Alfonso de Portago

Full Name:
Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquis de Portago
Born:
11th October 1928
Marylebone, London (GB)
Died:
12th May 1957 (Aged 28)
Cavriana, Lombardy (I), Mille Miglia
Nationality:
Spanish
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Alfonso "Fon" de Portago was a Spanish nobleman who seemingly excelled at any sport he chose whether it be tennis or skiing, boxing or bobsleigh (he was fourth in the two-man bob at the 1956 Olympics). Qualified as a pilot when 17 years old, he was also a successful jockey who twice rode in Aintree’s Grand National and was amateur steeplechase champion of France on three occasions.

Privileged upbringing

Born in London and the godson of the King of Spain, he was educated in France. De Portago was fluent in four languages; he was a larger than life character for whom the opposite sex was perhaps his favourite sport – leaving a string of broken hearts in his wake. His liaisons included showgirl first wife Carol McDaniel, actress Linda Christian and famous New York model Dorian Leigh.

Oh yes, and he raced cars as well. Without a doubt, de Portago lived his 28 years to the full.

Although not from the very top rank of racing drivers, he proved to be a competent team member at Ferrari and was Spain’s only Formula 1 podium finisher before Fernando Alonso.

Motor racing career

He was introduced to motor racing late in 1953 when co-driver for Luigi Chinetti on the Carrera Panamericana. He bought a Ferrari 250MM Vignale and began racing himself in 1954 and he was immediately second in the Buenos Aires 1000Kms with co-driver
Harry Schell.

Somewhat wild at first, de Portago travelled to the Bahamas for the Nassau Speed Week in 1954 and again a year later – winning the Governor’s Trophy on both occasions. He also made his F1 debut in 1955 with a private Ferrari 625 – racing in non-championship events before breaking his leg when his car was destroyed at Silverstone’s Club Corner while practising for the International Trophy.

A member of the works Ferrari sports car team for 1956, he won the Tour de France Automobile and was third in world championship races at the Nürburgring and Kristianstad. He also retired from his Grand Prix debut in France before sharing Peter Collins’ second placed Lancia-Ferrari D50 in the British GP.

The 1957 season began with placings in F1 and sports cars in Argentina before tragedy struck on the Mille Miglia in May. Believed to be the victim of a puncture, his Ferrari 335S cart-wheeled off the road and into a group of spectators at over 150mph. De Portago, co-driver and old friend Edmund Nelson, six adults and five children all lost their lives. As a consequence, Italy’s majestic road race was banned in its unrestricted form.