Francesco Baracca, 100 years on

The aviator, whose prancing horse became the symbol of Ferrari, died on 19 June 1918

Francesco Baracca died 100 years ago. The First World War aviator lost his life on a mission in Nervesa della Battaglia on 19 June 1918. He had previously risen to prominence as one of the bravest pilots in the Italian Air Force, proudly displaying a painting of a black horse on a white background on the fuselage of his biplane. Ferrari's history has been inextricably linked to that of this hero since 17 June 1923. Five years had passed since the death of the aviator from Lugo when Enrico Baracca, Francesco's father, was on the stands at the Savio circuit, in Ravenna, where Enzo Ferrari won at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo. 

Baracca's Prancing Horse symbol has evolved gradually over the years  Illustration: Enzo Naso 

At the end of the prize-giving ceremony, the two met, as Ferrari himself wrote: "I got to know Count Enrico Baracca, the hero's father; from that meeting came the next one, with his mother, Countess Paolina. It was she who said to me one day: "Ferrari, put my son's prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you luck”. I still keep the photograph of Baracca, with the his parents' dedication, in which they entrust me with the emblem. The prancing horse was and remains black; I added the canary yellow background which is the colour of Modena".

 Today, the Ferrari symbol is one of the most famous in the world 

The Prancing Horse, but with its tail facing upwards while Baracca's design pointed downwards, began to appear on the documents of Scuderia Ferrari, which had been founded in 1929. It then made its racing début on 9 July 1932 on the Alfa Romeo with which the Modena team recorded a one-two with Antonio Brivio and Eugenio Siena ahead of Piero Taruffi and Guido d'Ippolito. Since 1947 that symbol has appeared on all Ferraris, with the exception of the Dino, and although it has changed slightly with the passing of the years, it has accompanied the Scuderia in its victories both in closed-wheel races and in Formula 1, becoming one of the most famous symbols in the world and helping to immortalise the figure of Francesco Baracca.