- May 16, 1909
- August 24, 1997
- Not Active
Luigi 'Gigi' Villoresi (1909-1997) was an Italian racing driver and one of the pioneers of the Grand Prix racing in the 1930s and 1950s.
He recorded several notable wins before the World War II and then continued with racing after the war, participating also in the Formula One World Championship between 1950 and 1956. He never won F1 Championship race, scoring eight podiums, but recorded more than thirty victories in non-championship F1 races or major sports car events.
Gigi and Emilio raced together at the start of a career
Born in Milan in May 1909, Luigi Villoresi started his racing career in the early 1930s, together with his brother Emilio (born 1913). Luigi was born in a wealthy family and he could afford to buy his first car at the age of 22. It was a Lancia Lambda and he was using a car in local rallies.
In 1933, Gigi and Emilio participated together at the famous Mille Miglia for the first time, driving a Fiat 508S Ballila Sport. They continued to come back to Mille Miglia with Fiat three more times, finishing best in the 18th place overall and second in S1.1 class in 1935. That year, Gigi was also a class champion in the Italian sports car championship.
Emilio raced for Enzo Ferrari, Gigi became Maserati factory driver
In 1936, Villoresi brothers purchased Maserati 4CS 1100 and raced at Mille Miglia with that car in 1937. The same year, Emilio started to race with Alfa Romeo cars for Scuderia Ferrari while Gigi became Maserati factory driver in 1938. He raced in non-championship Grand Prix races but also in the AIACR European Championship. In January 1939, Gigi triumphed at South African Grand Prix in a Maserati 4CL.
Unfortunately, in June 1939, Gigi's brother Emilio lost a life in a crash while testing Alfa Romeo race car at Monza.
Two victories at Targa Florio
In the pre-war period, Luigi Villoresi scored two victories in the famous Targa Florio race at Sicilia. The first win came in 1939 in a Maserati 6CM. Next year, he won in a Maserati 4CL.
Both races took part on the Favorita Park 5.26-km long circuit and it was the last two editions of the race before the World War II stopped all racing activities.
Racing at 1946 Indianapolis 500 with Maserati
Starting 28th on the grid in the #52 Maserati, he finished the race in the seventh place, the third among rookies. He completed all 200 laps.
Racing with Maserati until 1949
In the following years, Villoresi raced with Maserati in Europe and Argentina, gaining lots of success. One of his most notable victories was in the 1948 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a Maserati 4CLT. He defeated his teammate Alberto Ascari and ERA's Bob Gerard.
In Argentina, he was a dominant driver at Buenos Aires for two years in a row, winning all four races in two editions of the race in 1947 and 1948.
Driving for Scuderia Ferrari in the inaugural F1 World Championship
During 1949, Villoresi also raced with Ferrari cars in some events, such were Dutch Grand Prix, Belgian Grand Prix or BRDC International Trophy. Then, in 1950, he completely switched to Ferrari, driving for the team in the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship and many non-championship races.
He participated in three F1 Championship events, recording DNFs at Monaco Grand Prix and Swiss Grand Prix, reaching the finish only in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in 6th place.
In non-championship races, he recorded several second-place finishes (Pau, Sanremo, Zandvoort) and crashed badly at Grand Prix des Nations in Geneva, killing three spectators.
Three podiums in the 1951 F1 Championship season
In 1951, Villoresi participated in all but one F1 Championship races, skipping only Indianapolis 500. At the wheel of Ferrari 375, he scored three podiums at Spa, Reims and Silverstone. He finished in the third place in all three races.
He collected more points with fourth-place finishes at Nurburgring and Monza, ending the season in the fifth place
1951 – victories at Pau Grand Prix and Mille Miglia
Outside F1 Championship, Villoresi clinched some great wins in 1951, both in F1 non-championship events and sports car races. In March, he won Syracuse Grand Prix and then Pau Grand Prix in a Ferrari 375.
In April, he first won Coppa Inter-Europa in a Ferrari 212 MM and then triumphed at Mille Miglia in a Ferrari 340 America Berlinetta Vignale, sharing a car with Piero Cassani.
In November 1951, Villoresi and Alberto Ascari represented Ferrari at Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. They raced in the #9 Ferrari 212 Inter, finishing in the second place behind teammates Piero Taruffi and Luigi Chinetti in the #34 Ferrari 212 Inter.
Two podiums in two races in the 1952 F1 Championship
In 1952, Villoresi participated in just two F1 Championship races, scoring podiums in both. He was third in the Dutch Grand Prix and Italian Grand Prix in a Ferrari 500.
In non-championship F1 races, Villoresi was a winner four times: at Valentino Grand Prix, Sables Grand Prix, Daily Mail Trophy and Modena Grand Prix.
Le Mans 24 Hours debut in 1952
In sports car racing, Villoresi's season was marked by his debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 1952. He was sharing the #62 Ferrari 250 S Berlinetta Vignale with Alberto Ascari, not finishing the race due to broken clutch early in the race.
In November 1952, Villoresi raced again at Carrera Panamericana, sharing a car with Piero Cassani. They didn't finish the race in the #16 Ferrari 340 Mexico Berlinetta Vignale.
Three F1 Championship podiums in the last season with Ferrari
In 1953, Villoresi spent again a full season in the Formula 1 World Championship, driving a Ferrari 500. In eight races, he was on a podium three times, finishing fifth in the championship standings.
He was closest to the victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, finishing second behind teammate Alberto Ascari. Villoresi was second also in the Argentine Grand Prix, but one lap behind Ascari. His third podium finish was the third place in the Italian Grand Prix.
In sports car races during 1953, Villoresi recorded DNFs at Mille Miglia, Le Mans 24h and Spa 24h but won the Giro di Sicilia together with Piero Cassani. He and Ascari also finished second at Casablanca 12 Hours.
Villoresi and Ascari joined Lancia in 1954
Luigi Villoresi and his younger colleague Alberto Ascari joined Lancia at the beginning of 1954. In March, they were a part of Scuderia Lancia's two-car effort at Sebring 12 Hours but both cars retired. They were sharing the #37 Lancia D24, Juan Manuel Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti were in the #36 car.
After returning to Europe in April, Villoresi participated in Coppa della Toscana and then suffered serious injuries in a crash while testing Lancia Aurelia near Rimini, together with his mechanic.
Four F1 Grand Prix starts in 1954
After recovering from injuries, Villoresi recorded three F1 Championship starts with Maserati factory team, driving a Maserati 250F at Reims (5th), Silverstone (DNF) and Monza (DNF).
In the last round of the championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes, he raced in a Lancia D50 but didn't finish the race.
Gigi lost friend Alberto Ascari in May 1955
In 1955, Gigi started the F1 season with Lancia, driving a Lancia D50 in Pau Grand Prix (4th), Argentine Grand Prix (DNF) and Monaco Grand Prix (5th). It was the Monaco Grand Prix in which Alberto Ascari had an accident and went into the sea.
A few days later, on May 26, Ascari lost a life in an accident while testing Ferrari 750 Monza at Monza circuit. Villoresi was shocked by Ascari's death and after that, his career went into steep decline. He continued to race for three more years but he was never as good as before.
Five starts in 1956 F1 Championship with Maserati
Villoresi's last season in Formula 1 was 1956. He recorded five starts in the F1 World Championship in a Maserati 250F and a couple of starts in non-championship races. He scored his last F1 points in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, finishing the race in the fifth place.
In sports car races, he finished third at Giro di Sicilia in an Osca MT4 1500 and recorded DNFs in some major races (Mille Miglia, Nurburgring 1000) with the same car. He then finished second at Targa Florio, together with Giulio Cabianca.
Victory at Acropolis Rally before retiring from racing
Luigi Villoresi retired from Grand Prix racing in 1957, competing in rallying for one more year. He was driving Lancia Aurelia B20 GT in some famous rally events, including Rallye Monte-Carlo.
In April 1958, he and navigator Ciro Basadonna won the Rally Acropolis, a part of the European Rally Championship. Their victorious car was the #2 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT.