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Eugenio Castellotti

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Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

Aesop

Eugenio Castellotti nicknamed "Il Bello" (Handsome) was one of the brightest young Italian drivers of the 1950s, who burst into the world of Grand Prix like a comet and, after spending only two full seasons in Formula-1, disappeared just as quickly. At the same time, despite such a short stay in royal motor racing, the Italian, who had both undoubted talent and downright Hollywood appearance, managed to leave a deep mark in the hearts of many tiffozi, becoming one of the first heirs of Ascari’s fame.


Eugenio was born on October 10, 1930 in the commune of Lodi near Milan in the family of a very successful lawyer, but already in his youth he lost his father, as a result of which he became the owner of a fairly large inheritance. At the same time, according to the recollections of Eugenio’s mother, her son passionately dreamed of becoming a racing driver as a child, and as a teenager he got his first driving experience in the family car under the watchful supervision of his own chauffeur. When Eugenio came of age, he immediately went rogue and spent a significant part of his inheritance on a sports Ferrari 166S, on which in 1951 he began to participate in various European competitions.

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At the same time, even without experience, the Italian showed his talent already in his first year of racing and managed to achieve his first successes, finishing 6th in his class in the Mille Miglia race and taking 3rd place in the Portuguese Grand Prix. The following year, 1952, Eugenio achieved even more outstanding results, winning his first victories in Sicily and Portugal, as well as taking 3rd place in the Bari Grand Prix and 2nd in the Monaco Grand Prix, held that year in the sports car class. 


The race in Monaco brought the Italian quite a wide fame at all when, having taken the lead after a massive blockage at the very beginning of the Grand Prix, Eugenio eventually missed a sure victory due to an unscheduled pit stop, which he made only to quench his thirst with a can of Coca-Cola! However, in addition to the first victories, this year also brought the Italian the first serious accident, which he had during the Vila Real race in Portugal. Being one of the favorites here too, Eugenio took the lead immediately after the start, but soon the Italian missed a gear in one of the turns, as a result of which his car flew off the track and crashed into a tree.

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Having been thrown out of the cockpit, Eugenio landed right on the track, receiving fractures of his leg and pelvis in the fall, and, unable even to crawl away, the Italian at that moment already mentally said goodbye to life. Fortunately for him, there were several spectators nearby who, risking their own lives, managed to drag Eugenio off the track before the racing cars approached. Probably, after such an experience, many in Castellotti's place would have seriously thought of giving up motorsports, but the Italian was clearly not a timid one and, having barely healed his injuries, Eugenio got behind the wheel of a racing car five weeks later.


In 1953, Castellotti continued his successful performances in sports car racing, winning the "10 hours of Messina" and the Troe Sardo, and won his first Italian mountain racing title. However, an even more important event for Eugenio was the beginning of his collaboration with Gianni Lancia, in whose team he took part in several races of the sports car championship and managed to take 3rd place in the Carrera Panamericana.

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Appreciating the Italian's talent, Lancia signed a permanent contract with him for the next two years, which included not only performances in the sports car championship, but also Eugenio's participation in the new team program in Formula-1. However, due to the protracted preparation of the new Lancia D50 cars, Castellotti had to wait for his debut in royal motor racing for another year, and his performances in Lancia in 1954 were again limited to sports car racing. Anyway, this year was still quite successful for Eugenio, bringing him victories in San Bernado and Firenze-Siena, as well as the second consecutive Italian title in mountain racing.

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In addition, during this year, Eugenio managed to become very close friends with the leader of the Turin team, two-time world champion Alberto Ascari, who immediately took a liking to his young teammate and gladly took on the role of his mentor in the motor racing world.

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Meanwhile, in 1955, the Turin team was finally completely ready for their first full season in Formula-1, and already at the first stage in Argentina they brought three their new cars, driven by the best Italian drivers of three different generations: Villoresi , Ascari and Castellotti.

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However, the race itself, which became a real test for all participants due to the terrible heat, turned out extremely unsuccessful for Lancia. Despite the fact that Ascari confidently took the lead already on the 8th lap, after only 14 laps he made a mistake and flew off the track, while Villoresi retired for technical reasons at the very beginning of the race. As for Castellotti, his debut in Formula-1 was a real nightmare. From the very beginning of the Grand Prix, the young Italian, under the influence of the heat, began to make one mistake after another, and as a result, having dropped to last place, already on the 16th lap he pulled into the pits, unable to continue the race. Subsequently, Villoresi took his place in the car, but the gray-haired veteran was not destined to reach the finish line that day too, as he also flew off the track, crashing another car.


Naturally, after such an unsuccessful debut, Eugenio and his entire team were eager for revenge, and already at the second stage in Monaco, Lancia managed to celebrate its first success. Eugenio himself managed to make an excellent impression already in qualifying, taking 4th place on the starting field, while on race day the young Italian became one of the main heroes of the Grand Prix at all.

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Having made a great start, Castellotti immediately worked his way to second place, after which for several laps he defended very successfully against the attacks of the much faster Moss on Mercedes.

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When the Englishman finally took the lead, it was Ascari's turn to fight with Castellotti, and the two-time world champion also had to work hard before he managed to get ahead of his young protege.

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Having missed Ascari, Eugenio confidently settled in 5th place, but soon he damaged one of the tires on the sidewalk, as a result of which he was forced to pull in an unscheduled pit stop. As it turned out, this stop eventually cost him the victory, since it was in this Grand Prix that not a single Silver Arrow managed to reach the finish line, and thus the race was very unexpectedly won by Maurice Trintignant in a Ferrari! However, finishing 2nd and bringing Lancia its first podium, Eugenio also deserved his share of glory, and the only thing that overshadowed the joy of the Turin team that day was the famous Ascari accident, as a result of which the two-time world champion and his car fell right into the sea.

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Naturally, after learning about what had happened, Castellotti immediately rushed to the hospital to visit his mentor, and only there he was able to breathe a sigh of relief when he learned that Alberto had escaped with only a small scratch on his nose.


However, just four days later, an event occurred that was not only the beginning of the end of the Turin team, but also predetermined the entire further course of Formula-1 history for the coming years. On that day, May 26, 1955, Eugenio was on the track in Monza, testing a new Ferrari sports car, in which he and Ascari were to take part in the Supercortemaggiore race next weekend. During the tests, the two-time world champion himself unexpectedly arrived on the track, which was a pleasant, but still a surprise for everyone present at the tests. When Eugenio completed 25 laps and returned to the pits, Ascari greeted him warmly, after which, quite unexpectedly, he asked permission to drive a few laps in a new car. "After an accident, you need to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible so as not to lose your confidence," Alberto explained his desire. Yielding to the persuasion of his mentor, Eugenio gave up his place to him, and, putting on the helmet and gloves of his protege, Ascari drove to the track. 


The tragedy occurred already on the third lap. At the exit of the Vialone turn, Ascari, instead of accelerating, suddenly braked, and his car, turning sharply to the left, immediately flew into the air under the influence of centrifugal force, rolled over several times, and eventually froze on the side of the track with its wheels up.

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Hearing that the sound of the engine suddenly stopped, Castellotti and the mechanics immediately ran to the scene of the accident, where they found the world champion lying on the side of the road, in a bloody shirt and with a barely beating heart. As soon as Eugenio looked at his friend, he realized that even the Lord God could no longer help him, and he was absolutely right. The great Ascari died, like his father, in an ambulance, never reaching the hospital.


Certainly, the death of the two-time world champion was a heavy blow for the whole of Italy, but for the Lancia team, the loss of its leader was a truly irreparable.  In fact, just starting his program in Formula-1, Gianni Lancia associated all the future successes of his team with Ascari, therefore, having lost his leader overnight, the head of the Turin team fell into despair and was ready to immediately disband the entire team. However, after returning to Turin from Ascari's funeral, Castellotti still managed to convince his boss to provide him with one car to participate in the Belgian Grand Prix, if only to honor the memory of Alberto. 


Arriving at Spa-Francorchamps, Eugenio managed to create another sensation, racing along the track faster than all his rivals and winning his first pole position.

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However, in the race, the Silver Arrows drivers once again proved their superiority, and, having overtaken the Italian already at the very beginning of the Grand Prix, Fangio and Moss easily brought the race to the victorious finish. Castellotti himself, having missed two Mercedes, firmly settled in 3rd place, and even the first world champion Nino Farina, who caught up and tried to get ahead of his young compatriot, failed to succeed and eventually fell behind.

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However, due to problems with the gearbox that had already arisen on the 17th lap, Eugenio could not reach the finish line and eventually lost the deserved podium to the same Farina.

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As it turned out, this Grand Prix was still the last in the short history of the Turin team, and, unable to recover from the death of Ascari, Gianni Lancia sold all his cars to Scuderia Ferrari. As for Castellotti, having managed to impress Commendatore himself with his excellent performances, Eugenio arrived at the next Grand Prix in the Netherlands as a new driver of the Scuderia, becoming a teammate of Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant.

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However, as soon as he got behind the wheel of the Ferrari 555, nicknamed the Super Shark, Eugenio became convinced that the cars developed in Maranello were much inferior to the Turin ones both in speed and handling, and as a result, in the next two Grand Prix in the Netherlands and Great Britain, he managed to earn only two points.

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The last stage of the 1955 World Championship took place in Italy, and having decided to go all-in after a series of unsuccessful performances of his team, Commendatore sent both Super Sharks and his new Turin cars to Monza. However, considering that this year the Italian Grand Prix was held for the first time on a long track configuration, which included a newly rebuilt banking, the tires on Lancia cars were not adapted to the excessive loads of profiled turns and began to crumble literally before our eyes. As a result, after qualifying the Scuderia management decided to withdraw the Turin cars from the race, and Eugenio had to start on a Super Shark again.

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However, even this did not become a hindrance for him, and after just an impeccable race, Castellotti managed to win another podium on the home track, which allowed him to eventually take 3rd place in the championship, behind only Fangio and Moss!

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Naturally, after such a strong performance in his homeland, Eugenio became a real national hero, and many immediately rushed to dub the young Italian the heir of the great Ascari. Castellotti himself was certainly very impressed by this comparison, especially since, having extended his contract with Scuderia for another two years, the Italian seriously expected that he would be able to repeat the glorious path of his untimely deceased mentor. In addition, in the wake of success, very significant changes have occurred in the personal life of the Italian. Having become a real celebrity in his homeland, Eugenio, who, in principle, could not complain about the lack of female attention before, now turned into one of the most eligible bachelors of the Appennine Peninsula, and soon he found a worthy match in the person of the famous Italian ballerina, actress and singer Delia Scala.

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Needless to say, the romance of two young stars immediately became a favorite topic of the Italian gossip column, however, despite the obvious seriousness of Eugenio's intentions, there were those among his entourage who were against this union. And if the words of Castellotti's mother, who called Delia a "waitress" at the first meeting, could still be attributed to emotions, then Enzo Ferrari's warnings were dictated by pure calculation. The great Commendatore sincerely believed that settled racers begin to lose a lot of speed, and therefore he was inclined to support their fleeting connections rather than serious relationship. However, as in the case of his career, Eugenio did not listen to anyone's advice in matters of the heart and immediately made it clear that his relationship with Delia was not subject to discussion.

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Meanwhile, at the end of 1955, the Daimler-Benz team announced its retirement from Formula-1, and with the magnificent Turin cars at their disposal, the Scuderia became the main favorite of the upcoming season. At the same time, during the off-season, the Ferrari line-up has undergone significant changes, and now Juan-Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins and Luigi Musso have become Castellotti's new teammates.

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Being the only one of them who already had experience driving Lancia cars, Eugenio seriously expected to become one of the main contenders for the championship title in the new season, however, things went wrong for the Italian from the very beginning.
Already at the first stage in Argentina, the Turin cars managed to demonstrate their high speed, allowing three Scuderia drivers to take the first three places on the starting field, however, due to problems with the gearbox, Eugenio was forced to retire even before the middle of the race.

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At the same time, not only he, but even Fangio, who was famous for his careful attitude to the car, had problems with reliability; however, having changed to Musso’s car, the Argentine still managed to bring this race to a victorious finish.


The second stage of the championship was held in Monaco, and in qualifying Eugenio was very fast again, winning 3rd place on the starting grid, but in the race, trying to keep Fangio behind, the Italian overdid it and burned the clutch already on the 15th lap.

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The Argentine himself was also not himself in this race, and having made a lot of mistakes, seriously battered his car. Later, having stopped in the pits, Juan-Manuel again switched to his teammate's car, this time Collins, while the Argentinian's former car, which could hardly be called anything but a pile of scrap metal, was handed over to Castellotti! And we must pay tribute to the Italian,  despite the rather unpredictable behavior of the car, and even on such a difficult track as in Monaco, he still managed to bring it to the finish and earn his first points of the season!

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The next stage of the championship took place in Belgium, and it, like the previous two Grand Prix, brought the Italian another disappointment. Having managed to make a great start, Eugenio broke into 2nd place at the very beginning of the race, but soon he missed Fangio, then Collins, and then completely retired due to a transmission failure.

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Considering that Fangio also encountered problems here, the race, for the first time in his career, was won by Collins, who was holding only his third Grand Prix for Scuderia! For Eugenio, who himself was still looking forward to his first victory, this success of the Englishman was like a blow in the gut, and the Italian arrived at the next stage in France with the firm confidence to achieve the long-awaited success.


And he almost succeeded. In qualifying, Eugenio was faster than Collins and managed to take 2nd place, behind only Fangio. In the race itself, events developed in an extremely interesting way. Collins won the start, but already on the second lap Eugenio indicated his intentions and moved the Englishman to 2nd place, thus leading the Grand Prix for the first time in his career!

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However, Castellotti was the leader for only two laps, after which he, in turn, was overtaken by Fangio, and this time Eugenio did not resist the Ferrari leader much, obeying the chain of command. It seemed that things were going to the triple podium of the Scuderia, but suddenly the Ferrari trio was seriously challenged by Harry Schell in Vanwall. Faced with problems already at the very beginning of the Grand Prix, the American was forced to pull into the pits, but soon he returned to the race in Hawthorn's car, and, thanks to the excellent aerodynamics of the British bolid, he quickly began to catch up with the Scuderia drivers. Being sure that the American was a lap behind, the Ferrari manager sounded the alarm only when Schell appeared in the rear-view mirrors of the scarlet cars, but it was too late. Having caught up with his rivals, Harry immediately went on the attack, but Castellotti and Collins, showing an excellent example of real teamwork, literally became a wall in front of the American, preventing him from approaching their leader.

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However, despite all their efforts, Schell still managed to find a gap in their defense, and after passing them both in one maneuver, the American began to threaten the Argentine. Sensing danger, Fangio increased the pace, and, having failed to take the lead, Schell again came under attack by Castellotti and Collins, as a result of which he fell back again, and then completely dropped out of the race due to problems with the fuel pump.


However, the struggle for victory did not end there at all, because soon the problems once again overtook Fangio, and, driving into the pits, the Argentine again lost the lead to Castellotti! It seemed that here it was, the Italian's finest hour, was already close, but it was not there! Seeing the opportunity to win a second victory in a row, Collins, who spent almost the entire race behind the Italian, immediately stepped up and began to attack his teammate! Naturally, Eugenio was not going to concede at all, and over the next few laps, the two Ferrari drivers staged an amazing duel, the outcome of which no one could predict.

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In the end, the outcome of the race was decided by pure chance. Ten laps before the finish, the manager of the Scuderia said "Basta!" and ordered his drivers to maintain their positions, and, to Eugenio's great regret, it was Collins who turned out to be the leader at that moment! Castellotti spent the rest of the race hanging on his teammate's tail and hoping that problems would arise for him too, however, Peter's car, as usual, worked like clockwork, and as a result, the Englishman celebrated the victory again, which made him the undisputed leader of the championship!


As it turned out, the podium in Reims was the only one for the Italian for the whole season, and after the French Grand Prix, failures fell on Eugenio with renewed vigor. In the Great Britain, the Turin cars looked very pale, and Fangio managed to win here only thanks to numerous retirements of his rivals. As for Castellotti, he spent most of the race outside the points zone at all, and, trying to cling to fifth place, the Italian made a mistake, damaged his car, and completely disappointed, drove into the pits, where he was replaced by de Portago.

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At the next stage, which took place in Germany, Ferraris were again on top and, having won 2nd and 3rd place in qualifying, Castellotti and Collins were looking forward to continuing their fight.

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However, having made an unsuccessful start and immediately trying to regain lost positions, Eugenio spinned and fell back to the very end of the peloton, and then completely retired due to a faulty magneto. Nonetheless, later the Italian was given another chance to prove himself by taking Musso's car, however, it was clearly not his day, and, spinning once again, Eugenio finally dropped out of the race.


The last stage, as a year earlier, was held in Italy, and on their home track, the Ferrari drivers were again faster than all their rivals, however, on the profiled sections, the Turin cars again faced a serious problem with tire delamination. Concerned about what was happening, Fangio suggested that Castellotti and Musso, who took the places next to him on the starting grid, not to be too zealous in the first laps to save tires, but the two Italians, who dreamed of showing off in front of their audience, proudly refused the champion's offer. As soon as the starting flag dropped, Castellotti and Musso rushed off the bat and staged a real battle for the leadership to thunderous applause from their compatriots.

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However, as Fangio predicted, the tires lasted only five laps at this pace, after which the two Italians were forced to pit at the same time for new tires!

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After leaving the pits, Castelotti and Musso found themselves outside the top ten and immediately rushed in pursuit of the leaders, but Luigi turned out to be much faster than Eugenio after the stop and soon left him behind. Castellotti himself, after just four laps, had one of his tires split again, and, spinning and flying backwards across the entire track, the Italian only miraculously managed to avoid a serious accident.

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At the same time, despite the impressions experienced, the Italian was still not afraid to return to the track behind the wheel of the repaired Fangio's car, which once again let the Argentine down, but by that time he had already been inferior to his rivals for an eternity and eventually finished only 8th. Thus, having scored 7.5 points, the Italian took only 5th place in the World Championship, and the only consolation for him were very successful performances in the sports car championship, among which were victories in the races "12 hours of Sebring", Mille Miglia and 2nd place in the "1000 km of Nurburgring".

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Meanwhile, at the end of 1956, Fangio, fed up with frequent technical failures of Turin cars, left Scuderia, and thus the leader's place in the Maranello team remained vacant. Certainly, this was good news for both Castellotti and the rest of the team's drivers, who now had the opportunity to race at full strength, without looking back at the team orders, however, the first stage of the new 1957 season showed that the balance of forces had changed seriously, and now the Maserati racers took the lead, who managed to take the first three places on the starting field in Argentina. At the same time, having shown the 4th result, Eugenio turned out to be the fastest driver of the Scuderia, and in the end it was the Italian who took the last remaining place on the first row. 


The Grand Prix itself brought even more disappointment to the Maranello team. Despite the fact that the Scuderia drivers looked much more confident in racing conditions and were even able to impose a serious fight on their Maserati rivals, Collins, Musso and Hawthorn dropped out of the race ahead of schedule due to the same technical malfunction - a broken clutch. As for Castellotti, he started the race perfectly, breaking into the lead already on the 3rd lap, but soon the Italian began to give up and, yielding positions one after another, eventually dropped to 6th place. However, thanks to the retirements of his teammates, Eugenio managed to rise to 3rd place again by the middle of the race, however, on the 76th lap, a wheel suddenly flew off on his car, and thus Scuderia lost their last chance to get on the podium.

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The second stage of the championship took place only four months later, and, taking advantage of this break, Eugenio and Delia in early March announced their engagement and imminent wedding, after which they went on vacation to Florence, where Delia was supposed to play in a new theatrical play "Good night Bettina". However, the couple in love did not manage to properly celebrate Delia’s next success, because upon returning from the theater to the hotel, a telephone call suddenly rang in their room. Picking up the phone, Eugenio heard the harsh and intermittent voice of his boss, who ordered him to drop all personal matters and leave for Modena early in the morning. As it turned out, such a rush was caused by the unexpected arrival of the Maserati team at the Modena track, whose car immediately began to show very impressive speed and threatened to break the record that had belonged to Scuderia for many years. Considering Castellotti one of his fastest drivers, Commendatore hoped that he would be able to surpass the time of the Modena car and thus allow Scuderia to avoid another offensive defeat.


After spending the night with his beloved, Eugenio went to Modena early in the morning, and arriving at the track, he found out that Jean Behra still had managed to set a new record on his updated Maserati 250F yesterday. However, overnight the weather deteriorated, and the rain that had fallen in the morning soaked the track quite badly, which made Castellotti's task almost impossible. Probably, any other driver in his right mind would have refused this crazy idea or at least waited for more suitable conditions, but Eugenio was, as always, confident in himself and without a shadow of a doubt got behind the wheel of the new Ferrari 801 car, just brought from the factory. After driving into the track, the Italian made one warm-up lap, after which he waved to the team, indicating that he was ready to start. Eugenio drove two next laps pretty fast, but still not enough, and the team immediately signaled him about it, advising him to push harder. Deciding to squeeze everything possible out of the Ferrari, the Italian went all-in on the next lap, however, already in the first S-shaped turn, his car caught a wheel on the curb, spun around, and tumbling on the ground, flew straight into the empty grandstand.

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Eugenio himself was thrown out of the car and, after flying about 100 yards, the Italian landed directly onto the track and received fatal head injuries, from which he immediately died. Thus ended the life of the first of Ascari’s heirs, who, having failed to reach the same heights in life, was able to become like the two-time world champion only in death.

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