SEPTEMBER 1, 1997
LUIGI "GIGI" VILLORESI died on August 24 at the age of 88. Villoresi will be best remembered as one of Enzo Ferrari's early drivers and the mentor of the young Alberto Ascari. Sadly his best years were lost because of World War II. Born in Milan in May 1909 he and his brother Emilio - "Mimi" - both began racing in 1931 and two years later shared a Fiat on their first major international event - the Mille Miglia. In the late 1930s both brothers showed themselves to be top class drivers. Mimi was recruited by Alfa Romeo and Gigi by its rival Maserati. Gigi won the 1500cc category in the Italian national championship in 1938 and 1939 and won the 1939 and 1940 Targo Florio races.
Unfortunately in June 1939 Mimi was killed while testing an Alfa Romeo 158 at Monza and Gigi fell out with Enzo Ferrari over compensation payments to the family.
Imprisoned for much of the war Villoresi had aged considerably when racing resumed in 1946. He remained with Maserati and won many events in the years after the war, even racing in the Indianapolis 500 - in which he finished seventh. He was Italian national champion in 1947 and 1948 but was coming to the end of his career by the time the World Championship was launched in 1950. By then he was guiding the career of Alberto Ascari and it was this relationship which resulted in Villoresi joining Ferrari with his prot?g? in 1949 - despite the fact that he was not fond of the team owner. The pair won many races although Villoresi spun on oil and crashed into a crowd at Geneva in 1950, killing three people and injuring 20 more. He suffered multiple injuries. He came back to win the Mille Miglia the following year but was never able to win a World Championship Grand Prix, despite taking part in 31 events between 1950 and 1956.
At the end of 1954 Ascari and Villoresi moved to Lancia but early the following season Ascari was grievously injured in a testing crash at Monza. He died in Villoresi's arms on the way to hospital. At 46 the death of his prot?g? came as a enormous blow and after a major accident in the Rome GP of 1956 he retired from racing.
He was always a versatile driver, winning his class on the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally and winning the 1958 Acropolis Rally outright. Although he and Ferrari never got on Enzo described him as "a real champion, both in terms of style and daring".
Villoresi was buried in the village of Albareto, near Modena.
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