A toss of the coin

Similar accidents, dramatically different outcomes

Motoring through Italy, we once found another motor racing roadside memorial, at Alessandria. An imposing edifice (above), it reflected the wealthy origins of unfortunate young Maserati driver Carlo Pedrazzini, and the evident affection of his grieving family and friends. 

While the illustrious Alfa Romeo Tipo B Monoposto had established the open-wheel, centreline single-seat form of the major-league racing car, Maserati responded quite quickly with its 1933 8CM – batch-produced for customer sale. Into 1934 the bodies of those cars had to be widened to meet the latest 750Kg formula rules. But the 8CMs remained extremely whippy, their powerful 3-litre straight-eight twin-cam engines exacerbating the risk in ambitious, yet inexperienced hands. I have driven one, so can vouch for this. 

In April 1934, Alessandria’s Pietro Bordino GP was run in relentless rain. Pedrazzini was the 24-year-old engineer son of a wealthy architect from Locarno, Switzerland. Early in that first heat Pedrazzini tragically got out of shape on the Ponte Nuovo bridge over Alessandria’s River Tanaro, clipped the parapet and somersaulted into trees and a wall. The luckless young Swiss-Italian was fatally injured. In the final Nuvolari had a near-identical accident, hitting a nearby tree but escaping with a broken leg. 

The Pedrazzini monument was moved, I believe, a few years ago when road changes were made. It was re-erected in front of the Automobile Club d’Italia building in Alessandria. Somehow – despite necessity – that does jar as a desecration. But near-novice Pedrazzini and the standard-setting Nuvolari had both confronted motor racing’s challenge. A toss of the coin – and one had lost.