Eugenio Castellotti was an Italian racing driver who was famous on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. During his career, the Italian has competed in sports cars racing and Formula 1. He recorded 14 starts in Formula 1 World Championship between 1955 and 1957, scoring three podiums. In the sports car racing, he won some of the world's most famous races, such were Sebring 12 Hours (1956), Mille Miglia (1956) or 1000 km of Buenos Aires (1957), adding podiums in other great races (Carrera Panamericana, Nurburgring 1000 km).
He was born on October 10, 1930, in Lodi, near Milan. His family was wealthy and well-known, so the boy had an easy-going childhood. Unfortunately, Castellotti family never was supportive in Eugenio’s efforts to become a sports car driver. However, he didn’t pay attention too much and at the age of 20 he bought a Ferrari 166.
Soon after buying a new car, Castellotti entered Mille Miglia, one of the most demanding but also one of the most popular races of that time. The handsome and very talented driver in the next two years raced across Italy and in 1952 scored his maiden victory at the Circuito di Senigallia. Soon after he won the sports cars Portuguese Grand Prix and finished 2nd in the Monaco Sports Car race. There is a legend that says Castellotti finished 2nd just because he made an unplanned pit stop to drink some Coke.
Eugenio Castellotti debuted in Formula 1 with Lancia
After finishing 3rd driving a Lancia D23 in 1953 Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Piero Taruffi, Castellotti became one of the tifosi favorites. That year, driving a Lancia, he also won 10 Hours of Messina race and Italian Hillclimb championship. After such good results, Lancia offered him an opportunity to race in Formula 1 from 1955. During 1954 he continued to race sports cars with a moderate success.
Castellotti in Lancia D50, 1955 Belgian Grand Prix
Finally, Lancia D50 car was ready for a debut in the Formula 1 Championship. Castellotti’s debut was in the Argentinian Grand Prix but he retired from the race. Later he finished 2nd in the non-championship race at Pau and in the Monaco Grand Prix, losing to Maurice Trintignant. In the mid-season Lancia team merged with Ferrari and Castellotti continued his F1 career with the Scuderia. The Italian had some impressive results before the end of 1955, like the 3rd place in the Italian Grand Prix, and at the end of the season he was 3rd in the Championship, behind Fangio and Stirling Moss.
Winner of Mille Miglia and Sebring 12 Hours
The F1season of 1956 wasn’t as good for the Italian driver as he finished 6th in the standings. The best result that year was the 2nd place in the French Grand Prix at Reims Circuit where he lost to Peter Collins by only 0.2s.
Castellotti at 1956 Mille Miglia
However, the results in the sports cars racing were much better and Castellotti won Mille Miglia driving a Ferrari 290 MM Scaglietti, as well as 12 Hours of Sebring where he drove Ferrari 860 Monza alongside Fangio. Eugenio also triumphed in the race in Rouen and finished 2nd at 1000 km of Nurburgring, again driving alongside Fangio.
Castellotti with his female fans
At that time Castellotti already was the star in Italy but only because of his achievements on the track. His private life was in focus, especially after Eugenio regularly was accompanied by many famous girls, including the movie star and opera singer Delia Scala. Enzo Ferrari wasn’t happy about that as he always wanted his drivers to be committed solely to the racing duties.
Fatal crash during test at Modena
In 1957 the Ferrari team introduced new Lancia Ferrari 801 car. Debut in the Argentinian Grand Prix wasn’t glorious and further tests and developments had to be done. While being on holiday in Florence with Scala, Castellotti was called back to Modena by Enzo Ferrari to do further testing of the new Ferrari 801.
Castellotti with JUan Manuel Fangio, 1956 Sebring 12h
On the third lap, Castellotti’s car bounced off kerb stones, turned over several times, and crashed into the grandstand. The poor driver was killed instantly from a fractured skull and the fans were devastated. Media accused Enzo Ferrari of breaking driver’s holiday but the Commendatore, as always, didn’t want to accept that and stated that Eugenio had let a woman inluence him so much.
Even after he never the F1 Grand Prix, Castellotti was considered as one of the best Italian drivers of that time and at the age of 26 he still had a plenty to offer.