Clemente Biondetti

Born:
18th October 1898
Budduso, Sardinia
Died:
24th February 1955 (Aged 56)
Florence, Tuscany, cancer
Nationality:
Italian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

"The King of the Mille Miglia" – Clemente Biondetti was the man to beat in Italian sports cars during the 1940s. Tazio Nuvolari’s Cisitalia may have attracted the attention in the 1947 race but Biondetti beat the maestro into second place for his finest victory. He then won both the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio for the next two years in a period of unrivalled success in this form of the sport.

Upbringing and pre-war career

The working class Biondetti family moved from Sardinia to Florence when Clemente was in his early twenties. He raced motorbikes for four years before buying an 1100cc Salmson in 1927. He made his cyclecar debut on Livorno’s Montenero circuit and won that year’s national class championship.

Biondetti started the 1930 Monaco GP with a Scuderia Materassi Talbot and he joined the works Maserati team for the following season. Although the marque struggled against both Alfa Romeo and Bugatti at the time, Biondetti did finish third in the French Grand Prix and at Rome that year.

Little GP success was achieved driving for a succession of privateers that decade but it was a different story in Italy’s classic road races. Biondetti’s private Alfa Romeo "P3" finished fourth in his first Mille Miglia in 1936 and the factory team took note. The third works driver for the 1938 race with a lightweight Alfa Romeo 2900A, he took advantage after his colleagues crashed to win the Mille Miglia for the first time.

His luck in the 24-hour races of that year was in stark contrast. Sharing with Raymond Sommer, he led comfortably at Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps only to retire from the lead of both races on the Sunday morning. Biondetti then gave the legendary Alfa Romeo 158 voiturette its debut in the 1938 Coppa Ciano Junior and he followed Emilio Villoresi home in a 1-2 triumph for the team.

Biondetti won the 1939 Coppa Acerbo at Pescara and continued racing in 1940 despite the onset of World War II – his Alfa Romeo finishing second at Tripoli and fourth on the Mille Miglia.

"The King of the Mille Miglia"

But it was in the late 1940s that he enjoyed his greatest success, dominating Italian road racing in the immediate post-war years and enjoying an unbeaten run on the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio from 1947 to 1949. He drove for Maserati in 1947 before joining Ferrari for the following season.

Biondetti was also something of an experimental engineer – racing the MB Special (Maserati-Bugatti) in 1932, building a replica Jaguar C-type when the factory refused to sell him one and creating the unique Ferrari 166I-Jaguar Formula 1 car in 1950. It was with the latter that he made his only start in the new world championship – retiring from the 1950 Italian GP when the Jaguar XK engine broke.

He continued to race sports cars with Jaguar, Ferrari and Lancia – finishing third in Monaco and second in the Pescara 12 hours during 1952. Biondetti had been fighting throat cancer for some time and he died in hospital in 1955 after an operation.

Championship seasons