The Enthusiasts' Page

All things 'Maserati'. News of forthcoming models, owner's cars, tips, 'Marque' reunions and the odd touch of humour! In fact anything of interest to the 'Maseratista'.

So if you have any news about Maseratis or have anything owners and enthusiasts should know, send details to

You can click on some pictures for a better view !!


From Dirk in Germany

"Ciao Enrico,

Hope you are doing well.

Last weekend the international Maserati Rally was in Berlin.

Took some photos which I though you might like, feel free to use them.

All the best,














































From Gareth in the UK

"Hi Enrico hope you and yours are well.

I have been the organiser of the Oxford Area meet for the Italian Auto moto Club for around four years and have built up a nice little monthly meet.

However I have failed to attract many Maserati owners to my meet so I appeal to you for help.

I realise that your site has a worldwide audience but I am assuming that most Maserati owners from Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties frequent your site fairly often so would it be possible for you to put a little mention for us in your enthusiasts section.

We have a monthly meet and are now at the Royal Sun, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1RZ every first Monday of the month from April to October. 6.30pm onwards.

The details can be found at the main site which also has a Facebook page or on my area Facebook page which can be found by searching Italian auto moto Club Oxford Area Italian cars and bikes.

Alternatively I can be contacted directly at

Many thanks in advance.

It would be great to see more Maseratis at the meet.

Wishing you all the best,



















From Roger in the UK

"Hi Enrico,

Attached are the three articles that were originally published in the magazine of the Maserati Club UK, "Trident". I've edited them slightly for re-publication on your site, if you so wish.

There's another one somewhere. If I find it I'll send it over !




An Appreciation
by Roger Harrison

Originally published in the “Trident” magazine


It is fitting we pay tribute to one of the stalwarts of Maserati’s racing heritage who was at the wheel as a privateer throughout those three important decades for the marque – the thirties, forties and fifties. We could of course have chosen any one of a dozen or so of his contemporaries, some more famous, some more successful, but Baron Emmanuel ‘Toulo’ de Graffenried, who died earlier this year [2007], serves as a fine example of one of those drivers who achieved only moderate success in competition, but who nonetheless contributed greatly to motor sport and promoted the name of Maserati in many other ways both on and off the track.

Emmanuel de Graffenried was born into a world of wealth and privilege on 18 May 1914 in Paris; the de Graffenried family had been one of the foremost families in Switzerland for many centuries, and at the time of his birth was still influential and prosperous. Swiss neutrality no doubt protected the family from the ravages of the Great War and young Emmanuel, or Toulo as he was nicknamed, was sent to be educated at the elite Institut de Rosey. This school spent the summer at Rolle by the shores of Lake Geneva, and wintered in Gstaad with the emphasis very much on sporting involvement, which may have fostered a competitive streak in the young student. One of his schoolmates was John de Puy with whom he went on to form a racing partnership. Another fellow scholar was the future Shah of Iran, of 5000GT fame.

In the early 1930s de Graffenried’s racing career took off with an outing in an Alfa Zagato 1500. De Graffenried soon teamed up with his old schoolmate John de Puy to form a racing partnership which lasted until the war, and included a 6C/34, a 4CM fitted with Tecnauto suspension, and an Alfa 3 litre. John de Puy was an American blessed with a huge fortune, which no doubt helped to fund their ventures, but was equally blessed with a huge capacity for drink, which may explain why it was usually de Graffenried who got behind the wheel! Along the way de Graffenried also bought a Bugatti T55.

His motorsport career proper started at age 22 in 1936 with a class win in the Alfa Zagato 1500 in the Swiss National GP at Bremgarten. De Graffenried it would seem preferred the Maseratis to the Alfa if the record of competition successes is an indication: throughout 1937 he entered the 4CM Tecnauto in many top-level European events, winning the Swiss National GP, gaining a fourth place in the Picardy GP, and sixth places in the Circuit of Naples Voiturette race, the RAC 200 International Trophy on the Isle of Man, Donington Park’s Nuffield Trophy, and the Circuit of Masaryk Voiturette race at Brno. In 1936 De Graffenried became a member of the BRDC.

In the 1938 season de Graffenried had a leaner year in terms of results: he had to retire in the German GP with transmission failure on the 4CM; and he had to retire the car again in his ‘home’ competition, the Prix de Bremgarten. De Graffenried brought the 6CM over to England where he recorded a win in the Campbell Trophy at Brooklands, but he had to retire from the British Empire Trophy at Donington Park.

The 1939 season again did not bring much success to de Graffenried in spite of driving a variety of cars in major competitions: in the Swiss GP (4CM) and the Pau and German GPs (6C/34) de Graffenried failed to finish; however he scored a sixth place in the Albi GP (4CM), and a thirteenth in the Coupe de Paris in his Bugatti T55. A try out in an Alfa in the Belgian GP was unsuccessful. De Graffenried topped off the season however with a win on home territory in the Swiss National GP.

The war did not entirely put a stop to de Graffenried's driving as he was behind the wheel as a driver in the Swiss army. After the war de Graffenried was to be involved with three racing teams: Autosport, Platé, and, briefly, Centro Sud. Throughout this period he remained essentially a privateer, contributing financially to the teams; at times he entered cars for competitions under his own name.

When racing restarted in 1946 de Graffenried founded the Autosport team with Christian Kautz, the former Mercedes driver, and Cyro Basadonna. They had a 4CL which brought de Graffenried more success in voiturette racing than he had experienced before the war. Around this time he met Enrico Platé; de Graffenried contributed financially and Platé contributed his engineering skills to the formation of the Platé team which ran through to 1952.

1946 was a year of little competition success for de Graffenried. A retirement in the Marseilles GP was followed by a fifth place in the GP des Nations in Geneva, the first outing for the Platé 4CL, and a sixth in the Milan GP. During 1947 the Platé team moved up to a 4CLT, but racing success was still proving hard to achieve. De Graffenried recorded a third place at the Lausanne GP, a fifth in the Comminges GP, and a ninth in his home Swiss GP. A variety of mechanical problems led to retirements in the Belgian, Italian and French GPs.

The 1948 season started well for de Graffenried with a second placing in the GP des Nations in Geneva, then a third at Monaco, but the year was marred by the death of his colleague Christian Kautz in the Swiss GP at Bremgarten; de Graffenried got caught up in the accident and had to retire. The season continued with a couple of ninth places in the Italian and British GPs.

Fate began to smile more favourably on de Graffenried and the Platé team in 1949; Prince Bira joined the team and chalked up a win and five second places. De Graffenried answered that by winning the British GP at Silverstone and another win in the GP of Eastern Switzerland, second places in the Pau, Swedish Summer and Dutch GPs and the Jersey Road Race, and thirds in the San Remo and Lausanne GPs, and in the Madrid 1100cc race. In the winter the Platé team tried their luck in South America, but up against supercharged Ferraris all de Graffenried could manage was a fifth in the Mar del Plata GP.

1950 provided a steady crop of places for de Graffenried but no wins. De Graffenried was still very much part of the Platé team but was given the chance to drive a Gordini Simca in the Circuit de Erlen in Switzerland where he was robbed of victory by a failed valve; then in the GP des Nations in Geneva in July de Graffenried drove an Alfa 158 for the works team; this was the race in which Gigi Villoresi had his bad crash on spilt oil, killing several spectators; de Graffenried hit the same oil, spinning off and stalling his engine; he managed to crank the engine back into life and went on to gain second place. With Platé Maseratis de Graffenried scored a second in the Richmond Trophy at Goodwood and thirds in the British Empire Trophy on the Isle of Man and in the Jersey Road Race. Back at Goodwood at the end of the season de Graffenried gained third place in the Woodcote Race and a fourth in the Goodwood Trophy. In 1950 de Graffenried started his own garage business in Lausanne, selling Alfa Romeos.

In 1951 de Graffenried had little success with the Platé Maserati; Bira left the team and was replaced by Harry Schell, and Louis Chiron stayed on, but despite a good car and good drivers, the good results just did not come. De Graffenried fared better when he tried his hand in an Alfa 159 on several occasions, scoring a fifth place in the Swiss GP and a sixth in the Spanish GP; another Alfa outing at Monza in the Italian GP ended early in the race when the supercharger failed.

Alfa Romeo withdrew from racing at the end of 1951 and the governing body decided that the World Championship was to be run to F2 rules in 1952 and ’53. This provided a spur to the Platé team to develop their own version of the 4CLT/48; the resulting car had the supercharger removed, the engine enlarged to 2 litres, and had the chassis shortened. The aim was to provide a faster, better handling and more reliable car; this was achieved in part: the car went and handled well on small circuits, but it lacked the top end performance for the larger and faster circuits. De Graffenried bagged a couple of third places in the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone and in the Cicuit de Cadours; a fourth place at Marseilles, fifth at the Comminges GP, and a sixth in his home Swiss GP made up the tally for the season.

Once again the wheel of fortune turned, as 1953 proved to be one of de Graffenried’s best racing years. The Platé team ran an improved A6GCM, also known as an A6SSG, and with this car de Graffenried won four races: the Syracuse Cup, and the Lavant and Chichester Cups at Goodwood in the early part of the season, and the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring in May. These victories were complemented with third places in the Richmond Trophy and the Modena GP, a fourth in the Belgian GP, and fifth places in the Dutch and German GPs. In December the team took an A6GCS sports car to Brazil where de Graffenried won both the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo GPs.

In January ’54 the team moved on to Argentina where de Graffenried managed to gain an eighth place in an A6GCM fitted with an early 250F engine. Two weeks later whilst de Graffenried was watching the Buenos Aires GP a car spun into the pits and killed Enrico Platé; the death of his friend and colleague was a tremendous shock to de Graffenried and he more or less quit racing at that point, although he was to race a few more times until his last race in 1956. At the Belgian GP in June de Graffenried drove an A6GCM but was not in the race! He was filming for ‘The Racers’ in which Kirk Douglas starred. In October at the Spanish GP de Graffenried shared the driving of the A6GCM fitted with the 250F engine with Volonterio who then bought the car, despite it being retired after mechanical failure !

In 1955 de Graffenried tried his luck with a Ferrari sports car in the Bari GP and came in fourth, then with a 300S in the Lisbon GP he gained second place; finally at the Venezuelan GP in November a Ferrari Monza brought de Graffenried a third place. 1956 was de Graffenried’s final year of racing: he shared an A6GCS sports in the Supercortemaggiore GP at Monza with Canonica but was forced to retire. In September the Centro Sud team asked de Graffenried to drive one of their older 250Fs in the Italian GP at Monza; in spite of the outdated machinery de Graffenried managed a creditable eighth place to finish his racing career at the age of 42.

Although de Graffenried’s racing career proper was over his involvement with the motor racing world and cars in general was to last many more years. He settled into life in Lausanne with his wife Elsa. His Alfa dealership was extended in 1959 to include Ferraris, and later he took on Rolls Royce. In 1962 together with Fangio, Paul Frere, Robert Manzon and several other drivers he founded the Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix et F1, becoming secretary, and then President in 1980 and Honorary President in 2002.

In the 1970s de Graffenried took on the role of ‘ambassador’ for the American tobacco company Philip Morris, whose European headquarters were in Lausanne, in their promotion of the Marlboro brand in motor racing. We may today view the introduction of advertising sponsorship as a retrograde step but without it many racing teams would not have survived nor have been able to develop the technology necessary to remain competitive. De Graffenried’s unique position was surely influential in bringing motor sport to a wider audience and in providing it with an improved financial foundation.

In 1974 at the French GP at Dijon-Prenois it was decided to hold a retrospective event to showcase former racing stars and their cars; de Graffenried was a major player in the event which was pivotal in setting the scene for historic racing as it has become today. De Graffenried was present at Maserati’s Ottant'anni International Meeting in 1994 to celebrate the marque’s 80th anniversary. Then he was back at the wheel again at Silverstone in 1998 for its 50th anniversary, completing a lap of the circuit in a GP car at the age of 84.

Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried, or Toulo as he liked to be known to his many friends, died in Lausanne on 21 January 2007. He is fondly remembered by many for his charming manner and his generous spirit. He undoubtedly enjoyed his racing to the full, but gave back as much to the sport as he had taken from it.


by Roger Harrison

Originally published in the “Trident” magazine


Luigi “Gigi” Villoresi was a highly successful racing driver whose career spanned three decades from 1933 to 1956, and encompassed three major marques involved in Grand Prix and senior competition: Maserati, Ferrari and Lancia. Of these his major contribution to his craft was at the wheel of Maseratis, and indeed after his racing days were over he remained closely involved with the Maserati factory.

He was born in Milan on 16th May 1909; it would be nice to imagine that the happy event occurred within sight of the Canale Villoresi built by his grandfather. The Villoresi family must have been reasonably well-to-do, as Luigi’s father ran an electricity generation company. Unfortunately tragedy was to haunt the family as three brothers, including fellow racer Emilio, and a sister died relatively young in tragic circumstances.

Gigi started out in competitive events at the age of 22 entering a Lancia Lambda into local events, then soon progressing to a Fiat Balilla, a rather more sporting model. He enjoyed some success with this car, gaining a fifth place in his class in the 1933 Mille Miglia, younger brother Emilio riding as passenger, and a third place in the 1935 Coppa Ciano.

“I won my first race in a car belonging to my father; a six cylinder Type 18 Ansaldo six-seater saloon in the ‘Cascata Toce Saint Passo Giacomo’ hill climb. Also taking part in this race was Parenti, the Federal secretary of Milan, driving a supercharged Alfa Romeo 1750 Spyder. First prize was a wonderful gold chronometer, being held in safe keeping for the almost certain winner, Parenti, because of the superiority of his car. I won, with my brother Mimi as my mechanic; but somehow they found an excuse to award Parenti the watch and me a miserable old dented tin cup. I was so disappointed! However, it was through this race that I entered the magical world of motor racing.”

In 1935 Gigi’s partnership with Maserati began. He was able to buy an old 4CM, previously belonging to Tuffanelli, and gained quick success with the car, which was shared with Emilio, who was no slouch either. The 4CM had been introduced by Maserati specifically for voiturette racing; its engine having torque and acceleration advantage over the 6CM, although both had the same 1500cc capacity. Emilio was soon lured away to those other red cars, joining Scuderia Ferrari in 1937 to drive their Alfas.

“I made my debut at Monte Carlo, it was a heroic and comical race because of my lack of preparation, even my mechanic was the family chauffeur. At the last minute, before practice, I had the good fortune of receiving help from Guerrino Bertocchi, which allowed me to do well in practice. I had made a terrific start up the rise at Condamine, then a car in front of me had an engine blow and I found myself in an oil patch. In spite of this I finished well and Frechard, the famous French journalist, referred to me as ‘the flying mad man’.“

Count “Johnny” Lurani formed the Scuderia Ambrosiana in 1937 with Villoresi, Cortese, and Minetti; they bought a 6CM and successfully campaigned it in voiturette racing across Europe throughout 1937 and 1938. Gigi gained victories at Brno in 1937 and in the Albi GP, Coppa Acerbo, and Lucca races in 1938. At this time the all powerful Mercedes and Auto Union teams were ruling the roost in Grand Prix racing, helped by sponsorship from the Nazi state. Mussolini and the Fascist state in Italy were equally keen to see Alfas and Maseratis gaining glory for Italy, but these two companies both realised that competitive success, for the time being, had to be sought outside of the big boys’ arena! In fact the 6CMs and 4CMs were proving much more reliable and successful for Maserati than their ventures into Grand Prix racing with the 8CTF. Villoresi, now with the works team, had a couple of outings in an 8CTF in 1938, at the Coppa Acerbo in Pescara (see his words below) and at the Donington GP, where he was forced to retire with engine trouble.

“By the end of 1937 I was voted "Champion of Italy" for the race category up to one and a half litres.”

“[In August 1938] we raced in the "Coppa Acerbo" at Pescara; at this circuit, known as the Italian Nurburgring, I drove really well [in a 6CM in the Voiturette race]. I went straight into the lead and carried on to take the chequered flag. After this preliminary race for smaller capacity cars came the ‘Grand Prix’ for the big guns; Mercedes, Auto Union and Alfa Romeo. Trossi started at the wheel of a twin supercharged 3-litre [8CTF], a wonderful machine; after a few laps Trossi came into the pits feeling unwell. Ernesto Maserati invited me to get into this wonderful big machine; it was for me a great responsibility as I had never driven this car before. I set off at great speed and to my surprise overtook two German cars. After a few laps I pulled into the pits to hand the car back to Trossi. Ernesto Maserati and Guerrino [Bertocchi] congratulated me on my drive, I had taken the Maserati to second place overall, and what’s more, had broken the lap record in 10 min 57 secs. That day at Pescara was extremely gratifying.”

1939 brought a personal tragedy. In June Gigi’s younger brother Emilio was killed whilst demonstrating an Alfetta at Monza to Enzo Ferrari’s business associates. “Mimi” was only 25. Enzo Ferrari’s less than sympathetic reaction to the death of his young team member soured the relationship between Gigi and Enzo Ferrari then, and again after the war when Gigi was to join the Ferrari team. The same year saw the appearance of the 4CL from Maserati: an improved voiturette design which again recognised the dominance of the Germans in Grand Prix. Villoresi had some success with the 4CL, winning the Targa Florio, but being forced to retire in the Tripoli GP and in the German GP, on the latter occasion in the bedevilled 8CTF. War put a stop to racing in September across much of Europe, although the Italians continued to race at home and in North Africa until they entered the war in June 1940. Villoresi, in a 4CL, won the Targa Florio again and gained a place at the Tripoli GP, both these races being almost exclusively Maserati and Alfa.

Having spent the latter war years as a prisoner of war Gigi was keen to get back behind the wheel, and in April 1946 he won the Nice GP in a 4CL, driving for the Scuderia Milano, which was effectively the works team since the factory was not in a position to manage a team by itself. “I recall with great satisfaction my victory in the first post-war race, the GP of Nice. Naturally in this race I was in my 1.5-litre Maserati; my biggest threat was Sommer in a big supercharged Alfa Romeo. In spite of a pit stop to top up with water, I caught him up, passed him and went on to gain a most satisfying win.”

Gigi went to Indianapolis in May with the Scuderia and achieved a place in an 8CL. He crashed quite badly while competing in the Grand Prix des Nations in Geneva in July, and this rather affected his performance for the remainder of the season.

“My greatest disappointment? My race at Indianapolis. I had the chance of being the first Italian or European to finish this great and demanding race, and what’s more, had the chance of winning it. I had a very good car, a fabulous three litre supercharged Maserati [8CL]. My car was superior to the rest and even though I started near the back of the grid, I worked my way up into the lead, but just as I was beginning to sense victory came the drama of the magnetos. The car’s owners, the Ruggeri Brothers, did not want to overhaul them after a long period of inactivity due to the war; I had to stop twice to replace them; I lost 35 minutes due to the stops and ended up in sixth place; approximately ten minutes behind Ronson, the eventual winner. I had, however, the honour and the satisfaction of joining the ‘100 Miles an Hour Club’.”

The next year, 1947, proved to be very good in Villoresi’s racing career. At the start of the year he rejoined Scuderia Ambrosiana with his good friend Alberto Ascari; their friendship developed on the track and Gigi became Alberto’s mentor; perhaps Alberto was to some extent filling the place left by Emilio’s death. The Scuderia went to South America early in the year to compete in Argentina and Brazil with their 4CLs. There were three Grand Prix in Buenos Aires in February: one named in honour of the country’s dictator Juan Peron, and another in honour of his wife, “Evita”; Villoresi bagged both these races, and gained second place in the Rosario GP. Back home in Europe Gigi was victorious with 4CLs in Grand Prix at Nimes, Nice, Alsace, and Lausanne, and was placed in the Swiss GP. An outing in an A6GCS at the Circuit of Modena sports car race brought in a second place.

1948 was another excellent year for Villoresi. The South American tour with Scuderia Ambrosiana brought wins in both Mr and Mrs Peron’s GPs again, and a third in the Rosario GP. At the San Remo GP in June Maserati introduced the 4CLT/48. This new car had basically the same engine as the 4CL, but with two-stage supercharging now fitted as standard, a tubular chassis, and reworked suspension. Villoresi gained a second place here, followed by places at the Swiss, French and Italian GPs. Later in the year victories were gained in the Comminges, Albi, British and Penya Rhin GPs, all in the new Tipo. In sports car racing he was placed in the Dolomite Gold Cup driving an A6GCS, and in the Naples race with an OSCA.

In 1949 the 4CLT/48’s fortunes declined. Scuderia Ambrosiana made its customary trip to South America, but Villoresi only managed a second place in the Juan Peron GP; however the tour ended on a better note with wins for him in the Interlagos and Rio de Janeiro GPs. The best that he managed back in Europe was a sixth place at the GP du Roussillon in May. Midway through the year came an unexpected call from Enzo Ferrari; he offered Villoresi a trial in one of his cars in the Belgian GP; he took up the offer, came second in that race and also won a sports car race in another Ferrari. Despite a mutual dislike between the two men, which had arisen ten years previously when Emilio was killed, Gigi handled the situation professionally and secured contracts with Ferrari, not only for himself, but for his friends Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina as well. These three men were to form a successful trio in the Ferrari camp. Gigi won the Dutch GP at Zandvoort for Ferrari, and took seconds at Spa and Bremgarten in the Belgian and Swiss GPs, and a third in the International Trophy at Silverstone.

1950 was not such a good year for Villoresi; racing at Geneva seemed to have a jinx upon him; he had crashed there in 1946 and was to do so again in July at the Grand Prix des Nations, this time more seriously, losing control in dropped oil, and team mate Farina also crashed whilst managing to avoid Gigi lying in the road.

Gigi was sufficiently recovered from his bad injuries to enter and win the Inter Europa Cup at Monza in April 1951, driving a Ferrari 340 Coupe. Later that month he won the Mille Miglia in the same car, partnered by Cassani. He had fought with Enzo Ferrari over the right car to use, Enzo opting for the Barchetta, but the driver on this occasion knew better, and proved it. He went on to take third places in the Belgian, French and British GPs, and a fourth at the German GP.

Throughout 1952 and 1953 Villoresi remained a stalwart of the Ferrari team, gaining good results, although outright victories eluded him. He took places in the Italian GPs in both years, and in the Argentine and Belgian GPs in ’53. It is perhaps not just wishful thinking that his support and encouragement for Alberto Ascari, nine years his junior, contributed to the latter winning six GPs in ’52 and five in ’53.

Contract discussions with Ferrari for the upcoming 1954 season came to nothing for Villoresi and Ascari, but they could not have been unduly disappointed as contracts for both of them with the brand new Lancia Formula One team were soon agreed. Lancia’s D50 held great promise with its excellent power to weight ratio, V8 engine with offset transmission, and pannier fuel tanks providing constant weight distribution as fuel was consumed. Unfortunately the Lancia team took a while to get going in 1954 and Villoresi had only one outing, in the Spanish GP at Pedralbes, but brake failure forced him to retire. For the remainder of the ’54 season he had been lured back to the Maserati fold and had a number of races in a 250F, but with no noteworthy results excepting a fifth place at Reims in the French GP.

1955 was an eventful and sad year for Villoresi. In May at the Monaco GP, whilst he gained a fifth place, team mate Ascari plunged into the harbour in his Lancia but was hauled out with only minor injuries. Perhaps this was a portent for the tragic and unexplained accident that killed Ascari just a few days later when practicing at Monza in a new Ferrari sports car. Lancia had lost its star driver and no doubt this contributed to Gianni Lancia pulling out of racing at the end of the season and handing over their D50s to Ferrari. Gigi was with Alberto, at his side when he died shortly after the accident; Gigi had lost a friend, a business partner, and his brilliant young protégé; this must have been a painful parallel to the loss of younger brother Emilio sixteen years earlier.

Late in the ’55 season Villoresi returned to Maserati again and was victorious in a 300S in the Venezuelan GP, having shared the driving with Fangio, and he gained a third place in the Syracuse GP in a 250F. 1956 was a busy year for Gigi: he had ten outings in Maseratis in major competitions, but he was now 45 and perhaps he was losing some of the edge on his consummate driving skills. He recorded a first in class in an OSCA whilst competing in the Supercortemaggiore GP at Monza; apart from that the best he managed was a fifth at Spa in the Belgian GP in a Centro Sud 250F, and a sixth at Silverstone in the British GP. His last Formula One race was at the Italian GP at Monza, sharing a 250F with Jo Bonnier, but being forced to retire with engine trouble, and his last major race involved a crash in a 300S in the Rome GP.

Perhaps Villoresi retired at the right time since 1957 saw a shift in the balance of power in motor racing. Italian domination of Formula One was being supplanted by the British Vanwalls and many of Gigi’s contemporaries recently prominent were now dead or retired: Wimille, Ascari, Farina, Gonzalez. In the same year the Mille Miglia was banned forever following a horrific accident.

Gigi Villoresi retained a keen interest in motor sport in general and the cause of Maserati in particular for the rest of his life. In 1958 he participated in and won the Acropolis Rally for Lancia. He was often to be seen supporting the Maserati factory at various shows and exhibitions. He exercised his craft with great skill, but at the same time was possessed of a quiet and elegant charm. In his career he had twice been Champion of Italy, but in some ways his most prestigious attainment was being known as Il “Gigi” Nazionale (the National “Gigi”) by his many adoring Italian fans. His fan base went abroad too, and in his later years when he was in poor bodily and financial health, and was being looked after in a monastery near Modena, British fans contributed towards his upkeep. He also achieved a unique position when an Italian Act of Parliament was passed to allocate state funds towards his maintenance.

“Life at Maserati was like living in a family: I will never forget the grumpy Bindo, the beloved Ernesto, the silent Ettore, the good Guerrino [Bertocchi] and the team of mechanics. My time at Maserati was the most beautiful period of my sporting life, and one which best enabled me to demonstrate my ability: I won over 25 races and two outright Italian Championships in 1939 and 1947.”

Luigi Villoresi died peacefully in Modena on the 24th August 1997.

I am indebted to Sig Ermanno Cozza for permission to use excerpts from an article entitled ‘Maserati and I’ written by Luigi Villoresi and originally published in the first issue of Il Tridente in August 1988, and to Enrico for providing a translation of this from the Italian, and for sourcing photographs..


by Roger Harrison

Originally published in the “Trident” magazine


It is a warm sunny day at the Hockenheim circuit just outside Heidelberg and the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team are testing their new car; the young French driver, full of his customary joie de vivre and fired with his unstoppable determination to go faster and better climbs aboard. Only minutes later the car inexplicably leaves the track at the fast Ostkurve bend, hits the barrier and is thrown violently into the air; the driver suffers serious injuries from which he dies shortly afterwards. The date: 1st August 1980; a fateful day for the driver, Patrick Depailler who always treated 1st August as a black tie day in memory of his boyhood hero Jean Behra who had been tragically killed at the Avus circuit in Berlin exactly 21 years previously.

The two Frenchman had much in common: they were both physically short, but tough with it; racing was their raison d’être and they embraced it, and life in general, with a joy and passion that sometimes bordered on the insane according to some of their contemporaries.

Jean Marie Behra was born in Nice on 16th February 1921 to the family of a radio engineer. Already as a boy his competitive nature was demonstrating itself as he threw himself into schoolboy sports with great energy and determination. Jean then took a job at a bicycle shop which gave him a helping hand to achieve success with cycle racing.

At the age of 17 Jean made the natural progression to motorcycle racing but the war put a stop to that and he had to wait until the Coupe de la Liberation in 1945 to gain his first victory on a motorcycle. Between 1948 and 1951 Jean Behra captured no less than four French national motorcycle racing titles whilst riding for Moto Guzzi. However in parallel to this successful early career he tried his luck with four wheels: at a ‘bike event at Mont Ventoux in 1950 he borrowed a Maserati 4CLT, entered a hill climb, and won !

In the same year Behra had taken part in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Simca, and at Le Mans he shared a drive in a Simca Gordini with Loyer but the car failed to impress. However Behra’s success in the hill climb and a good drive in the Bol d’Or at St Germain, together with some good press notices, attracted the attention of Amédée Gordini, who had a sharp eye for talent, and the young Behra was signed up for the 1951 Gordini works team alongside Trintignant, Simon and Manzon.

The ’51 season brought some rewards for Behra and the Gordini team; he gained a third place in his first outing at Les Sables d’Olonne, and then repeated this at Cadours.

In 1952 Behra made his name and won a place in the hearts of French fans with a giant-killing performance at the Reims Grand Prix; the Ferrari T500s of Ascari and Farina were the surefire favourites to win this race; the underpowered and unreliable Gordini T16s were considered to be a sideshow, but Behra went into an early lead ahead of Ascari and to everyone’s amazement held the lead; towards the end of the race the Ferrari suffered engine trouble and Jean was able to sail on to a resounding victory with the home crowd in frantic delight. Although this was a non-championship Formula 2 race it mattered not to the French public – Jeannot was, and would remain, their hero.

Elsewhere in the same year Behra had some other successes: in the Formula 1 Championship a third at Bremgarten in the Swiss GP, a second placing in a BRDC heat at Silverstone, two wins at the Circuit du Lac, second at the Caen GP, and an overall fourth in the Formula 2 championship.

Away from the race circuits Behra tried his hand at the gruelling Carrera Panamericana; still in a Gordini he won the first stage of 330 miles at an average 88 mph; unfortunately he lost control of the car in the second stage, and plunged into a ravine, from where he was lucky to escape with his life. The wisdom of entering the frail Gordini in a race such as this over such poor surfaces must be questioned but it was no doubt the boundless enthusiasm and ambition of the driver that was the decider.

Whilst Behra stayed with the Gordini team throughout the 1953 and 1954 seasons it was not a fruitful time for Behra nor for the team as a whole. The Gordini T16 was simply outdated by now by the more powerful Ferraris, Maseratis and, in ’54 the Mercedes-Benz’s; added to which the car’s unreliability – the rear axle being its Achilles heel – and increasing financial woes within the team meant that any success for Gordini was a rare achievement. In spite of this Behra made the best of the situation; his win at the Pau GP against Trintignant’s Ferrari 625, and a superb display against the mighty Mercedes-Benz W196s at the Berlin GP at Avus just had to be noticed by the great and the good; the more astute amongst them would have also noticed that Behra’s lap times and qualifying times were often better than those of the drivers from the successful teams with the better cars; it was simply the Gordini’s inadequate power and unreliability over several hours of racing that was keeping Behra out of the points. So it was then that towards the end of the ’54 season Neubauer considered an approach to Behra, thinking to lure him into the Mercedes-Benz team. However by this time Behra had his eye upon Maserati, and when he signed with them for the ’55 season his fortunes were about to turn for the better.

Jean Behra had three wonderful years with Maserati between 1955 and 1957 although for Jean these times were not without their disappointments and frustrations. In the ’55 season Maserati had to play second fiddle to the all-conquering Mercedes-Benz team and the talents of Moss and Fangio; most of Maserati’s success came in non-championship races. In 1956 Mercedes-Benz withdrew from the racing scene and when Moss came to Maserati Jean had to concede the position of number one driver to Stirling. Then in 1957 although Moss disappeared to the Vanwall camp, Maserati brought in Fangio and once again Jean had to play number two to the undoubted talents of Juan Manuel. Despite all this Behra accepted the number two position with grace, and then threw himself with great energy and determination into the task of bringing victory whenever he could in either the 250F in Formula 1 and non-championship racing, or in 150S, 200S, 300S and 450S in the sports car racing arena. His natural skill and consistently quick times were reinforced by his resolute will to win and his relentless enjoyment of driving these great cars.

In Formula 1 between 1953 and 1960 the season always started early in the year when most teams decamped to the Argentinean summer. This meant that Behra’s first race for the Maserati works team was in the Argentine GP at Buenos Aires on 16th January 1955. The weather was unbearably hot and most drivers failed to complete the race under these conditions, but Behra picked up a sixth place in a 250F shared with Schell. Two weeks later Behra gained a creditable fifth position in the Buenos Aires City GP against the alcohol-fuelled Mercedes 300SLRs in this Formula Libre race.

Jean’s first outing in a 300S at the Dakar GP in March was brought to a halt with transmission problems. Back in Europe success escaped Behra once again when he was forced to retire from the non-championship Valentino GP at Turin when his 250F’s De Dion tube failed. However he had only to wait until April for his first taste of victory in a 250F when he won the Pau GP comfortably alongside team mates Musso and Mieres, and he followed up with another easy win at the Bordeaux GP, this time in an uprated 250F with a bigger head and carburettors. At the Naples GP in May Behra managed only a fourth place having lost five laps whilst being pitted for repairs following a collision. Back in the seat of a 300S Jean won the Bari GP at Lungomare from team mate Luigi Musso in another 300S.

On 22nd May Maserati entered Behra, Musso, Mieres and Perdisa in the Formula 1 Monaco GP; competition was strong from the W196s and the Ferraris and the Lancia D50s; Behra was running well but had to swap cars with the more junior Perdisa in mid-race after Behra’s 250F gave problems; in the end, ironically, Behra had to retire Perdisa’s car with clutch problems, while Perdisa went on to third place in Behra’s car! Later in May Behra partnered Musso in a 300S to win the Supercortemaggiore GP at Monza.

In June the Formula 1 Championship moved to Spa for the Belgian GP; Behra spun off the circuit on an early lap and ran back to the pits to take over Mieres’ car but only managed a fifth place in the torrential rain. At Le Mans a few days later Behra partnered Musso in a 300S but had to retire owing to transmission failure; this was the same disastrous race in which 81 people were killed when Levegh’s 300SLR catapulted into the crowd; one result was that the Formula 1 programme was significantly reduced for the remainder of the season. Racing continued however and at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort Behra took a sixth place having been delayed in the pits. A week later Jean had better luck at the Portuguese GP where he drove his 300S to a commanding win after superb driving around the difficult street circuit at Porto.

In July the Maserati team came to Aintree for the Formula 1 British GP; they expected great things from the 250Fs driven by Behra, Musso and Mieres, but the Mercedes of Moss and Fangio were to dominate this race; Behra held on in third for a while until his engine lost its oil after ten laps. At the Swedish GP at Kristianstad in August Behra did well to hold on to a fourth place against stiff Ferrari competition. Later in the month in a little 150S Behra won convincingly at the Nurburgring 500 kilometre race against strong opposition and he gained a class lap record. Back to the Formula 1 Championship on 11th September at Monza for the Italian GP and Behra was perhaps lucky to gain fourth place in the 250F streamliner which had been developed in a hurry for the new steeply banked Monza track; the car did not perform as expected and he crossed the line as his engine blew! In his final outing of the year at Dundrod in the TT Behra suffered serious injuries with broken arms and ribs and burns and the loss of his ear when he crashed badly in his 300S shared with Musso and Bordoni.

!955 had been a good season for Behra, but not so good for the Maserati team which had been overshadowed by Mercedes in the Formula 1 Championship; by contrast whilst Maserati were to have their best year ever in 1956, Behra’s successes were to be a little fewer.

In January 1956 the European teams headed once again for the South American sun. In the Formula 1 Championship Argentine GP in Buenos Aires Behra came in second, close behind Fangio in his Ferrari version of the Lancia D50, a good result considering that the improvements to the 250Fs for the ’56 season had not yet been implemented. In the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometre Race Moss and Mendetiguy won in a 300S, and Behra and Gonzalez brought home another 300S in third place. In early February in the Buenos Aires City GP at the high altitude Mendoza circuit Jean’s 250F struggled against carburation problems at the altitude but he gained a third place.

Late February saw Behra in North Africa, firstly competing in the Agadir GP where he had to retire his 300S after steering problems developed and forced him off the track, and secondly in the Dakar GP where he took a third place, again in a 300S. Crossing the Atlantic again Behra had a disappointing race at the Sebring 12 Hours in March where he partnered Taruffi in a 300S but came in at only fifth. Back in Europe the Maserati factory decided against entering for the Syracuse GP in Sicily as they wanted to concentrate on getting the new 250F ready for the European season; but Behra was keen as always to race, and at the time was living nearby, so he entered by himself in a 250F borrowed from the factory; unfortunately he had to retire with a broken oil feed.

In April Behra made his debut in the Mille Miglia at the wheel of a 150S and came in at 20th position overall but a creditable second in the 1500cc class – a good enough result in itself but in order to reach it Behra had to contend with firstly driving for some distance with the loss of his brakes, and then secondly with stopping to make up a brake pipe and refit it, by himself !

In spite of delays and problems at the factory Maserati had their modified 250Fs ready for the ’56 Formula 1 season opener, the Monaco GP in May. Behra had an uneventful race here and brought in his car in third place behind team mate Moss in first and Fangio in a Lancia-Ferrari in second. Two weeks later he shared the triumph with Moss at the Nurburgring in the 1000 Kilometre race where they shared the drive in the winning 300S.

In June at the Belgian GP at a typically wet Spa Behra had some engine problems with his 250F but kept it going to reach seventh place. He had better luck a week later at Montlhery in the Paris 1000 Kilometre race where he and Louis Rosier swept the competition aside in a fine win in Rosier’s privately entered 300S.

July was a busy month for Jean. An uneventful race at the Formula 1 Championship French GP in Reims brought him a third place; another third was notched up in the Rouen GP in a 300S suffering from damaged suspension; yet another third place was gained in the Formula 1 Championship British GP at Silverstone, despite engine problems with the 250F. Then in the Bari GP run over a twisting street circuit the Maserati team and Jean in particular had great success with the 200SI; the first part of the race was restricted to 2000cc and Jean had a comfortable victory here with team mate Cesare Perdisa in second; the placed cars from this race then went into the main, unrestricted, event where it was 1-2-3 for Maserati when Moss won in a 300S closely followed by Behra and Perdisa in the smaller cars.

On 5th August at the Nurburgring there was a short race for sports cars, the Rhineland Cup; Moss and Behra each drove a 150S; the cars were poorly set-up and Moss managed second while Behra trailed in at sixth; in the Formula 1 Championship German GP which followed Behra fared better in third position behind Moss. Two more sports car outings in August brought little luck for Jean: in the Swedish GP at Kristianstad Maserati had a terrible time; the new 450S only ran in practice; the 300S driven by Moss was handed over to Behra but spilt fuel in the pits started a fire which resulted in the fuel tank being ruptured, and the car was retired; in the Pescara GP he scraped a 14th place in his 200SI, but with the consolation that he had recorded the fastest lap time.

For the Formula 1 Championship Italian GP in September on the fast banked Monza circuit the factory had prepared two 250Fs with an offset transmission line and the driver’s seat offset to the right; this afforded a lower driving position, a lower centre of gravity and a reduced frontal area; they hoped this would give some advantage against the all-conquering Lancia-Ferraris being driven by Fangio and Collins; Moss and Behra were to drive the modified 250Fs and whilst Moss eventually won the race, Behra retired with magneto trouble, then took over Maglioli’s standard 250F but had to retire again with steering problems.

Jean was definitely having more success in sports car racing in ’56 and he continued this theme with a towering performance in the Rome GP at Castelfusano in October, winning both the 2000cc race in a 200SI, and the main competition in a 300S.

In November the factory sent the team out to Australia. In the Australian TT at Albert Park Moss and Behra scored an easy 1-2 in their 300S’s, then repeated this result in the Australian GP in 250Fs at the same venue in December.

Jean Behra had spent a very busy year in 1956, racing at venues all over the world from January to December, and at the same time achieving fine results in spite of having to be number two to Moss. Behra had come fourth in the 1956 Formula 1 World Championship with 22 points to Collins’ 25, Moss’s 27, and the maestro Fangio’s 30 points. 1957 promised well for Jean as Maserati’s V12 version of the 250F was in preparation, and the 450S was waiting in the wings. Although Moss left Maserati after the early season races in South America to go to Vanwall, Maserati snapped up the services of Fangio when he offered to return from a season with Ferrari. So once again Behra played number two, probably disappointed but accepting the situation understandingly and not holding back on his aggressively competitive spirit once he got behind the wheel.

The ’57 season opened in January with the Formula 1 Championship Argentine GP at which Maserati trounced the Lancia-Ferrari opposition with a 1-2-3-4 for Fangio, Behra, Menditeguy and Schell. A week later in the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometre Race the 300S being driven well by Behra and Menditeguy had to be handed over to Moss who had retired the 450S which he had been sharing with Fangio; Moss took the 300S on to second place. In the Buenos Aires City GP Behra’s 250F took second place in the first heat and third in the second heat, finishing second on aggregate.

In March in the Florida sunshine Behra and Fangio drove a 450S to one of the ill-fated tipo’s few successes when they had a convincing win in the Sebring 12 Hours race.

Returning to Europe Jean Behra had a rather lacklustre summer despite a promising start when he won the Pau GP in April in the sole works car amongst a huge field of privately entered 250Fs. Shortly before the Pau race Behra had been forced to retire in the Syracuse GP. In May at Le Mans a 450S driven by Behra and Simon was retired after a universal joint collapsed. Behra had to give the Monaco GP a miss as he had been injured in a road accident. At the Formula 1 Championship French GP held at Rouen Behra was let down by his lightweight 250F which had to be pushed across the finish line to record a sixth place after the engine blew up. Better fortune prevailed in the Reims GP where Behra brought home his 250F in second place after a tremendous tussle with the team’s number one, Fangio. In the Formula 1 Championship retirements were all too many for Behra: in the British, Pescara and Italian GPs he was forced out with mechanical problems. Sadly in the British GP at Aintree Behra was having one of his greatest races, setting a commanding lead at the quarter-stage, when the car’s clutch disintegrated. Interestingly in the Italian GP at Monza Behra had driven the V12 engined 250F to its death; the engine was perhaps just too powerful for the car, wheelspin being evident much of the time that Behra was achieving very fast lap times, and the free-revving engine overheated and suffered terminal failure. In the Formula 1 Championship German GP Behra managed only a sixth place – this of course was Fangio’s finest race where he famously fought back from a hopeless position to win. In the 1957 Formula 1 World Championship Behra shared eighth place with team mate Schell.

In the non-championship Caen GP in late July Behra and Schell tried out the unloved BRM P25; Behra won convincingly which must have stood him in good stead for the move to BRM which came in 1958; Behra and Schell took to BRM P25s again in the International Trophy race at Silverstone in September which Maserati had declined to enter, and again Jean and Harry bagged the first two places. Undoubtedly this cemented the deal between Behra and the BRM team which was in place by the end of the year.

In the Swedish GP in August Jean returned to his Maserati form with another resounding win in “Il Monstro” – the 450S; two 450S’s had been entered; Jean had perhaps the better car, fitted with the supplementary two speed gearbox which gave it an extra turn of speed, and Moss was driving the other. The lead was exchanged many times between the two drivers in a very close race until Moss’s car expired and Behra took the flag.

In the autumn Behra’s success continued with wins in a 250F at two non championship races. At the Modena GP he was first in each heat and the aggregate race, then at the Moroccan GP at Casablanca he took an early lead and held this for most of the race and came through to win convincingly.

The season ended with a disastrous race for Maserati at the Venezuelan GP: Moss’s 450S was involved in a collision; meanwhile Behra’s 450S caught fire while being refuelled and Behra was sent off to hospital; Moss jumped into Behra’s car, which had not suffered too badly from the fire, and set off but soon returned as he realised the fire was still burning under him on the seat; with the fire fully extinguished Schell took over, only to collide with Bonnier’s 300S, this resulting in both cars being written off. This was an unhappy prelude to the factory’s decision to close their racing department at the end of the ’57 season.

There was to be one more 250F drive for Behra. In early 1958 he, along with Fangio and other team mates entered the Argentine GP in a semi-private capacity; he had to settle for fifth. In the following Buenos Aires City GP Behra and Menditeguy turned up late and were refused entry. Behra’s last drive for Maserati came in July ’58 in the Villa Real GP in Portugal where he took a 300S to second place behind Moss in another 300S. Coincidentally this was also the last official Maserati works race for the 300S.

Behra’s ’58 season with BRM was certainly not his best, partly because of the poorly performing and unreliable P25, and arguably because Jean lost some of his mettle after a bad crash at the Easter Monday meeting at Goodwood when his car hit a wall at 70mph after the brakes had failed. Despite this he stuck with the team throughout the season and scored a third place in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort and a fourth in the Portuguese GP at Oporto. In the seven other championship Formula 1 races Behra had to retire his BRM; this must have aggravated him, as must the sight of Harry Schell, his old Maserati team mate regularly recording better times – at Maserati Behra had always been faster! Some say that at times Behra could be seen to give up in a race.

Away from BRM and Formula 1 Behra had a better relationship with Porsche. Driving their cars he had notable success, winning both German and French sports car championships in 1958 in a Formula 2 Spyder 1500, and sharing third at Le Mans with Hans Herrmann in an RSK.

The Ferrari team had lost Musso and Collins, both killed tragically whilst racing in 1958 and Hawthorn had retired, and so Behra was taken on, along with Tony Brooks, to form the core of the 1959 team with Phil Hill who had joined midway through 1958. The move to Ferrari should have been the opportunity for Jean’s skills to shine through in the Dino 246, but somehow the team failed to come together and Enzo Ferrari only made things worse by his customary refusal to name a number one driver. Behra and Brooks both believed, quite rightly, that they should be number one. Behra managed a fifth place in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort, but little else in the championship, although he had notable success elsewhere for Ferrari, winning the Aintree 200 and scooping second places in the Syracuse GP and the Sebring 12 hours.

The Formula 1 Championship French GP at Reims on 5th July should have been Jean Behra’s moment of glory; he was the favourite to win on this fast circuit to which the Dino 246 was ideally suited; and the French fans were desperate to see their beloved Jeannot repeat his 1952 win when he had won hands down in the giant-killing Gordini. Whether it was due to the driver or to the car the fact was that Brooks was driving faster; Behra in his frustration blamed the management for favouring Brooks and Hill – who went on to first and second, and when he brought his car into the pits with a broken piston a furious row developed with Romolo Tavoni, the Ferrari team manager; unfortunately Jean’s temper got the better of him, his fists found Tavoni, and that was it, instant dismissal from Ferrari.

Behra then turned his talents, which included a considerable mechanical expertise, to developing the Behra-Porsche Formula 1 car in conjunction with designer Valerio Colotti; the first car soon rolled out of his Modena works and was due to be driven by Jean in the Formula 1 Championship German GP on the Avus track in Berlin on 2nd August.

One day earlier however, on 1st August 1959, Behra had entered the support race for sports cars with a Porsche RSK Spyder. The track was wet and the 45 degree banking was unforgiving; as Behra came onto the Nordkurve too fast his car span out of control, then struck a concrete bunker at the top of the banking before Behra was hurled against a flagpole. Jean Behra died instantly, 21 years to the day before his young admirer Patrick Depailler was to meet a similar fate.

Jean Behra had such a strong will to win that perhaps at times this did not allow his undeniable driving skill to shine through; certainly his ambition was frustrated on many occasions where circumstances contrived against him – an under-performing car, or having to play number two in the team. Despite this he enjoyed his motorsport tremendously and passed on that enjoyment to his many fans; and along the way he achieved fifteen wins, nine second places and eleven third places in championship and major competitions. He played a large and significant role in Maserati’s three great years in Formula 1 with the 250F between 1955 and 1957. These words from fellow Frenchman and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry serve well to sum up Jean Behra’s life: “Make your dream devour your life, so that life does not devour your dream.”

Endnote: A week before he was killed, Jean Behra had discussed with his friend Don Sergio Mantovani, the Modenese priest who had administered to the Maserati team, the possibility of a nursery school in Modena to commemorate all those drivers who had been killed. Jean Behra left some funds towards the nursery school which was built with its first classroom named after him. Readers can find the full “Racing Drivers’ Memorial” story HERE !

From Enrico in the UK

Hi Maseratisti,

Thought you'd like to know how I've been progressing with my photographic register.

If you would like to make a contribution to my photographic register, please send photos and details to Thank you !




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