Riccardo Paletti – Another black day in 1982…

13 June 1982, early afternoon at Montreal.

After the warm-up lap, 26 cars line up on the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix, eighth round of the 1982 F1 Championship. FISA starter Derek Ongaro holds the peloton a little longer than usual. When he finally switches on the red lights, poleman Didier Pironi weaves his hands frantically… with the wait, his Ferrari had overheated and the engine stalled. But it was too late to abort starting procedures, and on a flick of a second the lights become green. Everyone tries to swerve past the immobile Ferrari. Back on the peloton Boesel hits the rear tyre of Pironi, right behind the Brazilian, on his low driving position, young rookie Riccardo Paletti is deeply focused on the Osella rev counter, so he doesn’t see the obstacle and hit massively the Ferrari’s rear, sending it to the right side of the track and shrinking the front section of the Osella till the cockpit….

Caption of the crash (The Fastlane Forum)

Riccardo Paletti was the son of Gianna and Arietto Paletti, a wealthy Milanese building contractor and Pioneer Hi-Fi importer to Italy, and was born precisely in Milan on the 15th June, 1958. The young Riccardo was an accomplished sportsman since his youth, and with thirteen he was Italian junior karate champion, then switched to skiing, where he progressed to the National alpine skiing youth selection. Nevertheless his main aim was to follow the path of his father till, with nineteen, he decided to start a career on motor racing, so in 1978 his father invested 50,000 dollars on a campaign at the Italian Formula SuperFord Championship with an Osella, where Paletti proved immediately to be skillful, leading eighteen laps on his first races and being a regular podium visitor, even with no wins, which left him third on the standings.

Riccardo Paletti (Facebook)

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Helmut Koinigg – Unlearnt lessons at the ‘Glen

Those were the days when motorsport was really dangerous – it still is, of course – and the probabilities of death in competition (F1 or not) were of one in three or four, counting all men that started a F1 season. Surely Jackie Stewart and Jo Bonnier (who fell victim of his passion) had already started their safety crusade, and the circuits were vastly improved comparing to mid-to-late sixties. However, when the first measures were deployed, they could occasionally be worse than their total absence… such was the fate of Helmut Koinigg.

Koinigg was born in Vienna at the 3rd November 1948, but spent his childhood on the south-eastern state of Styria. Growing in such a mountainous region it wasn’t surprising that, like so many of his fellow countrymen, he practiced winter sports since his teens, excelling at skiing. And it was to the latter sport that he dedicated himself first, even being selected for the Austrian national junior B team, while pursuing his studies in engineering and journalism. It’s possible he was already someway interested in motor racing – it registered quite a boom in Austria with the rising success of Jochen Rindt – but he never sought to race, and in 1966 he left for Sweden to live and work, which certainly curtailed for the time being any possible interest in four wheels (while providing an excellent chance to keep skiing). Continue reading

Lars-Erik Torph – The Terrible Hand of Fate

Everybody knows motorsport is dangerous. However, rallying in open roads had produced far less fatalities than track racing, mainly concerning drivers and co-drivers, which may seem quite strange as driving on open roads with nothing to separate the car from deep ravines, trees, walls and so many more hazards bordering the special stages! On the other hand, spectators are much more at risk, so if we take a look on the tragedies that struck the rally past, the enthusiasts took a far heavier toll than the drivers. And, ironically, one of the few drivers to die on the centennial Monte Carlo Rally wasn’t driving, but spectating… Here’s the story of Lars-Erik Torph.

Another day at the office…

Wilhelm Lars-Erik Torph was born in Säffle, a small town in central Sweden between Örebro and Karlstad, traditional terrains of the Swedish Rally, on the 11th May 1961. Two of the most notorious natives of Örebro were famous drivers – Ronnie Peterson and Stig Blomqvist – and Torph grew up idolising the latter, the master of snow rallies aboard is orange Saab… He was a rally passionate since his childhood days and as a teen he didn’t take long to learn to drive and used to fix old cars to compete occasionally with his mates, which greatly improved his mechanical skills. In 1976 his older brother Kjell-Arne entered some local events and Lars was drafted as co-driver – even if he was only fifteen – and soon he set his ambitions to become a driver. However, Torph had no money, so used his hardly acquired mechanical skills to find a job on a local Volvo garage, and used his earnings to buy an old Volvo 142, which allowed him to enter his first local rallies as soon as he took his license, by March 1979. Continue reading