Vittorio Brambilla

ONE of the most colorful figures in Formula 1 history, Vittorio Brambilla, has died of a suspected heart attack while gardening at his home in Camparada di Lesmo, Italy.

The 63-year-old, known affectionately as the 'Monza Gorilla' sprang to prominence as a motorcycle racer in the late 1950s before becoming a mechanic for his brother Tino. He returned to competition in the late Sixties, this time on four wheels, and won the Italian Formula 3 championship in 1972.

After progressing through Formula 2 with a handful of race wins Brambilla made his F1 debut in 1974, where his aggressive style netted him his celebrated nickname. His sole victory came at the Osterreichring in 1975, a rain soaked race in which he guided his works March 751 through the perilously flooded circuit to win - and then spin on his slowing down lap while waving with delight.

His all-powerful enthusiasm for the sport remained firmly in place despite a number of heavy accidents caused by over-driving sub-standard machinery such as the Surtees and suffered serious head injuries in the startline accident at Monza in 1978 that claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson. After disappointing appearances as the third driver in the doomed Alfa Romeo F1 team of 1979 and 1980 he retired from the sport, living close to his beloved Monza circuit.

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