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One off Grand Prix Winners – Ludovico Scarfiotti

Submitted by on March 5, 2015

Scarfiotti 1966

Scarfiotti in 1966, thanks to the Cahier Archive

Winner of the 1962 European Hillclimb Championship and 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ludovico Scarfiotti was no stranger to speedy steering. In Formula 1 he’d pick up one win (in a Ferrari at Monza no less) and seventeen points from just ten starts, but sadly would not have time to improve that tally.

By Mel Turbutt

Ludovico “Lulu” Scarfiotti was born in Turin in 1933 to a family with impeccable motoring credentials, his grandfather being the first president of the Fiat automobile company.

Scarfiotti-Mairesse 1963 Targa

Scarfiotti in 1963, thanks to the Cahier Archive

He worked his way up the motorsport ladder in the 1950s before joining Ferrari’s prestigious sports car team, winning the LeMans 24 hours in 1963 with Lorenzo Bandini. This led to occasional Formula 1 drives for the Scuderia in 1963 and 64. Despite scoring a point on his debut F1 in Holland, there was little to suggest that Scarfiotti was anything other than a decent sports car driver.

1966 saw a major change in the F1 rules, engine sizes being doubled from 1500cc up to a full 3 litres. Ferrari started the season as most people’s favourite to win the world championship. They had a proven track record when the rule book was changed, and a V12 engine that had dominated sports car racing and could easily be reduced to 3000cc.

They also had excellent drivers, 1964 world champion John Surtees lining up alongside the promising Bandini. The season opening Monaco Grand Prix saw only four classified finishers, but at least Bandini finished second. Better still, in the next race at Spa (held in typical Ardennes weather) Surtees drove one of his best ever races to win, with Bandini joining him on the podium having finished third. Ferrari were looking odds on to dominate in 1966, but then (as happened so often during their history) their season imploded.

Surtees’ relationship with team manager Dragoni had been progressively deteriorating for some time and matters came to a head at the LeMans 24 hours in June. Some link this to the aftermath of his huge accident in a CanAm Lola the previous September. Some blame strikes in Italy involving some of their suppliers, but whatever the reason, Ferrari only bought two cars to France and neither was intended to be driven by Big John.

The race proved to be a disaster, Ferrari’s deadly rival Ford finishing 1st 2nd and 3rd while both 330 P3s (including one driven by Scarfiotti) retired. Surtees tore up his Ferrari contract and spent the rest of the Formula 1 season driving a Cooper-Maserati while Bandini became Ferrari’s new number one with Mike Parkes as his number two.

Scarfiotti was entered in a third car for the German GP and surprised everyone by not only out-qualifying both of his team mates, but also putting his car on the front row of the grid. All the more surprising when his car was fitted with an old Dino 246 engine. Electrical gremlins and a flat battery caused retirement two thirds of the way through the race however.

Start 1966 Italy

The start of the 1966 Italian Grand Prix, thanks to the Cahier Archive

There was a four week gap before the Italian GP and the Ferrari team was able to provide Bandini, Parkes and Scarfiotti with improved engines fitted with a completely new, 3 valves per cylinder, cylinder heads. Engine power has always meant everything at Monza and an estimated 380bhp was pretty impressive by 1966 standards. This became obvious when the three red cars qualified first (Parkes), second (Scarfiotti) and fifth (Bandini) on the grid, split only by Jim Clark’s Lotus and Surtees’ Cooper.

As usual at the pre-chicanes Monza, the race immediately became a slipstreaming battle, the three Ferraris running 1-2-3 by the time they reached the Curve Grande – much to the delight of the watching Tifosi. As the laps were ticked off, the lead changed almost from one corner to another, but the pace soon began to tell as car after car was parked with a smoking engine. Bandini had dropped out of the leading group with an ignition problem that would lead to his eventual retirement, but both Parkes and Scarfiotti were well in the mix with the likes of Clark, Surtees, the Brabham of Hulme, Ginther’s new Honda and the Cooper of Rindt and both took their turn in the lead.

By the halfway point Scarfiotti not only managed to get to the front of the queue, but crucially had managed to pull out a slight gap, cutting the tow of the following Parkes, Hulme and Rindt, who were all that remained of the chasing pack. Was it a coincidence that the two Ferrari sports car specialists with their experience of long distance races were able to get their cars to the chequered flag in a race renowned for being a car breaker? Whatever, it was “Lulu” who won the GP. He had managed to build a healthy (for Monza) 15-second lead before easing off at the end so that he beat Parkes by 5.8 seconds for a Ferrari one two. Parkes was just 0.3 sec ahead of Denis Hulme.

Monza had proven to be an almost perfect weekend for Scarfiotti as he added the fastest lap to race victory. Only being beaten to pole position by his team mate by just 0.3 sec had denied him the perfect treble.

It is all the more amazing then that, when the teams arrived at Watkins Glen for the US GP, there was only one Ferrari to be driven by Bandini. With Jack Brabham having wrapped up both the drivers and constructors championships, Ferrari didn’t even bother with the final GP in Mexico.

For 1967 Scarfiotti continued to concentrate on Ferrari’s sports car efforts (usually teamed up with Parkes) and finished second in the 24 hour races at Daytona and LeMans as well as the Monza 1000kms. Back in the F1 world, the Scuderia had suffered a tragedy when Bandini suffered fatal injuries in a fiery accident at Monaco. Scarfiotti was bought back into the team together with Parkes for Zandvoort and Spa, but his results were somewhat less than impressive and Ferrari chose to put all of their F1 efforts behind a young Chris Amon. A one-off appearance with Dan Gurney’s Eagle team at Monza ended after just 6 laps with engine failure.

For 1968 Ludovico joined the Cooper F1 team (scoring two 4th place finishes) and also became a works Porsche sports car driver completing an impressive line up alongside Mitter and Stommelen. The German marque was famous for its detailed and meticulous preparation. In an age full of tragedy and sacrifice, no works driver had ever been killed driving one of their cars.

In preparation for the long distance races, Porsche planned to fill the weekends without such events with an assault on the European Hillclimb Championship. At the first hillclimb in Montseny Mitter, Scarfiotti and Stommelen finished 1st 2nd and 3rd. Round two took place at Rossfeld in Germany close to Hitler’s former lair at Berchtesgaden. Scarfiotti was required to compete here rather than in the Belgian GP at Spa for Cooper (held on the same weekend) and Porsche’s impressive safety record was about to be ruined.

During the second practice runs, Stommelen’s car left the road and destroyed itself amongst the trees. The young German driver was lucky to escape with a broken arm. Just minutes later Scarfiotti’s car also left the road and folded itself around a tree, but the Italian was thrown 50 yards from the wreckage and died of multiple injuries. Mitter went on to score a hollow victory, while Porsche was forced to take extraordinary steps to prove that Scarfiotti’s crash had not been caused by a mechanical failure, even though there was some circumstantial evidence that this may have been the case.

1968 was proving to be a year of appallingly tragic coincidences in motor sport. Jim Clark had been killed at Hockenheim on April 7th, Mike Spence at Indianapolis on May 7th and now Scarfiotti was lost on June 8th. Jo Schlesser would be burned to death in his Honda at the French GP on July 7th.

Ludovico Scarfiotti is often overlooked when comparing the great Italian drivers and few would argue that he was in the same league as Nuvolari or Ascari, but a record of 1 win and 17 points from just 10 GP starts does not seem to be the sign of a mere journeyman driver, especially when added to his excellent sports car record.

By Mel Turbutt

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