Lamberto Leoni

Born:
24th May 1953 (Age 66)
Argenta, Emilia-Romagna
Nationality:
Italian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The bare statistics of Lamberto Leoni’s racing career are not overly flattering but he was a persistent Formula 3000 team owner who briefly threatened to become a Formula 1 constructor.

Early racing career

A former Formula Italia Champion, the Italian’s Scuderia del Passatore March 752-BMW was a promising third on his Formula 2 debut at Estoril in 1975. He did not score again as the team struggled financially and Leoni was out of a ride before the season was over.

He returned to F2 in 1977 with Giancarlo Minardi’s Ralt RT1-Ferrari. Off the pace and failing to qualify three times, he switched to Trivellato Racing’s Chevron B40-Ferrari and surprised the establishment by winning on aggregate at Misano.

Formula 1 with Surtees and Ensign

Leoni entered the 1977 Italian GP in the Durex Surtees TS19-Ford but failed to qualify. However, he joined Ensign for the 1978 F1 World Championship and retired on his debut in Argentina. His driveshaft broke on the Brazilian GP parade lap and Leoni failed to qualify the Ensign N177-Ford for the next two races before being replaced by Jacky Ickx.

That was the end of his F1 career and he only made occasional F2 starts in 1979 and 1982. There were glimpses of form during a fuller F2 schedule in 1983. His Horag Hotz March 832-BMW finished sixth at Silverstone and he qualified on pole position at Hockenheim having switched to James Gresham Racing.

Formula 3000 as driver and team owner

Leoni entered the new Formula 3000 in 1985 and his ex-works Williams FW08C-Cosworth was the third of five finishers at Pau. Third again at the Osterreichring with a March 85C meant that Leoni was 10th in the inaugural standings. But a 160mph practice accident at the Austrian circuit a year later left him with back injuries that ended his season.

He returned in 1987 with his own First Racing team and a series of points scores culminated in successive fourth place finishes at Imola, Le Mans and Járama. That was good enough to share eighth in the FIA F3000 standings with team-mate Gabriele Tarquini.

Leoni retired from driving to concentrate on running his team for whom Marco Apicella finished in the F3000 championship top-five in 1989 and 1990. First also built a Richard Divila-designed F1 car in 1989 but Leoni could not raise the finance necessary to enter GP racing. The design was sold to Life Racing Engines and formed the basis of its woeful 1990 F1 campaign.

First Racing won two F3000 races (Pierluigi Martini at Enna-Pergusa in 1988 and Fabrizio Giovanardi, Vallelunga, 1989) before its final race in the category in 1991.

Powerboating and brief F3000 return

Leoni raced in powerboats from 1992. He was runner-up in the world championship a year later and won three such events (Dubai 1992, 1995 and Marbella 1993). He then returned to motor racing and F3000 in 1999 as team owner of Monaco Motorsport. That was an uncompetitive single season in the FIA series although Apicella won twice in the Italian F3000 Championship.