The death of Ignazio Giunti, the promise of Italian motoring, left a huge void and a regret that some enthusiasts still live today.
Ignazio Giunti was born in Rome of a noble family and was one of the finest pilots of his time.
Impetuous, spectacular and light-hearted.
After making his mark in minor races, he became an Alfa Romeo official driver which led him to professionalism with the Giulia GTA.
At the wheel of the Milanese car, Giunti achieved important results...such as victory in the 4 Hour race in Budapest, 2nd place in the Hill Climb of Mont Ventoux and 3rd place in the 1966 Mugello Grand Prix.
In the 1967 season, Alfa Romeo assigned him the task of winning the European Mountain Championship, and Ignazio did not disappoint: after a 2nd place in the first championship race, he won the title by winning every race he took part in.
It should be remembered that in this period the Autodelta drivers represented the best Italian motor racing drivers of the time, and that Autodelta was a team in which the drivers lived in a serene environment, devoid of intrigue and favoritism.
In this environment Giunti, and his young colleagues became faster and more competitive and... when the Alfa Romeo S.p.A. made its debut with the 2-liter 33 with the Sport Prototype World Championship, it was natural that the Roman driver was also called to lead the race with the new prototype.
We recall that in those days the races reserved for prototypes had a similar, and sometimes higher, following to that of F1.
Racing with a more powerful car enhanced Giunti's driving skills even more, who, paired with Nanni Galli, achieved excellent results...culminating in second place on the Madonie road circuit at the Targa Florio.
The 1968 season started in a bad way for Giunti, who had an accident in Daytona Beach that forced him to abandon competitions for a short time.
He soon returned to the Targa Florio race, still recovering and with his arm wounds not yet healed, exalted the enthusiasts with a spectacular drive; in copy with Galli he nearly won overall, taking 2nd place behind Vic Elford's most powerful Porsche.
The Giunti-Galli team took the class victory in the two most important races on the world calendar: the 1000 Kilometers of Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ignazio then won the Republic Grand Prix in Vallelunga and was the fastest both at Mugello and at the Imola 500 km, where however the final results were conditioned by technical problems.
In 1969, Giunti raced again for Autodelta which entrusted him with the 33/3, a beautiful but difficult car to drive.
At the end of 1969, Enzo Ferrari summoned him to entrust him with one of his cars.
The negotiations were quick and, in 1970, Giunti was behind the wheel of the Ferrari 512 sport-prototype.
The climate in the Ferrari team was difficult, very different from what Ignazio had experienced at Autodelta... also due to the strong attention of the Italian press which was always on the lookout for information and gossip.
For the 512 it was a season to forget, and it was soundly beaten by the Porsche 917; the 512 won only one race, the 12 Hours of Sebring with Giunti, Andretti and Vaccarella.
At Ferrari Giunti became increasingly popular with the media and enthusiasts. The engineer Enzo Ferrari offered him the opportunity to make his debut in F1 in June of that same year on the difficult circuit of Spa.
The debut was positive and Giunti finished his race in fourth place, conquering the first world points for the 312B with the new 12-cylinder boxer engine.
In subsequent races, Giunti alternated with Clay Regazzoni alongside Jacky Ickx in the Grand Prix of France, Grand Prix of Austria and took part in the Grand Prix of Italy in Monza with Regazzoni and Ickx.
Curiously, Giunti finished the season as he had started it, with a victory driving the Ferrari 512M-1010 "The Thirteenth Rand Daily Mail Nine Hour Endurance Race" in Kyalami ahead of the Porsche 917.
At the end of the season, he was proclaimed absolute Italian Champion.
For the 1971 season, Ferrari entrusted him with the new 312P with a boxer engine, a car that Ferrari himself indicated as ... 'a double-seater'.
On January 10, 1971, at the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, only one 312P was registered for Giunti and Merzario. The race was the scene of one of the worst stories in motorsport.
Starting with the 2nd time in qualifying, Giunti went on to the attack the 917 competitors and firmly conquered the first position.
Ferrari therefore seemed destined to win, but the unthinkable happened.
The Matra MS 660 had broken down due to lack of petrol, and Jean Pierre Beltoise, an experienced and stubborn driver, decided to push the car to the pits.
Criminally, he placed himself in the middle of the track.
Regardless of the danger of the situation, neither the race director nor the stewards intervened to resolve the dangerous situation.
Thus, while Beltoise was on the trajectory in the curve that led to the arrival straight, a curve that was taken at over 200 km / h, two Ferraris arrived, the 512M of the Filipinetti Scuderia that was about to be lapped and the 312P of Giunti, plus considering the low, sleek 512, which had a reduced frontal view.
When Parkes leading Giunti through the curve suddenly found the Matra 660 obstacle, he swerved to the side, while Giunti, who was practically right behind him, did not see the Matra and inevitably hit him.
The collision tore up the right side of the car which was immediately engulfed in flames, while Beltoise who was to the left of his Matra was miraculously unharmed.
In the impact, Giunti was blocked inside the passenger compartment by the wreckage of the frame and seat belts, while the vapors present in the fuel tanks caused an explosion.
When the firefighters managed to put out the fire, the rescuers extracted the pilot, who was unconscious and not breathing.
The doctors managed to revive him with a heart massage and loaded him into an ambulance to be transported to the Fernandez Polyclinic.
Unfortunately, the situation worsened and Giunti arrived at the hospital lifeless from the burns he suffered.
The report was terrible, the victim had third degree burns for over 60% of the body, and equally serious were the fractures to the cervical vertebrae in addition to heart failure caused by the shock of the impact.
The dramatic accident, and its crazy dynamics, gave rise to a wide international debate that contributed decisively to increasing safety in racing.
The death of Ignazio Giunti deprived the Italian fans of a potential world champion and left a great regret, which some fans still live today.
The way of racing, and the races themselves, were very different from those of today, and aspects of that historical period remain that are little perceived in current competitions; respect for the opponent, risk and death.
An example of this is the accident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton during the 2021 Italian Grand Prix in Monza. That accident at the time would have been inconceivable for the dynamics, and fatal for both drivers due to the different safety of the cars of the times.
Death was still considered an intrinsic element of motoring which, for this reason, was considered an epic sport, and its protagonists, the drivers, were seen as heroic leaders, and defined as 'Knights of Risk'.
The generation of Ignazio Giunti was represented by several of the best drivers in the history of motoring, but was unfortunately wiped out by an incredible series of fatal accidents.
The same year two other great drivers Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez also died in the races.
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