It happened today – 21 December

Accadde oggi - 21 dicembre

21st December 1935

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On 21st December 1935, Lorenzo Bandini was born in Barce, Libya, at the time a colony of the Kingdom of Italy. The family originated from San Cassiano, a suburb of Brisighella in Romagna, Italy to where they returned before the outbreak of the Second World War. Lorenzo’s racing career began in 1956 and he came to prominence in the following years with a series of good results in races on road and track. His big moment came in 1961, when he was offered a contract by Scuderia Centro Sud, with whom he took part in his first races in the Formula 1 World Championship at the wheel of a Cooper-Maserati.

At the end of the season, Enzo Ferrari offered him a works drive with the Scuderia, alternating between Sports car races and Formula 1. Of his three races with the Maranello single-seaters, he took his first podium at Monaco with a third place finish, but it was not enough to secure him a full time drive. In 1963, he began the Formula 1 season with BRM, but winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, paired with Scarfiotti, earned him a place among the factory drivers for the Prancing Horse in Formula 1.

1964 was his best year: victory in the Austrian Grand Prix and three further third places, all making an important contribution to his team-mate, John Surtees, taking the Drivers’ title. In 1965 and ’66, Bandini was an occasional Formula 1 front runner, taking two more podiums in Monaco and one in Belgium, even if he never gave the impression he could be a number one driver, but that role did actually drop in his lap in 1966, after the split between Surtees and the Scuderia. He had more success in sports cars: apart from the previously mentioned Le Mans victory, his record includes wins in the 1966 Targa Florio with Nino Vaccarella and in the Daytona 24 Hours and the Monza 1000 Kilometres the following year, in both cases paired with the New Zealander Chris Amon.

His 1967 season with Ferrari began at the second race, the Monaco Grand Prix. Bandini was a strong contender but on the 82nd lap, he came up to the harbour chicane too fast: his 312 F1 turned over and caught fire. The rescue crews did not get to him quickly and Bandini was taken to the hospital in the Principality where he died a long and agonising death on 7th May.

Much loved by the fans, there was a large crowd for Bandini’s funeral, which took place at Reggiolo. The Brisighella community established an award named after him, to to be presented annually to a rising star in Formula 1 and to this day, it is one of the prizes drivers appreciate the most. “He has now become a symbol of motor sport in Italy. That could be seen from the guaranteed support he had from those who flocked to all the race circuits,” Enzo Ferrari wrote of him in “Piloti, che gente…’ “They were immediately attracted to the young man with delicate features, which Margherita would usually point out with wifely pride. However, he was always the typical calm bourgeois driver… I remember that day in May 1967. I was in my study in Maranello, watching the final stages of the Monaco Grand Prix on television. When I saw the large mushroom cloud of black smoke which floated sinisterly across the bay of Monte Carlo, even before the unforgettable broadcaster Piero Casucci commentated on the catastrophic images, I felt that the car on fire was one of mine. Now, I can’t say why, but I realised Bandini was in the blaze and I was sure I would never see him again.”

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