DRIVERS: PIERCARLO GHINZANI
Name: Piercarlo Ghinzani
Date of birth: January 16, 1952 - Bergamo
Born in the northern Italian city of Bergamo in 1952, Piercarlo Ghinzani started racing in Formula Ford and moved up to Formula 3 in 1973, selling his old Formula Ford to a youngster called Bruno Giacomelli. Ghinzani joined the Allegrini team, racing a Brabham-Ford BT41. Progress was slow and Piercarlo continued to race with Allegrini in 1974, 1975 (during which he raced the team's one-off CRS chassis) and 1976.
In 1977, by now a hardened F3 campaigner, he moved to rival Euroracing and won the European Formula 3 title in his March-Toyota, giving the March company its first European F3 title. Unable to progress up the ladder he stayed in F3 developing the Alfa Romeo engine and won the Italian title in 1979.
He had to remain patient until 1981 when Enzo Osella asked him to drive after Miguel-Angel Guerra was injured in an accident at Imola. After that Ghinzani was Osella's main man, although he also drove for the Lancia sports car team winning a World Championship event with Michele Alboreto at Mugello in 1982.
His progress in F1 was such that in January 1983 he landed a test with Tyrrell and was faster than Alboreto, Danny Sullivan, Chico Serra and Stefan Johansson. But it led nowhere and it was back to Osella. The 1984 season was to be an exciting one for Ghinzani as he emerged with only minor burns from a colossal crash in the race morning warm-up at Kyalami after going off the track at the Jukskei Sweep. The car broke in two and the monocoque somersaulted down the road and caught fire. He suffered minor burns to his hands, having removed his gloves to unclip his seat belt, and was saved from further injury by the prompt action of fire marshals. A few months later he scored a point for Minardi in Dallas, a triumph of survival more than speed.
In 1985 Osella ran out of cash and Ghinzani was ousted and so he joined Toleman after the team was taken over by Benetton. Then it was back to Osella for 1986. That year he shared victory in the Fuji 1000 with Paolo Barilla in a Porsche sports car. That winter he tested for Zakspeed but in the end, thanks to his connections at Alfa Romeo, he was signed by Ligier although the Ligier-Alfa was a terrible car and the relationship ended in tears. He spent a year with Zakspeed and then returned to Osella to finish his F1 career at the age of 37 at the end of the 1989 season after 59 Grands Prix.
Ghinzani returned to the sport in the 1990s running a team in the Italian Formula 3 series although in recent years this has expanded and has been running teams in German Formula 3 and in the A1 Grand Prix series. Amongst the drivers he has helped to promote is Holland's Robert Doornbos.