Eugenio Castellotti was born in Milan but grew up in Lodi. When he was still only 20 years of age he bought a Ferrari sports car and campaigned it enthusiastically in Italian events in 1951 and 1952. In the second year he began winning, taking victory in the Sicily Gold Cup, the Circuito di Senigallia and the sports car Portuguese GP. He also finished second in the Monaco GP, run that year for sports cars.
But he really hit the headlines when he ran second in the Mille Miglia and this led to him being offered a drive with the Lancia sports car team for the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. He finished third behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Piero Taruffi. he also won the Italian hill climb championship and the 10 Hours of Messina. The Lancia connection resulted in him being signed by the Turin company for its Formula 1 program in 1954. The cars were late arriving and Castellotti did not get to race one of the D50s until the start of 1955. At Pau he finished second ahead of his team mates Gigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari (although the latter had mechanical trouble).
He also finished second at Monaco.
A few days later Castellotti was out testing the unpainted Ferrari 750 Monza at Monza before the Supercortemaggiore race when Ascari turned up to watch. Eugenio was pleased to see Ascari, who asked whether he could have a few laps in the car. Castellotti loaned Ascari his helmet and three laps later Ascari lay dead on the track at the fast Vialone Curve at the back of the circuit. He had been thrown out and killed. Castellotti was grief stricken and at the huge funeral that took place in Milan a few days later, Castellotti was one of the pall bearers who carried Ascari’s coffin.
As a result Castellotti became team leader for one Grand Prix. Shortly there after Lancia closed its racing program and the D50s were sold to Enzo Ferrari. Castellotti thus became a Ferrari driver but there were too many drivers on the books and so Eugenio concentrated on sports cars, winning the Mille Miglia and the Sebring 12 Hours.
As a driver he was hard on his car often outrunning many of the accepted champions, but usually one of the first to change tires.The Ferrari team also had a new driver, Luigi Musso with whom Castellotti became a fierce rival for the hearts of the Italian public. “Musso is Rome and Castellotti is Milan!” recalls Ferrari team manager Romolo Tavoni The women of Italy called Castellotti Il Bello (The Beautiful One). At what should have been the height of his career Castellotti featured more in the gossip columns than the motoring magazines due to his high profile affair with opera singer Delia Scala. His mother Signora Angela Castellotti did not approve of her son’s involvement with a mere singer, as Tavoni recalls: “Castellotti took Delia home to meet his mother. She took Delia’s arm and said, ‘You look like a waitress; the kitchen is this way.’ There was a terrible row.”
While on holiday in Florence, he was annoyed to be summoned back to Modena by Enzo Ferrari to do something about the new unofficial lap record which had just been set by Jean Behra in the latest Maserati 250F. Castellotti warmed up the car and then set off for a quick lap, only to misjudge the first chicane which at the time was lined with small bushes and a solid grandstand. The Lancia-Ferrari bounced off one of the red and white kerb stones and Castellotti was thrown out against a concrete pillar and killed.
For Luigi Villoresi, due to retire from the sport, Castellotti’s death caused his on-and-off relationship with the Commendatore to switch off permanently. “For the sake of Ferrari’s pride, challenged that day over a cup of coffee in the Biella Club at Modena, was it right to have put in jeopardy the life of a racing driver?”.