DRIVERS: CLEMENTE BIONDETTI

Name: Clemente Biondetti
Nationality: Italy
Date of birth: August 18, 1898 - Budduso, Sardinia
Date of death: February 24, 1955 - Florence

Biondetti was born in a small village in the hills of northern Sardinia and grew up there. He was a late starter in racing as his career did not begin until his family moved to Florence in the 1920s. He began to take part in motorcycle races in 1923. He then graduated to cycle car racing in 1927 with a Salmson cycle car with which he won his class in the Italian national championship. In 1931 he moved up to international racing with a light car entry in the Tripoli Grand Prix.

Biondetti later became a Maserati factory driver and finished third in both the French and Rome Grands Prix. He later left the works team and ran for a privateer operation and although he raced only occasionally in Grands Prix after that he was successful in the voiturette classes. He won the Mille Miglia for the first time in 1938 and the same year he was hired to drive factory Alfa Romeo cars against the mighty Mercedes team. His association with Enzo Ferrari, the Alfa Romeo team boss, would continue in the immediate post-war period when Ferrari was running his own teams in opposition to his old employer. Biondetti won the 1947 Mille Miglia in impressive style, beating Tazio Nuvolari in the rain and won again for Ferrari in 1948 and 1949. In both years he also won the Targa Florio in Sicily.

In 1950 he was hired to drive for the Jaguar factory sports car team and was so impressed by the Jaguar engine that he decided to try to compete in the new Formula 1 World Championship. Jaguar was not interested in building a car and so Biondetti decided to do it himself and put a Jaguar engine into the back of a Ferrari 166 racer. The car made it debut at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza although it was not very competitive.

He continued to try to develop the car in 1951 after which he built himself a Jaguar C-type after Jaguar refused to give him a proper car. This was also not a success and he returned to being a Ferrari driver in 1952. He drove for Lancia in 1953 and then went back to Ferrari in 1954. By then he was battling with cancer, a fight which he ended up losing in February 1955.

Biondetti's contribution to the Mille Miglia has not been forgotten and today there is an impressive memorial to him at the top of the old Raticosa Pass on the old Mille Miglia route.

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