Meo Costantini was a flying ace who flew a Spad S.VII in the Italian Air Force during World War I. He shot down six enemy aircraft in that most dangerous of arenas.
His racing career had begun in 1914 when he retired an Aquila Italiana from the French Grand Prix. He resumed when Europe was at peace once more and drove a Bianchi during 1922.
Bugatti works driver
It was with Bugatti and the beautiful Type 35 that he made his name. That classic racing car was introduced at the 1924 French GP with Costantini part of the five-car works team. It was Alfa Romeo’s day however and Costantini retired at half distance with steering failure. He fared better in the San Sebastian GP, finishing second to Henry Segrave’s Sunbeam and setting the race’s fastest lap.
Costantini’s first major success came in 1925 when he defeated the Peugeots of Louis Wagner and André Boillot to win the Targa Florio. His T35 also finished fourth in that year’s French GP at Montlhéry and he drove a T39 cyclecar in the Italian GP at Monza when third overall and a class winner.
Successful 1926 season
The 1926 season was a strange one for GP racing as manufacturers shunned newly introduced rules limiting engine capacity to 1500cc. Costantini repeated his Targa Florio victory (again a Formule Libre event) and was in the three-car Bugatti team for the French GP. Unfortunately no other entries arrived for the race, resulting in the smallest field in the sport’s history and a complete farce. Costantini was still circulating at the finish but too far behind Jules Goux’s winning car to be classified.
Organisers loosened the rules to attract fuller entries and Costantini enjoyed his best season – placed in the European and Italian GPs and winning the Spanish GP and at Milan.
Career after racing
However, failing health forced him to retire as a driver to become Bugatti’s Team Manager instead. He remained in this position until he was replaced by Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean for 1935. Costantini returned to live in Milan.