DRIVERS: ALFONSO DE PORTAGO

Name: Alfonso de Portago
Nationality: Spain
Date of birth: October 11, 1928 - London, England
Date of death: May 12, 1957 - Mille Miglia, Italy

Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, the 17th Marquis de Portago, was the son of a Spanish nobleman and an Irishwoman. He was born in London in 1928 and grew up in Biarritz, a chic seaside resort on France's West Coast, while his father was fighting with General Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil War.

De Portago never had to worry about money and became a great sportsman in his youth: fencing, playing polo, riding and even flying. When he was still a teenager he won a $500 bet by flying an aeroplane under a bridge. Later the daredevil became a member of the Spanish Olympic bobsleigh team and a very successful jockey in French steeple chasing. He took part in Britain's most famous horse race - the Grand National - on two occasions.

In 1953 he was in New York and decided to attend the local motor show where he met Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti, a former winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Chinetti asked him if he would like to be his co-driver on the Carerra Panamericana in Mexico. De Portago agreed immediately and as a result bought a Ferrari sportscar and made his racing debut in the Buenos Aires 1000 in 1954, partnered by Harry Schell. He later concentrated on European racing, using a Maserati sportscar which he acquired. For the 1955 season Enzo Ferrari sold him a Formula 1 car but it did not last long as the charismatic Spaniard demolished it at the International Trophy at Silverstone, breaking a leg badly in the process. Once he was back in action he returned to sportscar racing and at the end of the year was named as Ferrari's fifth factory F1 driver for 1956.

His team mates were Juan Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins, Luigi Musso and Eugenio Castellotti. His best finish was a shared second at the British GP when he handed his car over to Collins but he was able to cast off the reputation of being a pay-driver and was seen as a serious contender, albeit one without much experience.

He finished fifth in Argentina in January 1957 but a week before the Monaco GP he was competing on the Mille Miglia when his Ferrari suffered an apparent tyre failure and crashed in the village of Guidizzolo. De Portago, his co-driver Edmund Nelson and 10 spectators - five of them children - were killed and 20 more people were injured.

Enzo Ferrari spent four years fighting manslaughter charges as a result of the crash, which also ended the history of the Mille Miglia.

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