2 February 2019

A strange and shocking accident. Fascinating F1 Facts: 65

To be remembered for the manner of your death more than for what you achieved in life is a tragic fate, but has happened on a number of occasions in the history of motorsport, notably to poor Pierre Levegh at Le Mans in 1955.

This was also the case with Italian Giulio Cabianca, an accomplished road racing star, who made his name mostly in sports cars, winning the Italian national title in the under 1100cc class in 1951 in an OSCA. He was Italian champion again the following year in the under 1500cc class and finished seventh overall in the Targa Florio, which was a mighty achievement. Later he was the Italian GT champion as well and then he began to try his hand at single-seaters, finishing third at Pau in 1958 in an F2 OSCA. He made his F1 debut that same year, at the wheel of Jo Bonnier's Maserati 250F.

Finally, Enzo Ferrari began to show some interest in him and a deal was struck which saw him racing Ferrari sports cars in 1959, although he returned to a 250F, entered by Scuderia Ugolini, for the Italian GP at Monza and in 1960 raced a Scuderia Castellotti Cooper-Ferrari at Monza and finished fourth, two laps behind the winner, although the credibility of that result was undermined somewhat because the British teams boycotted the race.

In June 1961 he was testing his Cooper-Ferrari in preparation for the Belgian GP, which was to be contested a few days later. The venue chosen for the test was the Aeroautodromo in Modena. This was an aerodrome that was also used for car racing. In that era Modena was a much smaller town than it is today and the facility was on the outskirts, but today it in surrounded by houses and has been converted into the Parco Enzo Ferrari. It was there that four years earlier Eugenio Castellotti had been killed while testing, his car ending up in a grandstand, after clipping a kerb in the chicane and rolling, the driver being thrown from the car.

Cabianca had been testing for several hours and it was getting into the evening when he set off down the straight towards the final corner, accelerating up to around 125 mph. The car failed to slow down as he approached the left-hander. The car went off the circuit, hitting a spectator who was watching the test. Enrico Moro suffered serious leg injuries but survived. The car went across the public area and then wnet out of a gate which had been left open to allow trucks to pass in and out, as the circuit was creating a new viewing area for spectators. On the other side of the circuit wall was a crossroads, where the Via Emilia and the Via Zucchi met. Cabiana ploughed into a Fiat 500 Giardinetta estate car, tearing it in half and killing the driver Gino Arboresi and a passing motorcyclist Eugenio Stefani. The wreckage of the Fiat hit a bicycle rider called Ivo Messori who was also killed. The Cooper then ran into several cars, parked on the Via Zucchi and came to rest against the wall of the workshops of a famous coachbuilding firm called the Carrozzeria Orlandi. Four other people suffered minor injuries. Cabianca was conscious when help arrived but he had suffered multiple head injuries. He was rushed to the Santo Agostino Hospital, which was just a few hundred yards further along the Via Emilia, but there was little the doctors could do for him and he died a couple of hours after the accident. The remains of the car were examined afterwards and the car was found to be jammed in fourth gear and there was little that the brakes could do to stop the car at such speed…

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