Arturo Merzario aka Little Art


August 15, 2015
Spotlight
Roy Wolfgang


Arturo Francesco Merzario, also known as Little Art, is an Italian racing driver with a career spanning more than 6 decades across various motorsport classes. He was born in Civenna, Italy, in 1943, and right from an early age he showed a deep interest in cars and racing. It was hardly surprising when his racing career started in the late ’50s itself, in amateur road racing in Italy. His first wins were in the early ’60s in lower classes and in Abarth cars. Pretty soon, he become known as a talented driver but someone who was not always dependable. In fact, the most oft-repeated anecdote from his early racing days is of him stopping in the middle of the race to smoke a cigarette.

Although not always dependable, Arturo Merzario was a talented driver, british cars 1975

Although not always dependable, Arturo Merzario was a talented driver

Early success of Arturo Merzario

His talent and early success drew the attention of some major teams and pretty soon he was given the opportunity to drive for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari professionally. His first major win was in the 1963 Sardinia Rally in Alfa Romeo, and he soon advanced to sportscars and prototype class. During the ’60s, he won the Mugello Grand Prix in Ferrari and in 1970 he won the Imola and Vallelunga races and had podium finishes in Daytona, 1000 Kilometers of Monza.

Merzario's talent had him drive for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari early in his career

Merzario’s talent had him drive for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari early in his career

British GP race results opened many doors for Merzario

In 1972, he continued his winning streak by proving to be the fastest in the 1000 Kilometers of Spa and the famous Italian mountain race Targa Florio. He also finished second on Nurburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans proving that he is one of the best sportscar/prototype drivers in the world at that moment. His success in endurance racing opened doors of the Formula One championship and in 1972, Merzario made his big debut, finishing sixth in the British Grand Prix on the famous Brands Hatch circuit.

Arturo Merzario's success opened doors towards Formula One, team ferrari 1976

Arturo Merzario’s success opened doors towards Formula One

F1 Championship results were lacking

However, contrary to everybody’s expectations, his Formula One career was mostly unsuccessful and was rather short-lived, only lasting till 1979. His F1 record is of an amazing 85 races and just 11 points with no wins. In 1976, Arturo Merzario helped save the life of Niki Lauda, as he was the first one to rush to the scene of the accident; his fast reflexes proved to be crucial for Lauda. Ever since, Niki Lauda and Arturo Merzario are good friends and have often been seen together.

Arturo Merzario helped save the life of Niki Lauda, march 1973

Arturo Merzario helped save the life of Niki Lauda

Overall good results throughout the career

Even though his F1 career was not impressive, during the ’70s he still managed to race in the prototype class with success. In 1975, Merzario won the Targa Florio again in the famous Alfa Romeo T33. He continued to race in the GT class well into the ’80s and became the winner of the Italian Prototype Championship in 1985. He stopped racing professionally in the 90s but is still very active in revival races with other famous racing drivers.

Merzario was one of the most well-loved drivers on the race course, 1977

Merzario was one of the most well-loved drivers on the race course

One of the few that can smoke in the pit area

During his long career, Merzario was known as one of the most well-loved drivers on the race course, apart from being popular because of his fun-loving nature. In the 70s, he was famous for wearing cowboy hats and always promoting his sponsor Marlboro as he was a heavy smoker. In fact, during interviews, he often stated that ‘Marlboro and Coca Cola were his fuels and without them, he could not live’. Even today, he holds the distinction of being one of the few people in the world who are allowed to smoke in the pit area.

Photos: aurturomerzario.com, f1fanatic.co.uk, motorsport.com.

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