Tribute to Fallen Race Drivers

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Michele Alboreto

In Open-Wheel on October 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm
Michele Alboreto Courtesy of Audi Media

Michele Alboreto
Courtesy of Audi Media

24 Hours of Le Mans Champion – 1997

Petit Le Mans Champion – 2000

12 Hours of Sebring Champion – 2001

Winner of 5 Formula One Grand Prix

Michele Alboreto was one of the most respected drivers of his generation. Born in Milan, Italy on December 23rd, 1956, Alboreto’s career would complement the versatility of his skill-sets in multiple forms of motorsports. His racing days began in 1976, but it wasn’t until 1978 in the Formula Italia series he broke through, grabbing two wins in the process. The next three years the Italian ran through the junior Formula series, winning the European championship in Formula Three in 1980.

Progressively he gained recognition and moved to Formula One, making his debut for the Tyrrell Racing Team at the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix. The final race in the 1982 season saw Alboreto take his first career Formula One victory in the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in Las Vegas. After brief success with mid-level teams Alboreto finally got an opportunity in 1984 to drive with a premier team in F1, Ferrari. In his opening season with the “prancing horse” the Italian drove to a solid fourth place in the championship, but in 1985 Alboreto had his most incredible season in Formula One. Alboreto scored eight podiums with two wins in 16 starts, after a supreme showing much of the season the Ferrari driver retired in the final four events of the season, finishing second to Alain Prost in the championship. He raced with Ferrari until 1988, thereafter becoming a journeyman driver for multiple teams until finally leaving Formula One after the 1994 season.

During the early years of his racing career Alboreto got the opportunity to drive for Lancia beginning in 1980, teaming with Walter Röhrl and Eddie Cheever to score three runner-up finishes in four races during their debut season. In 1981, the duo of Alboreto and Cheever were joined by Carlo Facetti to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The drivers pushed the 1.4 liter turbo Lancia to finish eighth overall and a second in class. It was Alboreto’s first start in the legendary race. That same season Alboreto won his first endurance race in the Six Hours of Watkins Glen.

Alboreto piloting the famously dominant Audi R8 for Joest Racing. Courtesy of Audi Media

Alboreto piloting the famously dominant Audi R8 for Joest Racing.
Courtesy of Audi Media

It only seemed natural that once his career in Formula One was finished that he would eventually return to sports car racing. That return brought with it some of the greatest drives of Alboreto’s career. In 1997 driving for Joest Racing and teamed with Tom Kristensen and Stefan Johansson, the Italian broke through to get the biggest win of his career, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The group raced their LMP class TWR Porsche WSC-95 to a race high 361 laps to finish first overall and in class. The closest LMP class competitors managed to complete only 336 laps on the legendary French circuit. In 2000, Alboreto found the podium once again at Le Mans, driving for Joest Racing once again, but this time with manufacturer Audi. That year Audi and Joest Racing swept the podium with all three of their LMP900 machines, completing a combined total of exactly 1,100 laps.

One of Alboreto’s standout victories also came in America at the traditional Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia. The Italian teamed with Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello to drive the LMP class Audi with Joest Racing. McNish set the stage by winning the pole, and setting the fastest race lap. The trio completed 394 laps and scored an impressive 3-lap victory over the second factory Audi team led by Tom Kristensen. During the 2000 campaign, Joest Racing with Audi managed to sweep three of the greatest endurance races in the world: 12 Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans, and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The final victory for Michele Alboreto came at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2001. Teaming once again with Capello, the two  were joined by Frenchman Laurent Aiello. Racing the famed Audi R8 in the LMP900 class, the three drivers set off for one of the most competitive races in the events storied history. A duel set up between both factory Audi’s as the two fought hard into the night, both completing 370 laps. The R8 led by Alboreto managed to pull out the victory by just .482 seconds, still the closest finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring’s history.

Just over a month later, on April 25th, 2001, the world lost Michele Alboreto. The Italian fell victim to a tire failure while testing his Audi R8 in Germany.

“I know Alboreto was the last Italian on the podium at Monza before me. I was lucky enough to race together with him in touring cars, and he was a great person, really special. I want to dedicate the result to his memory.”

~ Giancarlo Fisichella, after his podium finish at the 2005 Italian Grand Prix ~

Joey Barnes – Tribute Racing

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