Alessandro de Tomaso

Born into a well known and powerful Argentine family in 1928, de Tomaso raced in his home country in the early 1950s but fled Argentina in his own airplane in 1955 to escape persecution from Juan Peron's regime. He settled in Modena, hoping to make a name for himself as a racing driver. He talked his way into a job as a mechanic at Maserati and soon became a driver. Not long afterwards he met and married American heiress Isabelle Haskell, a Ferrari customer who raced the cars in the United States and together they decided to set up their own racing car company in Modena. While this was being established he enjoyed some success with OSCA (which had been established by the Maserati brothers after they sold Maserati to the Orsi Family). He raced to ninth place in the 1957 Argentine Grand Prix in a Scuderia Centro Sud Ferrari 500/625. Two years later he retired from the US Grand Prix at Sebring in a Cooper-OSCA. At the end of that season he retired from racing and began to build up DeTomaso Automobili SpA to build road cars. The company produced a variety of racing cars in the early 1960s beginning with an F2 car which appeared in the hands of Roberto Bussinello at Modena. It crashed heavily but reappeared the following year as an F1 car. He hired ex-Maserati engine designer Alberto Massimino to design a flat eight engine and the de Tomaso cars were seen from time to time until end of 1965. The de Tomaso cars enjoyed a limited amount of success in the junior formulae with Mario Casoni winning at Caserta and a young Clay Regazzoni racing for the team. The company began producing road cars in the late 1960s and in an effort to advertise the company de Tomaso decided to have another attempt at Formula 2 and hired Giampaolo Dallara, a Lamborghini road car engineer, to design an F2 car for 1969. This was run by an ambitious young team owner called Frank Williams and was raced by Jonathan Williams, Jacky Ickx and Piers Courage. Williams and de Tomaso then did a deal to enter F1 in 1970 with Courage, Cosworth engines and a Dallara-designed chassis. Courage finished third in the International Trophy and was running seventh in the Dutch Grand Prix when he crashed and died in Holland. The team continued until the end of the year with drivers Brian Redman and Tim Schenken but then withdrew.The de Tomaso car company enjoyed some success with the Pantera model and was able to buy up a number of bankrupt engineering companies including the Benelli and Moto Guzzi motorcycle companies and the Innocenti car firm. In 1975 de Tomaso put together a rescue package to buy Maserati and tried to revive it. This was a success and in 1993 he sold the firm to FIAT and went back to running De Tomaso. Not long afterwards he had a stroke. The company was taken over by his son Santiago under the guidance of his wife Isabelle.