A wealthy sportsman and industrialist, World War II was barely over when Franco Rol began racing sports cars – initially with a Gordini and then Alfa Romeo 6C-2500. A regular in Italy’s long distance road races at the time; he led the 1948 Giro d’Italia and finished second a year later.
Formula 1 career
Success in 1949 also included a second place in the Targa Florio and third in the Mille Miglia despite being delayed by an accident in that latter event. Winner of that year’s Pescara sports car race in heavy rain, he retired a Maserati 4CLT/48 from the 1949 Italian Grand Prix on his Formula 1 debut.
Rol joined the works team for the following season and was fifth in the non-championship event at San Remo. However, his planned two-car entry for the 1950 Indianapolis 500 (with specially commissioned Maserati 8CLT/50 chassis and Giuseppe Farina as his team-mate) never materialised.
Instead, he made a short-lived debut in the 1950 World Championship at Monaco when one of those to be caught up in the infamous first-lap pile-up at Tabac. Forced to miss the Swiss GP due to injury, he retired from two further championship starts that year in France and Italy. However, he crashed into the crowd during Barcelona’s Penya Rhin GP when his brakes locked. Two spectators were killed and several injured.
Rol returned at the 1951 Italian GP with the brand-new OSCA 4500G and recorded the only finish of his five-race GP career when an uncompetitive ninth and last. The world championship was switched to Formula 2 rules in 1952 and Rol retired a works Maserati A6GCM from the Italian GP.
That was his last major single-seater race and he returned to sports cars in 1953. However, he was severely injured during that year’s Giro di Sicilia and although he recovered, this gentleman driver did not race again. He lost his life in 1977 in a boating accident off the coast of Rapallo.