Ignazio Giunti: Two Life Impressions by Two Great Motor Sports Writers
by Vladimir Pajevic
This is the story of Ignazio Giunti, dear friend, and extraordinarily talented driver on a rapid rise, killed on January 10, fifty years ago, in one of the most absurd tragedies in the history of racing, during the 1000 Km of Buenos Aires. Among Italian drivers he was a true promise of Formula One, and at the same time an already established champion with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari Touring cars and Prototypes, ace of rare driving talent and sensibility, and one of the last Champions of racing era still weaved on heroic stories and tragic and terrible events. The Goddesses of Destiny have decided his fate, and his pint of glory, but did not leave him enough time to fill the pages of his book of dreams. In a way, his premature death, signed the final stage of competitions made up of wonderful cars and fascinating circuits, which was slowly turning towards the end, accepting the new concept of modern racing principles.
What remains is the memory of the driver born in Rome in noble and wealthy family and raised in the environment of improvised street races so common in those times. His innate talent and his attitude to challenge destiny projected him towards early success, making him noticed in the Roman racing cars reality made of small workshops that prepared production cars for agonism. In the short span of time, and with almost any car capable of racing, Ignazio had cut his teeth, becoming the "number one" among the Roman drivers. Urbani with well-prepared Giuliettra 1300, “Gigetto” Giraldi expert for Fiat 500, and Bardahl team from Florence, (the first one that engaged talented Roman driver for racing Abarth 850 TC in European challenges), were first successful steps in Giunti’s career. In 1965, he won 11 of 12 class races in European challenges and was awarded as the most successful Bardahl’s driver.
The road to serious professional career was paved.
Another Roman, one of the wizards of the Alfa Romeo brand preparation and tireless talent-scout among the rookie drivers, Franco Angelini, was struck by the tightrope driving ability beyond limits of the young Giunti, that already thrilled numerous supporters, and wanted forcefully that young man among the drivers of his own Scuderia.
Angelini’s white and red GTA (AR613274) soon elected as “Regina di Vallelunga” and its driver acclaimed as “Reuccio” (the little King), had become an unbeatable symbiosis of the Roman circuit, and the fame gained by Giunti, always a winning driver, was now a national reality, and his personal relationship with Angelini became true friendship.
Tempted with single-seater racing, Giunti also gathered some experience with Gino De Sanctis’, Formula 3 car in national Championship, debuting at Monza circuit. But Angelini’s GTA remained his first choice and he continued successful participations in hill-climb and track races. His career was now serious campaign and during 1966 season he faced even the Le Mans thrill sharing 1.3-liter ASA RB 613, with Spartaco Dini, though their race unfortunately finished during 8th hour because of clutch failure.
His results couldn’t pass unobserved by the racing arm of the Portello factory, Scuderia Autodelta, directed by the volcanic and brilliant engineer Carlo Chiti. Ing. Chiti noticed the young driver who knew how to race and win and he chose him to reinforce the already superb official racing team.
Ignazio Giunti became one of the official Alfa Romeo drivers, and part of the "family" led by Chiti, nice reality without the intrigues of the court and with a collective spirit where the simple rules of mutual respect and friendship reigned.
The Roman boy with his good manners, his perennial smile and kind attention to everyone soon became a friend of his colleagues and favorite of the team's technicians and mechanics. His entrance in Autodelta was signed with immediate victory in the Belmonte-Avola hill-climb, and shortly after, he won the Budapest ETCC race at Nepligét Park, with Enrico Pinto as co-driver.
The next year arrived class victory in ETCC Belgrade Grand Prix, and at the end of the season resulted in him becoming the winner in the touring-car class in the 1967 European Hillclimb Championship... where except the second placement in debuting race... he won all others.
In 1967, Alfa Romeo started its adventure in Group 6 Prototype racing and was presented the new T-33 Spyder, nice looking, 2 litre V-8 sportscar designed in Servizio Esperienze Speciali, and prepared for competitions by engineer Carlo Chiti.
This promising project needed further development showing only in a few events its future value and as his best result with the new car, Giunti arrived second behind teammate Andrea de Adamich in the Trofeo Bettoja race at Vallelunga.
With the improved version presented in 1968, Giunti won the Italian Sportscar Championship, scored 2nd place overall in the Targa Florio just behind the more potent 2.2-litre Porsche 907 of Umberto Maglioli and Vic Elford, second place in 500 Km of Imola behind the sister car of Nino Vaccarella and Teodoro Zeccoli, then 5th overall in the 1000 Km of Nürburgring and a class win, 4th overall, in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 1969 is remembered as the year of development of the rather problematic Alfa Romeo 33/3 sportscar, fitted with a new 3-litre V-8 engine. Giunti finished 2nd to Jacky Ickx in a Mirage-Ford M3, in the 500 Km of Imola, and afterwards he obtained two 6th placements in the Solituderennen at Hockenheim, finishing also 2nd to his teammate Dini in the European Touring Car Championship, while driving some races with GTA in Division 2.
In 1969, he also drove Alfa Romeo 33/2 for French SOFAR team, winning the Criterium de Cevennes road race.
Already noticed and followed by Enzo Ferrari, Giunti was contacted by SEFAC and though his position in Autodelta was solid and his relationship with teammates and Chiti excellent, the Ferrari offer was the opportunity not to be missed. Giunti’s desire to join the elite drivers in F 1, and the promise made by Ferrari to give him the possibility to confirm his abilities in the highest category, was decisive for his choice, and he signed as official driver of Scuderia Ferrari in 1970 season.
Those were tough years for 512 Ferrari Prototype cars ...unable to fight efficiently with the mighty Porsche 917, but n the 12 Hours of Sebring, Giunti shared with Vaccarella the winning Ferrari 512S, in which the sporting director Franco Gozzi decided to put American driver Mario Andretti during the final hour with evident promotional intent.
It was the team’s decision to cross the finish line ahead of the Peter Revson and Steve McQueen Porsche 908/02 with the best American driver of the moment. With Nino Vaccarella, Giunti arrived 2nd in the 1000 Km of Monza, then 4th in the 1000 Km of Spa-Francorchamps, then 3rd in the Targa Florio, and also 3rd in the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, sharing again the car with Mario Andretti. As the swan song and last glimpse of Ferrari 512 story, Giunti won, dealing the renewed 512M with Jacky Ickx, at 9 Hours of Kyalami.
In 1970, his F 1 dream started in impressive Spa Francorchamps GP debut where Ignazio finished the race in an excellent 4th position, wearing also for the first time his new, beautifully designed integral helmet, a gift of his fiancée Mara Lodirio. Regardless to this extraordinary start in F 1, Giunti discovered soon the power of internal politics in Scuderia Ferrari. He was relegated to a second team’s 312B F 1 car and compelled to share it with Gian Claudio Regazzoni, whilst as the first driver was confirmed Belgian Jacky Ickx. Giunti had three more opportunities during season in French Grand Prix at Clermont Ferrand where he finished in 14th place, then Austrian Grand Prix where he arrived 7th, and Italian Grand Prix at Monza where he had to retire because of engine problems. Italian Monza Grand Prix, confirmed Regazzoni as the official second driver as he won the race, and for Giunti arose the problem of possible participations of Mario Andretti, the driver important for Ferrari for financial American involvement in races where Andretti was willing to start.
For Giunti it was a clear delusion but comforted by personal promises of Enzo Ferrari to have his chance in 1971, Giunti opted to remain in Scuderia Ferrari, regardless of tempting other offers by diverse European teams.
In anticipation of the displacement limit for the cars of the Group 6 Prototypes which went from 5 to 3 liters with atmospheric aspiration, Ferrari abandoned the further development of the 512 model, and opted for the new 312B prototype, intending to exploit the engine used for the F 1 cars.
Smaller and more agile than the mammoth Sports cars with exaggerated power engines, the new Ferrari 312B was a graceful spider, easily maneuverable, almost an F 1 with covered wheels, a car congenital to Giunti’s driving style. Victory in the Group 6 Championship was the goal in the Scuderia's plans, and Ignazio Giunti was the right driver to complete this task.
The season’s opening round was the 1000 Km of Buenos Aires race, held on 10 January 1971. Giunti with the Ferrari 312PB had Arturo Merzario as teammate. He was leading with authority that race at the beginning of the season that could have launched him towards an international career of the highest level, but instead, he lost his life in one of the most incredible accidents in the history of car racing. The tragedy at the 38th lap of 1000 km of Buenos Aires remains a cornerstone in the history of competition safety and goes far beyond the terrible event that served to open a reflection about mistakes made.
French driver Jean Pierre Beltoise, running out of fuel in the last hairpin before the paddocks, against all regulations valid for racing, against all common sense and against all logic of the responsible and intelligent person, pushed his light blue Matra MS660 in a point with weak visibility across the track, in a desperate attempt to reach pits and refuel.
In an environment like that of the Buenos Aires racetrack... characterized by an insufficient level of safety and few emergency vehicles... and in the presence of unconvinced race marshals unable to enforce the regulations, Beltoise's behavior assumed the meaning of an ominous omen, and for a few laps in the continuing race, drivers somehow managed to dodge that obstacle on the track.
Then, with the vision completely covered by Mike Parkes' huge Ferrari 512, which he had brought with the abrupt and sudden maneuver towards the left to pass the stationary Beltoise’s car in the middle of the trajectory, Giunti found the Matra in front of his car, without any possibility of maneuvering, and the impact was tremendous, with the disintegrated Ferrari immediately firing and pirouetting for nearly 100 meters.
The pilot's death was instantanous and the whole show of the rescue only served to avoid the closure of the circuit and the end of the race, foreseen in cases of accidents with the death of the participants.
The rest is a well-known story of denied justice to the unfortunate Italian driver, story encircled with empty words about the fate and misfortunes that are on the agenda in racing. Beltoise, jumping aside, avoided by a miracle of ill fate avoided afterwards any serious consequence for his irresponsible act.
Giunti would have turned eighty this year on August 30th. Instead, he lost his life when he was just over twenty-nine. He was probably the last driver of the romantic era of motor racing based on the unwritten code of chivalry, respected and honored by the drivers of the time, and he will remain forever in the memory of fans and his admirers.
Today, speaking about his spectacular, almost acrobatic driving always near and over limits, that thrilled the public might recall the image of a reckless pilot in perennial challenge of fate. This description is not true.
Giunti was above all an intelligent and sensitive driver who in all circumstances carefully measured all the possibilities, and chose the solutions, yes, taken to the limit, but always solutions that he could control and always with a due way out in case of need. In this, it was the paradigm of the born racing driver who felt the vehicle as an extension of his own senses, and with whom he created the symbiosis capable of making the most of the circumstances. In short, he was not the classic "heavy foot" who, in order to win a race, was ready to sacrifice the car remaining immune to the sense of danger.
The small number of accidents and never a case of incorrect behavior in the race, except the lawful battle on the track, speaks in favor of this judgment.
Leaving so prematurely, Giunti left his dreams unfinished, an unfulfilled promise to his aficionados, and an immense void to all who knew and loved him.
Ignazio Giunti shown here at Le Mans in 1968 with the "Daytona" T-33 two litre of Autodelta
Ignazio Giunti's Tragedy 50 Years Ago
Text by Roberto Motta
The death of Ignazio Giunti, the promise of Italian motoring, left a huge void and a regret that some enthusiasts still live with today.
Ignazio Giunti was born in Rome of a noble family and was one of the finest racing car drivers of his time.
Impetuous, spectacular and light-hearted.
After making his mark in minor races, he became an Alfa Romeo official team driver which led him to a high level of professionalism with the Giulia GTA.
At the wheel of the Milanese car, Giunti achieved important results...such as victory in the 4 Hour race in Budapest, 2nd place in the Hill Climb of Mont Ventoux and 3rd place in the 1966 Mugello Grand Prix.
In the 1967 season, Alfa Romeo assigned him the task of winning the European Mountain Championship, and Ignazio did not disappoint: after a 2nd place in the first championship race, he won the title by winning every race he took part in.
It should be remembered that in this period the Autodelta drivers represented the best Italian motor racing drivers of the time... and that Autodelta was a team in which the drivers lived in a serene environment, devoid of intrigue and favoritism foundprevalent in other teams.
In this environment Giunti, and his young colleagues became faster and more competitive and... when the Alfa Romeo S.p.A. made its debut with the 2-liter 33 with the Sport Prototype World Championship, it was natural that the Roman driver was also called upon to lead the race with the new prototype.
We recall that in those days the races reserved for prototypes had a similar, and sometimes higher, following to that of F1.
Racing with a more powerful car enhanced Giunti's driving skills even more, who, when paired with Nanni Galli achieved excellent results...culminating in a second place finish on the Madonie road circuit at the Targa Florio.
The 1968 season started in a bad way for Giunti, who had an accident in Daytona Beach that forced him to abandon competitions for a short time.
He soon returned to the Targa Florio race, still recovering and with his arm wounds not yet healed, exalted the enthusiasts with a spectacular drive; in teaming up with Galli he nearly won overall, taking 2nd place behind Vic Elford's most powerful Porsche.
The Giunti-Galli team took the class victory in the two most important races on the world calendar: the 1000 Kilometers of Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ignazio then won the Republic Grand Prix in Vallelunga and was the fastest both at Mugello and at the Imola 500 km, where however the final results were conditioned by technical problems.
In 1969, Giunti raced again for Autodelta which entrusted him with the 33/3, a beautiful but difficult car to drive.
At the end of 1969, Enzo Ferrari summoned him to entrust him with one of his cars.
The negotiations were quick and, in 1970, Giunti was behind the wheel of the Ferrari 512 sport-prototype.
The climate in the Ferrari team was difficult, very different from what Ignazio had experienced at Autodelta... also due to the strong attention of the Italian press which was always on the lookout for information and gossip.
For the 512 it was a season to forget, and it was soundly beaten by the Porsche 917; the 512 won only one race, the 12 Hours of Sebring with Giunti, Andretti and Vaccarella.
At Ferrari Giunti became increasingly popular with the media and enthusiasts. The engineer Enzo Ferrari offered him the opportunity to make his debut in F1 in June of that same year on the difficult circuit of Spa.
The debut was positive and Giunti finished his race in fourth place, conquering the first world points for the 312B with the new 12-cylinder boxer engine.
In subsequent races, Giunti alternated with Clay Regazzoni alongside Jacky Ickx in the Grand Prix of France, Grand Prix of Austria and took part in the Grand Prix of Italy in Monza with Regazzoni and Ickx.
Curiously, Giunti finished the season as he had started it, with a victory driving the Ferrari 512M-1010 "The Thirteenth Rand Daily Mail Nine Hour Endurance Race" in Kyalami ahead of the Porsche 917.
At the end of the season, he was proclaimed absolute Italian Champion.
For the 1971 season, Ferrari entrusted him with the new 312P with a boxer engine, a car that Ferrari himself indicated as ... 'a double-seater'.
On January 10, 1971, at the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, only one 312P was registered for Giunti and Merzario. The race was the scene of one of the worst stories in motorsport.
Starting with the 2nd time in qualifying, Giunti went on to the attack the 917 competitors and firmly conquered the first position.
Ferrari therefore seemed destined to win, but the unthinkable happened.
The Matra MS 660 had broken down due to lack of petrol, and Jean Pierre Beltoise, an experienced and stubborn driver, decided to push the car to the pits.
Criminally, he placed himself in the middle of the track.
Regardless of the danger of the situation, neither the race director nor the stewards intervened to resolve the dangerous situation.
Thus, while Beltoise was on the trajectory in the curve that led to the arrival straight, a curve that was taken at over 200 km / h, two Ferraris arrived, the 512M of the Filipinetti Scuderia that was about to be lapped and the 312P of Giunti, plus considering the low, sleek 512, which had a reduced frontal view.
When Parkes leading Giunti through the curve suddenly found the Matra 660 obstacle, he swerved to the side, while Giunti, who was practically right behind him, did not see the Matra and inevitably hit him.
The collision tore up the right side of the car which was immediately engulfed in flames, while Beltoise who was to the left of his Matra was miraculously unharmed.
In the impact, Giunti was blocked inside the passenger compartment by the wreckage of the frame and seat belts, while the vapors present in the fuel tanks caused an explosion.
When the firefighters managed to put out the fire, the rescuers extracted the pilot, who was unconscious and not breathing.
The doctors managed to revive him with a heart massage and loaded him into an ambulance to be transported to the Fernandez Polyclinic.
Unfortunately, the situation worsened and Giunti arrived at the hospital lifeless from the burns he suffered.
The report was terrible, the victim had third degree burns for over 60% of the body, and equally serious were the fractures to the cervical vertebrae in addition to heart failure caused by the shock of the impact.
The dramatic accident, and its crazy dynamics, gave rise to a wide international debate that contributed decisively to increasing safety in racing.
The death of Ignazio Giunti deprived the Italian fans of a potential world champion and left a great regret, which some fans still live today.
The way of racing, and the races themselves, were very different from those of today, and aspects of that historical period remain that are little perceived in current competitions; respect for the opponent, risk and death.
An example of this is the accident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during the 2021 Italian Grand Prix in Monza. That accident at the time would have been inconceivable for the dynamics, and fatal for both drivers due to the different safety of the cars of the times.
Death was still considered an intrinsic element of motor racing which, for this reason, was considered an epic sport and its protagonists, the drivers, were seen as heroic leaders, and defined as 'Knights of Risk'.
The generation of Ignazio Giunti was represented by several of the best drivers in the history of motor racing, but was unfortunately wiped out by an incredible series of fatal accidents.
The same year two other great drivers Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez also died in the races.
Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
Ignazio Giunti testing the new Fleron in 1966 at the Alfa Romeo testing facility at Balocco.
Policy of this Website in Regard to the Use of Images Whose Ownership is Not Known or is Otherwise Unidentifiable.
AutodeltaGoldenYears.com. and RobertLittle.US contributes collection images where the Website Content is described as having “no known copyright restriction.” The phrase “no known copyright restriction” means that AutodeltaGoldenYears.com and RobertLittle.US has determined, to the best of its ability based on available information and belief, that the Website Content is unlikely to be protected by copyright interests and, in all likelihood, is in the public domain.
However, copyright is often difficult to determine with certainty, so the phrase is intended to say that AutodeltaGoldenYears.com and RobertLittle.US is unaware of any copyright restriction, but such restrictions may still exist.
In addition, even if the Website Content is unrestricted from a copyright standpoint, there may be other considerations that would limit your use, such as “Right of Privacy” or “Right of Publicity” of the individuals featured in the images, or other contractual restrictions.
For these reasons, AutodeltaGoldenYears.com and RobertLittle.US makes its content available for personal and non-commercial educational uses consistent with the principles of “fair use”.
If you decide to use the Website Content for commercial or other purposes without undertaking to clear all rights, you will be responsible if someone else owns the rights and the owner objects to your use.
Of course, the use of images identified as being the copyright property of the named individuals or groups identified on each page or attached to each image… is prohibited and is subject to the penalty of law as provided by the United States Copyright law and The Bern Convention among other relevant laws and protections.
Richtlinie dieser Website in Bezug auf die Verwendung von Bildern, deren Rechteinhaber nicht bekannt oder anderweitig nicht identifizierbar ist:
AutodeltaGoldenYears.com. und RobertLittle.US stellen Abbildungen, insbesondere Fotos, zur Verfügung, die als "keine bekannte Copyright-Beschränkung" bezeichnet werden. Die Formulierung "keine bekannte Copyright-Beschränkung" bedeutet, dass AutodeltaGoldenYears.com und RobertLittle.US. nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen festgestellt haben, dass die Abbildungen/Fotos wahrscheinlich nicht urheberrechtlich geschützt sind und sich aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach in der Public Domain befinden.
Allerdings ist es oft schwierig, das Urheberrecht mit Sicherheit zu bestimmen, so dass der Satz besagt, dass AutodeltaGoldenYears.com und RobertLittle.US keine Kenntnis von urheberrechtlichen Beschränkungen haben, aber solche Beschränkungen dennoch bestehen können.
Darüber hinaus kann es, selbst wenn der Inhalt der Website aus urheberrechtlicher Sicht uneingeschränkt ist, andere Erwägungen geben, die Ihre Nutzung einschränken können, wie z.B. das "Recht auf Privatsphäre" oder das "Recht auf Öffentlichkeit" der auf den Bildern abgebildeten Personen oder andere vertragliche Einschränkungen.
Aus diesen Gründen stellt AutodeltaGoldenYears.com und RobertLittle.US seine Inhalte für persönliche und nicht-kommerzielle Bildungszwecke in Übereinstimmung mit den Grundsätzen des "fair use" zur Verfügung.
Wenn Sie sich entscheiden, den Inhalt der Website für kommerzielle oder andere Zwecke zu nutzen, ohne sich zu verpflichten, alle Rechte zu klären, sind Sie dafür verantwortlich, wenn jemand anderes die Rechte besitzt und der Eigentümer Ihrer Nutzung widerspricht.
Natürlich ist die Verwendung von Bildern, die als urheberrechtliches Eigentum der auf jeder Seite genannten Einzelpersonen oder Gruppen gekennzeichnet sind oder die jedem Bild beigefügt sind, verboten und wird entsprechend dem Urheberrechtsgesetz der USA und der Berner Konvention neben anderen relevanten Gesetzen und Schutzmaßnahmen geahndet.
Politica di questo sito web riguardo l'uso di immagini la cui proprietà non è nota o è altrimenti non identificabile.
AutodeltaGoldenYears.com e RobertLittle.US forniscono immagini, in particolare fotografie, alle quali si fa riferimento come non aventi "nessuna restrizione di copyright nota". La definizione "nessuna restrizione di copyright nota" sta ad indicare che AutodeltaGoldenYears.com e RobertLittle.US hanno determinato, al meglio delle proprie capacità e sulla base delle informazioni e conoscenze disponibili, che è implausibile che le immagini siano protette da copyright, e che pertanto con ogni probabilità sono di dominio pubblico.
Tuttavia il copyright è spesso difficile da determinare con certezza, per cui con tale definizione si intende dire piuttosto che AutodeltaGoldenYears.com e RobertLittle.US non sono a conoscenza di alcuna restrizione sul copyright, sebbene tali restrizioni possano comunque esistere.
Inoltre, anche nei casi in cui il contenuto del sito web sia privo di limitazioni dal punto di vista del copyright, ciò non esclude che possano esserci altre considerazioni che ne limitino l'utilizzo, come il diritto alla privacy o il diritto all’immagine delle persone presenti nelle fotografie, o restrizioni di tipo contrattuale.
Per questi motivi, AutodeltaGoldenYears.com e RobertLittle.US rendono i propri contenuti disponibili per usi educativi personali e non commerciali, in conformità ai principi del "fair use".
Qualora decidessi di usare il contenuto del sito web per scopi commerciali o di altro tipo senza la previa acquisizione di tutti i diritti, sarai responsabile se qualcun altro detiene tali diritti e si oppone al tuo utilizzo.
Naturalmente, l'uso di immagini contrassegnate come protette da copyright di cui sono titolari individui o gruppi identificati in ciascuna pagina o allegati a ciascuna immagine, è proibito ed è soggetto alle sanzioni previste dalla legge sul copyright degli Stati Uniti e dalla Convenzione di Berna, oltre che dalle altre leggi e protezioni pertinenti.