Stefano Modena

Stefano Modena was an enigma. He emerged from a lowly background in the town of Modena and in 1986 was a frontrunner in the Italian Formula 3 Championship against a good crop of racers including future F1 drivers Nicola Larini, Marco Apicella and Alex Caffi and future Le Mans 24 Hours winner Rinaldo Capello. He shot to international prominence within weeks, winning the Monaco F3 race and in 1987 joined Onyx and won the International Formula 3000 title at his first attempt.

At the end of that year Nigel Mansell crashed in Japan and was unable to finish the season and so Williams hired Brabhamís Riccardo Patrese and Bernie Ecclestone put Modena in the Brabham for his F1 debut in Australia. That winter he was the man in demand, testing for Benetton, but he seemed bound for Brabham until Ecclestone announced that the team would not be racing in 1988. Modena ended up with the uncompetitive EuroBrun team. When Brabham returned in 1989 (under different ownership) Modena was there and in 1989 he finished third at Monaco. But the team faded gradually away in 1990.

For the 1991 season Modena, still highly-rated, was signed to drive for the Tyrrell team which had signed a major new sponsorship deal with German household electrical appliance company Braun and had V10 engines from Honda. The results were patchy and in 1992 he was signed up by Jordan which had landed the backing of the South African petrochemical giant Sasol. But the Yamaha engines were a disappointment and Modena never really figured and at the end of the year he slipped out of F1.

By now married to an Italian princess, he went his way into the International Touring Car Championship scene with Alfa Romeo where he won several races in the course of the 1994 and 1995 seasons. In the end he was content to work as a test and development driver in the motor industry and lived happily ever after.