Vincenzo Sospiri is an Italian former racing driver and current team owner who had a successful career in open-wheel and sports car racing, capturing several international championship titles. He was the 1990 Formula Vauxhall Lotus champion, the 1995 Formula 3000 International championship and two-time International Sports Racing Series champion in 1998 and 1999.
After retiring from a professional racing career, he was successfully leading some racing teams (Euronova Racing and Vincenzo Sospiri Racing) with many wins and titles.
Numerous championship titles in karting competitions
Born in October 1966, in Forli in northern Italy, Sospiri started racing at the age 15. He soon became the world-class karting driver, winning numerous championship titles in Italy, Switzerland and Europe. The highlight was the World championship Class 100cc title in 1987.
After that, it was a time to step in into competitions with big single-seaters. The first choice was the 1988 British Formula Ford Championship, in which Sospiri finished third. He won the annual Formula Ford Festival.
Formula Vauxhall Lotus champion in 1990
The British Formula 3, Formula Vauxhall Lotus and Formula Opel Lotus Euroseries were next championships for Vincenzo in 1989.
A year later, he was the Formula Vauxhall Lotus champion and finished second in the Formula Opel Lotus Euroseries, behind Rubens Barrichello. Sospiri represented Italy in the Formula Opel Nations Cup, finishing fourth.
Formula 3000 debut with Eddie Jordan Racing
In 1990, Sospiri also made his debut in the Formula 3000 International, driving for with Eddie Jordan Racing at Jerez. Next year, he joined the team as the full-time driver in the Formula 3000, with Damon Hill as a teammate. Sospiri finished 8th in the points, one place behind Hill.
Sospiri wasn't satisfied with uncompetitiveness of his car and he left series in 1991, making a step back to the Italian Formula 3. He finished fifth driving for Traini Corse team.
Returning to F3000 and taking the championship title in 1995
In 1993, Sospiri returned to the Formula 3000, driving the #32 Reynard-Judd for Mythos Racing. After scoring two podiums, he was seventh in the final standings. For 1994 season, Sospiri joined British Super Nova Racing, alongside Japanese driver Taki Inoue as a teammate. Sospiri improved his results, scoring three podiums and finishing fourth in the points.
And then, in 1995, he was a dominating driver in the championship, winning the F3000 title with a big gap over his teammate Ricardo Rosset. Sospiri was a race winner three times, at Catalunya, Pau and Spa.
Vincenzo Sospiri (left) never had a chance to race in Formula One
Short F1 career: test drives for Benetton, disappointing attempt with Lola
After a victory in the F3000, the next step was supposed to be a Formula 1. There was no seat available for Sospiri in the 1996 Formula One season, so he decided to serve as a test driver for the Benetton Renault F1 team.
Ahead of 1997 season, he joined Mastercard Lola project, together with former teammate Ricardo Rosset. Unfortunately, the team's Lola-Ford was uncompetitive and they failed to qualify for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. After that race, the team was closed down.
Front-row starter at 1997 Indianapolis 500
Having no place in Formula One, Sospiri traveled to America to joined Team Scandia in the 1996/1997 season of the Indy Racing League. He had a fantastic debut at Indianapolis 500, securing front-row start as the third-fastest qualifier and the best rookie. In the race, he finished 17th.
Later in the season, Sospiri recorded three top 10 results, including second place at New Hampshire International Speedway. In October and November, Sospiri also participated in two races of the Formula Nippon at Fuji and Suzuka.
Championship-winning Ferrari 333 SP in 1998
International Sports Racing Series champion in 1998
In 1998, Sospiri made a switch to sports car racing, participating full-season in the International Sports Racing Series with JB Giesse Team Ferrari. He and Emmanuel Collard were the race winners six times during a season in the #5 Ferrari 333 SP, dominantly taking a championship trophy.
Four starts in the 1998 CART FedEx Championship Series
In September 1998, Sospiri was invited by Dan Gurney's All American Racing team to drive for the team in the last four rounds of the CART FedEx Championship Series as a replacement for P.J. Jones. Sospiri debuted in the #98 car at Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca, finishing 22nd.
He was then 15th at Grand Prix of Houston and at Honda Indy Carnival in Australia's Surfers Paradise. In the last race, at Californica Speedway, he finished 23rd.
One more Sports Racing championship title in 1999
In 1999, Sospiri stayed with JB Giesse Team Ferrari in the competition which was renamed to Sports Racing World Cup. This time, he and Emmanuel Collard scored two wins in the #1 Ferrari 333 SP but that was enough both for them and the team to defend championship titles.
In June, Sospiri was hired to drive for Toyota Motorsports at Le Mans 24 Hours, alongside Emmanuel Collard and Martin Brundle. Sospiri took the pole position in the #1 Toyota GT-One but Brundle was forced to retire after 90 laps.
Three podiums in the 2002 FIA Sportscar Championship
With championship trophy in his hands, Sospiri retired from racing at the end of 1999. He reactivated himself shortly in 2002, in few races of the FIA Sportscar Championship, together with Mauro Baldi in the R&M SR01 prototype. They finished third in all three races, at Brno, Magny-Cours and Spa.
In 2003, Sospiri participated in one race of the British GT Championship and then, ten years after, he had an exhibition outing in the 2013 Formula Ford Walter Hayes Trophy.
Vincenzo Sospiri created Euronova team in 2002
Successful team manager
After slowing down his racing activities, Sospiri focused on leading racing teams. His first project was the Euronova team, which he created in 2002 by joining forces with David Sears and Fortec Motorsport Italia. The team's first competition was the Euro Formula 3000. Euronova stayed in that series, which was running under a various name, until 2014.
Other competitions of Sospiri's teams were Formula Renault, Formula Abarth, Formula 4 or International Formula Masters. In 2015, Sospiri entered Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Italian GT Championship with his team, using a name Vincenzo Sospiri Racing.