won both championships with an overwhelming domain.


According Enzo Ferrari’s recalls, Alberto Ascari, who felt a lack of confidence when driving in the midfield, transfigured himself when he took the command and turned out to be unbeatable. So his strategy to win was simple: he made the pole position for the race, start the race in the leading position and then no one would take, because he did not commit the smallest error that allowed its opponents to overtake him.


Managed in this way, he did a feat unequaled even today: won the nine successive GP and all other races he attended for one year, between the Grand Prix of Belgium of 1952 and 53.


The relationship with Ferrari ended unexpectedly at the end of the season 1953, to go to Lancia, who paid him best and had the fascinating D50 project.


This change proved to be, after all, a disastrous decision and the huge setback that occurred in finalizing the innovative Lancia D50, only allowed their participation on the Spanish GP, in Barcelona, at the end of 54’s season. This reflected the disorganization of the team, who resented the financial problems of the manufacturer and that would lead to the inevitable state intervention.


After a year without scoring, the 55’s season looked well to the return of the great Italian champion. Indeed, the little Lancia became increasingly competitive and allowed Ascari to express his talent and get close to fight the Mercedes drivers.


During the Monaco GP and after the retirement of the rivals of the German team, the Italian driver had taken the command, when, following a failure of the brakes, ran off the track in the port area and plunged into the Mediterranean. He was saved thanks to the intervention of divers to support the GP, suffering only a broken nose. 


Advised to rest, this did not prevent him, four days later, to accept the invitation of his friend and protégé, Eugenio Castellotti to watch the testing of the new Ferrari 750 Monza of Sport, in the Circuit of Monza. Once there, and despite still jammed by the sequel of recent accident, he immediately showed willingness to drive the car.


Alberto Ascari was, like so many other drivers, deeply superstitious and never drove before without his light blue helmet. It was therefore with great surprise of all present, which saw him put the white helmet or his friend and not to put of the tie he wore.


An accident on lap 3 ended the life of Alberto. According to Mike Hawthorne, the tragedy could have been due to inadequate Englebert tires to the rims of the Ferrari and the asphalt, but the causes of the accident were still outstanding. As happened 30 years before with the accident that had killed his father.


The coincidences between the circumstances surrounding the deaths of father and son took contours of something supernatural, in an Italy who was crying its hero.


Thus, at the time of his disappearance, both had 36, two minor children left orphaned and the fatal accidents occurred on the 26th of the month (Anthony in July 1925 and Alberto in May). The accidents occurred just outside curves to the left (Antonio in Monthléry, France) and exactly four days after having survived other serious accidents. Father and son had won, in their careers, 13 GP each.


The ink-of-china drawings that I present in this work were done in collaboration with my friend Carlos Alberto Matos, for a publication of the Impala Group about the Grand Prix.

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