Mr. Alberto Ponno, a GTA Junior driver in the old days of Autodelta and a great airbrush painter later in his life has contributed a story about Carlo Chiti.... as I hope all Autodeltisiti will do over the coming years to post here "Autodelta Golden Years.com".
In the 1970's he participated in numerous European Touring Car Championship races and was the overall winner or class winner of the Salsomaggiore-S.Antonio, Pedavena-Croce d’Aune and VI Coppa Carotti races.
He was technician in Servizio Esperienze Speciali in the downtown Alfa Romeo factory in Portello and knew almost all of the big names of Alfa Romeo S.p.A. in those days.
Here is Ponno’s story as translated by "Autodelta Golden Years.com" collaborator and his personal friend Vladimir Pajevic:
"In the early ‘70's I was working at the Servizio Esperienze Speciali Department in Portello. Without recognizing it at the time, I was in daily contact with the actual people who made the modern day history of Alfa Romeo.... Ing. Surace, Ing. Busso, Ing. Garcea, and Ing.Satta....for example. It was the Magic Moment of the GTA and its originator, Carlo Chiti, and the many successes of the small Autodelta factory in Settimo Milanese echoed loudly and clearly at Portello.
I" have owned the 1300 GTA J (pictured) and I was engaged in some racing activities while working during the day for Alfa Romeo. In those days, Autodelta introduced the “narrow head” cylinder design... an improvement that confirmed the supremacy of the “little beast”, but because it was the exclusive design ot Autodelta it was available nowhere else. I was dreaming of obtaining one, although its price was prohibitive for a private driver such as myself.... and Chiti was well-known to be tight-fisted in giving the permission to sell parts out of the tightly-knit Autodelta circle.
"Even in its unfinished form only ~perhaps one hundred of them were made for homologation purposes. My position in Servizio Esperienze did not serve to help me to obtain the Autodelta head..possibilities, if anything it distanced them from my grasp. Knowing Ing.Filippo Surace very well, and knowing also that he was close with Chiti, I had asked him for a personal recommendation with the hope that it would be right approach to eventually convince Ing. Chiti to sell me the head.
"Surace had made an appointment with Chiti at Settimo Milanese,...and there I was, punctual and with an envelope containing a large amount of banknotes for the desired object of my dreams. Chiti received me in his office and in his Tuscan dialect asked me for the reason of my visit. I told him that it was my intention to improve my car adding the Autodelta “narrow head” design and gain in that way more competitiveness.
“What kind of racing are you doing Young man?” Chiti asked. “Well, mainly hill climbing and some ETCC competitions also” was my answer. “So your intention would be to change the head for the benefit of your racing?” asked Chiti again. “Yes, engineer” I answered promptly.
"Chiti could not pass up on the opportunity to add humor to his conversation ... and he told me with a malicious 'Chiti-esque' smile: “Young man, I think that the head you have is absolutely suitable for such purpose”. I started laughing and said: “Anyhow I have brought with me money, in case you accept my request”.“Of course” said Chiti, “Go to the shop and they will give you what you find necessary”.
"On my way back to Milano with the precious box in my arms, I concluded that it was not difficult to become a fan of the “Big Boss !"
Vladimir Pajevic continues:
What we can learn from Mr. Ponno's experience is that Carlo Chiti was a nice person really, without distinction as to whom he was speaking with...whether it would be an 'important' person or a regular average fellow who needed his help.
Yes, he was loud, explosive and ready to squabble on occasion for insignificant things, but he was extremely generous and ready to help even the people completely out of his sphere. With his technicians, he was extremely choosy and sometimes rough and stormy, but when tranquill waters returned, he was the same gentle big and humorous friend that you could rely on absolutely for anything reasonable.
This personality was visible also from his enormous love for dogs (and animals generally) where he did often made personal sacrifices to resolve the problem of some abandoned poor mongrel.
The fact is, while chatting with Mr. Ponno, Chiti got the excellent occasion to make a gag playing with the word “head” in the sense of engine head and Ponno’s head. It was well known that he never missed occasion for such comments.
A relatively famous remark he had been quoted to have made involved none other than World Champion Niki Lauda.
One of Chiti’s dogs in the pit was pissing on the rear wheel of Lauda's F1 car. Lauda complained but Ing. Chiti, without losing his smile, commented that if that could not help the car to win, it could similarily not help it to lose...!
So, to conclude, it is clear that Chiti often took the occasion to make a well-honed cutting remark at a precise moment ... just for the benefit of his sense of humor.
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