Vittorio Brambilla, the wild man of Italian motor racing in the 1970s, succumbed to a heart attack while gardening at his home in Monza on the afternoon of the Monaco GP. He was 63.
It was the least likely fate imaginable for a man who, in his competitive heyday, stared risk in the face with an almost joyous delight.
Brambilla’s greatest claim to fame was his victory in the 1975 Austrian GP, a rainsoaked race which was flagged to a halt at half-distance. Vittorio, delighted with his win at the wheel of the works March 751, began punching the air with delight only to spin into the barriers a few hundred yards after the finishing line.
Back in 1971, when I reported on the European F2 Trophy series for Motoring News, Vittorio gave me a ‘Brambilla-tuned’ badge which I stuck on the rear of my company Fiat 125S. That was pretty exclusive stuff at the time, although the Brambilla-tuned Cosworth FVA F2 engines displayed questionable reliability, on a par with my Fiat. Truth be told, they were soulmates. Brambilla came to racing prominence in the wake of his elder brother Ernestino always known as ‘Tino’ and, like his brother, had been something 0f0 dab hand in motorcycle racing before switching to four wheels. Following his Austrian win, Vittorio remained with March until the end of 1976, after which a Iwo-year stint with Team Surtees produced a succession of stirring performances, but all too frequently he overdrove the machinery and paid the price with accidents and mechanical retirements. He also drove for the Alfa Romeo sportscar team in 1977, helping the famous Milan-based marque to win the World Championship for Sportscars with the T33SC/12. Vittorio was a huge fan and later drove for the F1 Alfa Romeo team.
He suffered serious head injuries in the Monza accident which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson at the start of the 1978 Italian GP, but happily recovered to race until the end of 1980.
Brambilla successfully shed his erratic image towards the end of his career, but could never be described as anything but overenthusiastic in terms of driving style. He had a simple, almost naive, passion for motor racing and took criticism of his ambitious tactics in good heart.Vittorio was an oldfashioned racer who didn’t analyse what he did. He just got on with it.