Luigi Villoresi

Born:
16th May 1909
Milan, Lombardy
Died:
24th August 1997 (Aged 88)
Modena, Emilia-Romagna
Nationality:
Italian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

With silver hair and ready smile, Luigi Villoresi was a star of the post-World War II years.

Early racing career

The Villoresi brothers had been fast and impetuous talents since they both began racing Fiats in 1931. They shared a Maserati voiturette five years later and both starred. Luigi (or "Gigi" to his friends) soon won 1500cc events and made his Grand Prix debut with the marque. The younger Emilio joined Alfa Romeo but was killed while testing at Monza in 1939.

Luigi Villoresi was named as 1938 Italian Champion and his victories included the Targa Florio voiturette races in 1939 and 1940. He spent time as a prisoner of war during World War II and his hair had turned grey by the time he was free.

Grand Prix winner for Maserati

With undiminished racing ambitions and at the height of his powers, Villoresi finished seventh in the 1946 Indianapolis 500 with a Scuderia Milano Maserati 8CL. Italian Champion again for the next two years, his greatest triumph came in 1948. He led his protégé Alberto Ascari in a Maserati 1-2 in that year’s British GP at the new Silverstone circuit.

Formula 1 with Ferrari

Already in his forties when the new Formula 1 World Championship was introduced in 1950, his best years as a GP driver were behind him. Both Ascari and Villoresi signed for Ferrari with the latter happy to play a supporting role. He skidded on oil during the GP des Nations at Geneva and his car rolled with Villoresi seriously injured and three spectators killed.

Now recovered from his multiple fractures and head injuries, Villoresi consistently finished in the F1 points during 1951 – including three successive third places. He was fifth in the standings as Ascari narrowly failed to clinch the title. Both continued with Ferrari during the Formula 2 World Championship years of 1952 and 1953 with Ascari winning back-to-back titles and Villoresi a regular on the podium. He finished second in the 1953 Argentine and Belgian GPs for what were his best results in the championship.

Subsequent years with Maserati and Lancia

Ascari and Villoresi switched to works Maserati 250Fs in 1954 as they waited for the new Lancia team to be ready. Villoresi was fifth on his debut in the Lancia D50 in the 1955 Monaco GP on the day that Ascari crashed into the harbour. His friend emerged unscathed only to be killed testing at Monza shortly afterwards.

Villoresi continued in 1956 driving a private 250F with fifth in Belgium his final world championship points score. However he broke his right leg racing a Maserati sports car at Castelfusano and decided to retire, much to his family’s great relief. He did return briefly to win the 1958 Acropolis Rally for Lancia but one of 1950s motor racing’s great characters was now content to be a former driver.

Championship seasons