- January 18, 1950
- Not Active
Gianfranco Brancatelli (also known as Franco) is an Italian former racing driver who achieved the most in touring car and sports car competitions, although he also gained some success in single-seater racing, even recording three unsuccessful Formula 1 World Championship attempts.
He was the European touring car champion in 1985 and Italian touring car champion in 1988. In 1989, he achieved the greatest success of his five attempts at Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing second overall in a Sauber C9 Mercedes. In the same year, he won another legendary endurance race, the Spa 24 Hours, driving a Ford Sierra RS500.
Formula Italia champion early in a career
Born in January 1950 in Turin, Gianfranco Brancatelli started his racing career in 1973, competing in the Formula Abarth. In 1974, he won Formula Italia championship title and then progressed to Formula 3 next year.
He was pretty successful in Formula 3 competitions, finishing third for two years in a row (1975, 1976) in the Italian championship and third in the 1976 European F3 Championship, behind Riccardo Patrese and Conny Andersson.
Racing in Formula Two from 1976 to 1979
In 1976, Brancatelli also made a Formula 2 European Championship debut, driving a March-BMW for Scuderia Everest at Mugello. In 1977, he expanded his F2 activities to eight events, driving a Ralt RT1-Ferrari for Scuderia Everest. He was in the points just once, at Rouen, finishing 17th in the final standings.
He recorded three starts and two DNQs in the 1978 Formula 2 season and then three more starts in the 1979 Formula 2 season but without any success.
Unsuccessful qualifying attempts in Formula One
In 1979, Brancatelli also tried his luck in the Formula One. His first attempt was at Zolder's round of the British Formula 1 Championship He was driving a Kauhsen WK004-Cosworth for Willi Kauhsen Racing Team, not finishing the race.
A few weeks later, Brancatelli appeared in the #36 Kauhsen-Cosworth at Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round of the F1 World Championship. His lap at Jarama circuit was too slow and he failed to qualify for the race. The same happened two weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.
In May 1979, at Monaco Grand Prix, Brancatelli joined Team Merzario to try Merzario A2-Cosworth but he was too slow again. He appeared in two more British F1 races, in May 1979 at Snetterton and June 1980 at Monza.
Le Mans 24h debut with De Tomaso Pantera
In the meantime, Brancatelli started his sports car and touring car racing career. In June 1979, he made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sharing the #35 De Tomaso Pantera with Maurizio Micangeli and car owner Carlo Pietromarchi, he covered just 108 laps, not being classified in the final standings.
A year later, Brancatelli was a part of Scuderia Lancia Corse in his second Le Mans attempt. He was sharing factory-entered #52 Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo with Piercarlo Ghinzani and Markku Alen. Their race lasted for just 26 laps.
European Touring Car Championship debut in 1980
Brancatelli started his touring car racing career in 1980, entering four events of the European Touring Car Championship with BMW 3.0 CSi, sharing a car with Maurizio Micangeli and not scoring any notable result. In 1981, he participated in just one ETCC race, driving a BMW 635 CSi for Dieter Schmid at Donington and finishing fifth.
He expanded his touring car racing activities in 1982, spending a full season with Luigi Team and driving an Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV6. Maurizio Micangeli was again his co-driver. Their best result was the sixth place in few races. In 1983, Brancatelli spent one more season with Alfa Romeo, sharing a car with Rinaldo Drovandi. Their best result was the sixth place overall and class victory at Spa 24 Hours.
European touring car champion in 1985
In 1984, Brancatelli returned to BMW 635 CSi, driving for BMW Italia Team, operated by Eggenberger Motorsport. His co-driver was Helmut Kelleners. Brancatelli scored his first overall ETCC victory at Nurburgring and then one more at Silverstone's Tourist Trophy. He finished fourth in the points.
For the 1985 ETCC season, Eggenberger switched to Volvo 240 Turbo and Brancatelli became the European champion with that car, together with Swedish driver Thomas Lindström. They were race winners six times. At Spa 24 Hours, they finished third.
Joining Tom Walkinshaw Racing in 1986
Brancatelli and Lindström were the champions ahead of Tom Walkinshaw and Win Percy. Walkinshaw decided to hire Brancatelli for the 1986 ETCC season, giving him to drive a Bastos Texaco Rover Vitesse. Brancatelli's new co-driver was Jeff Allam. They were race winners just once, at Anderstorp, and Brancatelli finished 12th in the points.
In 1986, he also returned to sports car races with Tom Walkinshaw Racing-operated Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-6. At Le Mans, he was sharing a car with Win Percy and Hurley Haywood, not finishing the race. In other races, Brancatelli's co-drivers were Jean-Louis Schlesser, Eddie Cheever, Derek Warwick or Jan Lammers.
1987 Daytona 24h podium in a Porsche 962
In 1987, Brancatelli started a year climbing on a podium at Daytona International Speedway. He finished second at Daytona 24 Hours, driving the #3 Porsche 962 for Brun Motorsport. His co-drivers were Oscar Larrauri and Massimo Sigala.
Brancatelli continued to race with Brun Motorsport over the year, without notable results, and returned to Daytona in January 1988. This time, the #3 Porsche didn't finish the race.
1987 – double touring car programme with BMW
In 1987, Brancatelli had a double touring car programme with BMW Motorsport/CiBiEmme Sport, driving BMWs both in the European Touring Car Championship and the inaugural World Touring Car Championship. In seven ETCC races, sharing a BMW M3 with Johnny Cecotto, he was a race winner two times, finishing fifth in the points.
In ten WTCC rounds, Brancatelli and Johnny Cecotto scored one overall victory at Dijon-Prenois but also championship victory at Bathurst 1000 (7th overall), finishing 8th in the final standings.
Italian touring car champion with Alfa Romeo
In 1988, Brancatelli achieved the greatest success in the Italian Touring Car Championship, winning a national title with Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo. In the international racing, he rejoined Eggenberger Motorsport to drive a Ford Sierra RS500.
He scored two podiums in the European Touring Car Championship, sharing a car with Pierre Dieudonne, but finished only 26th in the points because he missed a big part of the season. He retired at Spa 24 Hours, sharing a car with Didier Theys and Bertrand Gachot. Brancatelli also made one victorious appearance in the British Touring Car Championship, winning a race at Silverstone.
1989 – a season in DTM, victory at Spa
In 1989, Eggenberger Motorsport recruited Brancatelli to drive a Ford Sierra RS500 in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft). He managed to score only one podium over the season, finishing ninth in the final standings.
But, he scored one of his greatest results in a career in the non-championship race at Spa-Francorchamps. Driving the #1 Bastos Ford Sierra RS500, Brancatelli finally won 24 Hours of Spa. His co-drivers were Win Percy and Bernd Schneider.
Second place at 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours
In 1989, Brancatelli also joined Team Sauber Mercedes to drive a Sauber C9 at Le Mans 24 Hours. He was a part of the #61 crew together with Mauro Baldi and Kenny Acheson. They finished in the second place, five laps behind another Sauber C9.
Brancatelli recorded his last Le Mans attempt in 1990, again as a part of the factory team. This time, he was driving a Nissan R90CK for Nissan Motorsports International, sharing a car with Julian Bailey and Mark Blundell. They retired after 142 laps. Brancatelli participated in other races of the World Sports-Prototype Championship, finishing in the fourth place two times, at Donington and Mexico.
Slowing down racing activities in the 1990s
Brancatelli slowed down his racing activities in 1991, participating in just a few rounds of the Italian Touring Car Championship with Alfa Romeo and recording his last attempt at Bathurst 1000. He was sharing Allan Moffat's Ford Sierra RS500 with Charlie O'Brien but they were disqualified due to a technical infringement.
He was out of racing until 1995 when he reactivated himself for Daytona 24 Hours, driving a Ferrari 333 SP for Euromotorsport Racing and finishing 8th. He returned to Daytona one more time in 1997, not finishing a race in a Porsche 911.
Photos: Gianfranco Brancatelli,