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Luigi Musso


You know, the problem with being the last of anything, by and by there be none left at all.

Captain Barbossa, “Pirates of the Caribbean”

Luigi Musso was the last of the galaxy of great Italian drivers in the 1950s who had enough talent to become another Formula-1 champion from the Apennine Peninsula. Unfortunately, the evil fate that haunted all the strongest Italian racers of that era did not spare him in the end, and with the death of Luigi, the Tiffosi lost their last hope for the revival of the racing glory of Nuvolari, Farina and Ascari.

Luigi Musso was born on July 28, 1924 in Rome in the family of a wealthy Italian diplomat, Giuseppe Domenico Musso, becoming the youngest of his five children. Luigi spent his childhood in his father's fashionable estate not far from Via Veneto, surrounded by luxury, servants and Chinese art, a whole collection of which Domenico brought from the Middle Kingdom, and which was a real object of his pride. When Luigi reached adolescence, Domenico sent him to study at the Jesuit College of Mondragone, which was famous for its ability to instill in young people such virtues as moderation, humility and discipline, and for Musso, who was accustomed to an easy and carefree life on his father’s estate, this  period of his life became quite a difficult ordeal.


When four years of exile were finally left behind, and Musso returned to his native mansion in Rome, fate prepared for him a new blow: his father, whom he loved dearly and who was a true role model for him, soon died suddenly of a heart attack, and at the age of 16, Luigi, along with his brothers and sisters, overnight became the owners of a huge fortune.

Naturally, the sudden loss of his father greatly shocked Luigi, however, the wealth that fell on him no less suddenly opened up a lot of new opportunities for him and made him forget the years spent at the Jesuit college like a nightmare. Left to his own devices, Luigi began to look for something he liked, and, being physically well developed, the Italian tried himself in various “elite” sports, such as fencing, horse riding and shooting at moving targets. Meanwhile, Luigi's older brothers Luciano and Giuseppe chose a completely different path for themselves, and, having acquired two racing cars, after the end of World War II they began to discover the racing tracks of Europe, which aroused extreme admiration from their younger brother, who also decided to follow their example, abandoning all other activities. The only problem was that at that time Luigi didn’t even have a driver’s license, however, this did not bother him at all, and having acquired his first Fiat Topolino car, the Italian began mastering it as well as studying race track maps and the theory of correct cornering.

Meanwhile, in addition to his enthusiasm for motorsports, Luigi’s other passion was pretty girls, and, given his handsome features, good manners and a hefty wallet, Musso was considered one of the most eligible bachelors of the Eternal City.


However, Luigi did not have long to indulge in all the delights of a bachelor’s life, and already at the age of 21 he married his compatriot of Chilean origin Mary Tirapani, who soon bore him two children, Lucietta and Giuseppe. It should be noted that his new wife had nothing against his passion for motor racing, so as soon as Luigi received his driver's license, he immediately began to master the racing skills behind the wheel of his Fiat Topolino, taking part in local road races and hill climbs.

Meanwhile, when Musso gained a little experience and decided to take part in more serious competitions, a rather unpleasant surprise for him was that his brothers flatly refused to take him as a teammate, fearing that Luigi would immediately mess things up and crash their cars. Naturally, after such a demarche on the part of his immediate family, Musso felt very hurt, however, this only spurred his determination to achieve personal success in motorsport, and he immediately changed his Fiat to the already quite racing Patriarca Giannini 750 Sport, on which he made his debut in Targa Florio in 1950.


In that race, Luigi was able to demonstrate his true fighting spirit when he took desperate risks and tried to get the most out of his car, however, as his brothers foresaw, his inexperience and excessive zeal ultimately led to an accident that occurred not anywhere, but right next to the monument to the national hero Garibaldi!

Be that as it may, this first failure did not discourage Luigi at all, and just a week later he achieved his first success, finishing 2nd in his class in the Corsa del Monte Pellegrino. Musso continued his performances at the wheel of the Patriarca Giannin in 1951, in which his best result was 2nd place in the Coppa Ascoli, and it is noteworthy that in the same race not only he, but also his compatriot Maria Teresa de Filippis won her first podium, with whom he soon began a very stormy romance and who later became the first woman to make her debut in the Formula-1 championship.


Meanwhile, having proven his worth as a racer, in 1952 Luigi finally ensured that his brothers began to take him seriously, and that season Giuseppe more than once lent him his new Stranguellini Sport, which, however, did not bring his younger brother special success. However, after some pretty convincing races behind the wheel of his own Giaur-Giannini, Luigi eventually came to the attention of Maserati management, who at that time were selecting young talents for the sports car championship, and along with Sergio Mantovani and Emilio Giletti Musso became one of the lucky ones who made it into the main line-up of the Modena team.

And, having received a truly competitive Maserati A6GCS car, Musso did not disappoint and fully justified the hopes placed on him. Already in June Luigi scored his first victory in the Giro dell'Umbria, which was almost immediately followed by another one in Avellino, while, with five podium finishes at the end of the season, Musso turned out to be the most successful driver of the Italian 2L sports car championship and won the title of Italian champion! Moreover, impressed by these successes, the management of the Modena team at the end of the season gave Luigi the opportunity to compete at the Italian Grand Prix, where, having replaced Sergio Mantovani at the wheel of a single-seater Maserati A6GCM, Musso quite confidently spent the second half of the race and finished in a quite respectable 7th place.

Meanwhile, 1953 became truly fateful for Musso not only in racing, but also in his personal life. Having accidentally met 19-year-old aspiring actress Fiamma Breschi in one of the Roman restaurants, Luigi fell in love with her literally at first sight, and, having achieved reciprocal feelings, he soon abandoned his wife and two children and began to openly meet with his new passion, despising all imaginable and unimaginable decency.


The Italian’s racing career was clearly taking off at that time, and, continuing his performances for Maserati, Musso in 1954 won the Grand Prix of Naples, Caserta and Senigalia, as well as took 2nd and 3rd places in the prestigious Targa Florio and Mille Miglia races, which ultimately brought him a second consecutive Italian sports car champion title.


Besides, that season Luigi also appeared in three Grand Prix of the Formula-1 championship, and if in Argentina and Italy he failed to reach the finish line, then at the last stage in Spain Musso had a very confident race and, taking advantage of numerous problems with his rivals, took neither more nor less, but second place behind Hawthorn's Ferrari!


Naturally, this excellent result, as well as the victory in the non-championship Pescara Grand Prix, finally convinced the Maserati management that the Italian deserved a place in the main line-up of their Formula-1 team, and the following year, 1955, Musso finally spent his first full season in the top motorsport league, becoming a teammate of Jean Behra and Roberto Mieres.


However, the beginning of this season did not go well for Luigi. The first two Grands Prix of the championship were held on twisty tracks in Argentina and Monaco, and Musso, who preferred faster tracks, did not look very convincing on them and spent both races fighting only for places at the bottom of the top ten.


Nevertheless, already at the third stage, which took place on the fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Luigi was able to show himself in all his glory, and after having problems at the start, the Italian made a very impressive breakthrough from the very end of the field to 5th place, after which he staged an amazing battle with Karl Kling in a Mercedes.


Unfortunately, all the Italian's efforts in that race were again negated by problems with the engine, and, as in the previous two rounds, he failed to score points. However, Musso managed to make up for his failure in Belgium just two weeks later at the Dutch Grand Prix, which took place on the Zandvoort track and received the honorary title of the European Grand Prix that year. Musso showed his speed already in qualifying, managing to take 4th position on the starting field, while in the race Luigi looked even more convincing and easily won the podium, losing only to Fangio and Moss in two Mercedeses who were completely invincible that year!


In addition, at the next stage in Great Britain, Musso managed to distinguish himself again with his uncompromising fight with another driver of the German team, Piero Taruffi, and although he still lost to his eminent compatriot, Luigi again managed to become the best driver after four Silver Arrows and earn a couple more points.


At the same time, most likely, Musso could repeat this achievement at the last stage of the season, which took place at his home track in Monza, however, due to problems with the gearbox, Luigi lost an excellent opportunity to get on the podium in front of his compatriots, and in the end, all the laurels went to another rising star of Italian motorsport, Eugenio Castellotti.


However, despite this failure, at the end of the championship Musso took a quite respectable 8th place in the overall standings, while the Italian scored exactly as many points as the leader of the Modena team, Jean Behra. Meanwhile, in the Italian sports car championship, Luigi again found himself out of competition, winning the champion title for the third time in a row, while his highest achievement this season was victory in the prestigious Supercortemaggiore race, which he won together with the same Behra.

Of course, all these successes of the Italian could not go unnoticed, and already at the end of 1955, Luigi received an invitation from Enzo Ferrari to drive for the Scuderia, who, after a frankly disastrous season, planned a major reorganization of his team. Unable to achieve great success with his Super Sharks, Commendatore made a knight's move and entered into the 1956 World Championship with the Lancia D50 bolids purchased from the Turin team, while as the new leader he invited the Argentine champion Juan Manuel Fangio, whose teammates, in addition to Musso, became two young talents Eugenio Castellotti and Peter Collins.


And the very first stage of the new championship, which took place, as usual, in Argentina, brought Luigi an unexpected victory, which, however, caused him very conflicting feelings. Having made his way to the first row of the starting field for the first time, Musso got off to a great start and managed to immediately take the lead, however, he was unable to keep behind his faster rivals, as a result of which by the 30th lap the Italian was already only 5th .


Meanwhile, Fangio, who was one of the main favorites for this Grand Prix, had already dropped out of the race due to a faulty fuel pump, however, taking advantage of his right to continue the race at the wheel of his teammate’s car, Juan Manuel soon returned to the track in Musso's bolid and, having set an incredible pace, still managed to bring this race to victory. Needless to say, after another feat of the Argentinean on his home track, almost all the attention of the press and fans went to him, whereas the success of Musso, who won his first victory in Formula-1 that day, went almost unnoticed.

At the second stage of the championship, which took place on the winding Monte Carlo circuit, Musso and Fangio's paths crossed again, this time literally. In that Grand Prix, the world champion made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes, and it was the first of them, which he made already on the 3rd lap at the Ste Devote turn, that cost Luigi the race. Trying to avoid a collision with the Argentinean's car that had spinned across the track, Musso turned sharply to the left and found himself right in the middle of straw bales, while Fangio himself, as if nothing had happened, continued the race and, although not without incident, still reached the finish line in 2nd place.


At the same time, the setback in Monaco was only a harbinger of further failures for the Italian, and just two weeks later, while competing in the Nürburgring 1000 km sports car race, Luigi was involved in a rather serious accident, as a result of which he suffered a broken arm and thus actually lost any chance of a successful performance this season.


Having been out of action for more than two months, Musso returned to racing only at the penultimate stage of the championship, which took place in Germany and, having no desire to tempt fate again in the Green Hell, the Italian drove his car so carefully that already halfway through the distance the Scuderia manager Eraldo Sculatti decided to replace him with Castellotti.


Meanwhile, at the last stage, which took place at his home track in Monza, Musso was already back on the horse, and, like other Scuderia drivers, the Italian became one of the main characters of this Grand Prix, taking a direct part in the dramatic outcome of this championship. By this time, only his two teammates Fangio and Collins remained contenders for the title, and if the young Englishman only needed a victory to win the championship, then the Argentine would have been satisfied with any place, no lower than third. Considering Fangio’s skill and experience, almost no one had any doubts that he would easily achieve his goal, and the only thing the Argentine himself feared was some kind of technical malfunction, which rained down on him this season as if from cornucopia.

And Juan Manuel’s fears were not in vain. Last year, Lancia cars showed themselves to be completely unsuited to the loads on the new profiled part of the Monza track, and after several cases of tire explosions in qualifying, the Commendatore did not allow these cars to participate in the race. This year, after changes were made to the design of the cars, Fangio, Castellotti and Musso were already the fastest in training, however, their tires still delaminated too quickly, which left them no choice but to schedule several pit stops for the race . At the same time, wanting to reduce their number to a minimum, Juan Manuel tried to negotiate with his young teammates to let himself to the lead at the very beginning of the race so that he could set the necessary pace, however, first Musso, and after him Castellotti, decisively rejected the champion's offer, stating that they prefer to lead their own race.


Thus, as soon as the starting flag fell, the two Italians immediately rushed off the bat and, to the cheers of their compatriots in the stands, staged an absolutely amazing battle for the leadership with each other.


However, as the world champion foresaw, the tires on the fully-filled cars lasted at this pace for just a few laps, and already on the 5th lap both Scuderia drivers had to pull into the pits for new wheels!


Having returned the track already outside the top ten, Musso and Castellotti immediately rushed to regain lost positions, however, the new set on Eugenio’s car was not very good, and after only five more laps one of his tires exploded, forcing the Italian to finally leave the race.


As for Musso, he was much luckier, and consistently moving up as a result of overtaking and problems with his rivals, the Italian by the 28th lap was already confidently in 2nd position, conceding only to Stirling Moss in a Maserati. Meanwhile, Fangio, despite all his caution, once again fell victim to a technical malfunction, and having spent a lot of time on repairs, the Argentine got back to the track with a lag of several laps, thus losing any chance of a decent result. Realizing that it was Musso who now remained the last hope for the Argentinean, Sculatti, during the Italian’s next pit stop, tried to convince him to give the world champion his car, however, Luigi, who still cherished the hope of achieving personal success in front of his compatriots, only waved his boss and after changing the wheels, he rushed back to the track.


Meanwhile, help did come for the Argentine, but from where he never expected. Five laps after Musso, Collins also came into the pits to change tires, and seeing the champion there in difficulty, Peter immediately comprehended the whole situation and, without a drop of doubt, gave up Fangio a place in his car, thereby effectively abandoning his claims to the championship title! Returning to the track, Juan Manuel still managed to win his coveted podium, and with it the Argentine got his next championship title, which became the fourth in his career.

Meanwhile, five laps before the finish, the confidently leading Moss suddenly ran out of fuel, and while the Englishman was getting to the pits and refueling, Musso still managed to rush past and become the new race leader! However, just when it seemed that victory was almost in his pocket, Fortune, which had shown her favor to the Italian throughout the entire weekend, still turned away from him, as if punishing Luigi for his obstinacy. Three laps before the finish, the Italian’s car, just like Fangio’s earlier, had a broken left steering arm, and only by some miracle managing to avoid a serious accident, the completely out-of-control Musso’s Ferrari rushed backwards across the finish line and stopped literally a few meters from Scuderia pits! When the scattered mechanics approached the frozen car, they saw that Luigi was sitting in the cockpit, deeply shocked and still tightly gripping the steering wheel, and they only with great difficulty managed to force him out of the car and escort him to the garage, where the Italian immediately collapsed on the couch and lost consciousness.


Of course, after his demarche at the home Grand Prix and such an inglorious conclusion, Musso expected that his days in the Scuderia were numbered, however, to his surprise, Commendatore did not show him a shadow of displeasure, directing all his anger at Sculatti, who at the end of the season was fired from the team. Moreover, given that after winning the next title, Fangio also decided to part with the team and return to Maserati, Musso, Castellotti, Collins and Mike Hawthorn, the latter having returned to the Scuderia, all of them received equal status in 1957, which allowed them to compete with each other without regard to command orders.

However, the start of the new season did not bode well for the Scuderia. The very first stage of the 1957 championship, which, as in previous years, took place in Argentina, ended in complete defeat for Ferrari, while already in the spring the team, one after another, lost two of their drivers Eugenio Castellotti and Alfonso de Portago, which led to real persecution Commendatore both from the press and those in power. Meanwhile, for Musso, who was, if not a friend, then a good fellow for Castellotti, his death was a truly strong blow. Having an equal position in society and similar destinies, both Italians, after the death of Alberto Ascari in 1955, were considered the main racing hopes of their country, and if Castellotti got on with people quite easily and got along well with almost all his teammates, then for the more introverted Musso, Eugenio was, in fact, his only soul mate in the team. When Castellotti's life suddenly ended during the tests in Modena, the atmosphere in the team immediately deteriorated, and finding himself alone with two Britons Collins and Hawthorn, who were close friends and equally disliked him, Luigi felt more alone than ever.


However, even though he was slightly behind both Britons in speed, luck was clearly on his side that year, and after two second places in France and Great Britain and a fourth place in Germany, Luigi managed to rise no less than to second place in the overall standings, conceding only to Fangio, who by this time was already beyond the reach of all his rivals and had once again become world champion.


Meanwhile, given that the next round took place in Pescara, where he had already won three years earlier, Musso expected that it was here that he would put a final point in the dispute for the title of vice-champion, however, to his disappointment, it was on the eve of this stage that Commendatore, driven to extremes by his opponents and legal persecution, declared that his patience had run out and banned his entire team from taking part in this Grand Prix. For Musso, this decision was a real blow below the belt, therefore, trying to protect his chances at all costs, Luigi, with the permission of his boss, tried to temporarily join Maserati or Vanwall, however, in both teams he was turned away. Driven to complete despair, the Italian had no choice but to bow to the Commendatore again, and this time, to his surprise, Enzo gave him the go-ahead, while limiting the presence of his team to just one car and several mechanics.

And Luigi did everything possible to justify the trust of Commendatore. In qualifying, Musso turned out to be one of the fastest drivers in the field and, having shown the third result, the Italian managed to get into the first row, placing his car next to Fangio and Moss. When the day of the race came, and the drivers lined up on the starting grid, it was Musso who turned out to be fastest during the start and, having fought off several attacks from Jean Behra, the Italian finished the first lap as the leader of the Grand Prix. At the same time, already at the very beginning of the race it became obvious that Luigi’s main rival here would not be Fangio, who, after winning his next title, was no longer chasing victories and was simply racing for his own pleasure, but Moss, who still had very real chances to get ahead of Musso in the championship and was pushing as hard as he can. The culmination of this Grand Prix was the second and third laps of the race, when, having overtaken Luigi on the long straight leading to the embankment, the Englishman, along with the Italian hanging on his tail, staged a real war of nerves and gave the audience a simply unforgettable spectacle, flying together through the numerous turns of this most picturesque 25-kilometer track.


Be that as it may, in the end it was Moss who turned out to be the winner in this fight and, having repelled all the attacks of the Italian, Stirling began to increase his advantage lap after lap, bringing it to the middle of the distance up to 20 seconds. As for Musso, his hopes for at least second place were dashed to smithereens by a stone that punched a hole in his oil tank and forced him to stop right on the track, while his main rival confidently brought the race to victory and to the last stage in Monza was already one point ahead of the Italian.


Meanwhile, even though the Scuderia at their home stage was once again present in full force, this Grand Prix brought complete disappointment to the team, and without any opportunity to resist the faster Maserati and Vanwall cars, Musso managed to finish only 8th, thus losing the title of vice-champion to Moss.


Nevertheless, even taking “only” third place in the overall standings, Luigi turned out to be the Scuderia’s most successful driver this season, managing, in addition to two podiums in France and Great Britain, to win two second places in the non-championship Grand Prix of Syracuse and Modena, as well as a magnificent victory in Reims at the Marne Grand Prix.

At the same time, for the Maranello team this season became, on the contrary, one of the worst in their history, and being left without a single victory in the Formula-1 championship, Commendatore instructed his chief designer Vittorio Jano to develop new cars for the new season, finally abandoning further modernizations of Lancias D50, which were developed back in 1954.

And the new Ferrari 246 Dino cars, named after Commendatore’s untimely departed son, turned out to be truly magnificent. Taking as a basis the 6-cylinder V-shaped Formula-2 engines, in the development of which the same Dino took part, Vittorio managed to increase their power to an impressive 270 hp, which, together with a significant lightening of the chassis, allowed the new cars to develop truly phenomenal speed. Moreover, given that at the end of 1957 the Maserati team, and a little later Maestro Fangio himself, decided to leave motorsport, the Scuderia drivers, along with those from Vanwall, became the main favorites for the upcoming season, having received a real opportunity to compete no less, but for the championship title.

However, even with one of the best cars, Musso had no illusions that this season would be a cakewalk for him, especially considering the fact that he alone had to confront two Britons from his own team and three more from Vanwall. Moreover, the situation inside the Scuderia, already far from ideal, soon became even more tense after the unequivocal words of Hawthorn, who, having learned that Fangio would no longer pose a threat to them, publicly declared that the next world champion would, without a doubt, be British, which Musso himself immediately took almost as a personal insult.


However, Luigi wisely chose not to enter into a verbal spat with his teammate, preferring to prove his worth directly on the track, and the Italian spent the beginning of the new season stronger than ever, managing to win two second places at the first two rounds in Argentina and Monaco, which allowed him to lead World Championship.


These successes were immediately followed by another, this time in the Targa Florio sports car race, where Luigi won his first victory together with his Olivier Gendebien, but soon after it a real black streak began in the Italian’s life.


The third stage of the championship took place on the Zandvoort circuit, where the Scuderia cars simply did not want to go fast, and after a very mediocre race, Luigi finished only 7th, unable to earn points.


For the next round, which took place on one of the fastest tracks of the championship in Spa-Francorchamps, the Ferrari drivers pinned much more hopes, and they were fully justified in qualifying, where Hawthorn and Musso managed to win first and second positions on the starting grid, but the race itself was spoiled for the Italian, first by a failed start, and then by a very dangerous departure from the track, which occurred due to an exploding tire.


And even though Musso was lucky enough to come out of this accident unharmed, due to two consecutive failures, his leadership in the championship disappeared like smoke, and now he took only third place in the overall standings, behind not only the clear favorite Moss, but also his teammate Hawthorn.

Meanwhile, as if this were not enough, it was during this period that the Italian began to experience serious financial problems, which was a consequence not only of his frequent losses in gambling, but also of rather inept business management. As Fangio later recalled, Luigi loved the poker game almost as much as racing and women, and was famous for the fact that he could squander a fortune without blinking an eye. As for business, having decided to become a car dealer, Musso came up with nothing better than to supply American Plymouth cars to his native Rome, which turned out to be too wide for the narrow streets of the Eternal City and therefore were sold extremely reluctantly. In the end, literally on the eve of the French Grand Prix, Luigi received a telegram from his business partner that his Sicilian creditors would soon take him seriously, and, seeing no other way out, the Italian decided to go all in and made a promise to himself win at any cost the race in Reims, which traditionally awarded the largest prize money.

And, having taken second place in qualifying after the same Hawthorn, Luigi had firm confidence that he was capable of this task.


At the time, the Reims circuit, which consisted of just two long straights and six corners, was considered one of the fastest European tracks, and this was exactly what the Scuderia drivers needed that year. However, even before the start of the Grand Prix, everything went wrong for the Italian. The first alarm bell for him sounded right before the begining of the race, when his beloved Fiamma, who invariably accompanied him at every Grand Prix, missed parade of drivers due to an overly enthusiastic conversation with their mutual friend and did not wave goodbye to her lover, as was their custom. Frustrated, Luigi did not start the race very well and let not only Hawthorn ahead, but also Schell and Brooks, who, on the contrary, took off to a great start. Annoyed with himself, Musso immediately rushed to regain the lost positions, and, given the excellent speed characteristics of his Ferrari, only one lap was enough for him to leave BRM and Vanwall behind, but the leading Hawthorn also did not sit idly by, bringing his gap from the Italian already up to 7 seconds. In an effort to reduce this gap at all costs, Luigi drove his car to the limit, taking more risks than usual, and on the 10th lap of the race, when he almost managed to catch up with Mike, disaster struck. Trying to pass the first turn at full speed, Luigi caught the inner curb and, unable to control the car, flew straight into a wheat field, which was located at the foot of the track. By hitting the ground, the Italian's Ferrari turned over and began to tumble wildly across the field, while Luigi himself flew out of the cockpit during one of the somersaults, receiving serious internal, neck and head injuries.


When Musso was taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital, the doctors did everything possible to save his life, however, it was all in vain, and in the evening of the same day the last Italian driver of international class, as once Commendatore called him, died. The future of Formula-1, as Hawthorn had predicted, was now in the hands of the British.

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