“Among my drivers, Giovanni Bracco was, perhaps, the one who scored the most spectacular success,” Enzo Ferrari once said about the fun-loving, booze-loving winner of the 1952 Mille Miglia. Bracco won other races, but he will always be remembered for his climb from nowhere to victory, chain-smoking and swigging red wine as he went, to win one of the most exciting Brescia-Rome-Brescia marathons in the 30-year history of the famous Italian road race.
This lively industrialist from Biella was one of Italy’s truly great road racers. He made his point big time in a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT co-driven by a lad from his hometown named Umberto Maglioli in the 1951 Mille Miglia on April 28, 1951. Nobody gave tuppence for the Lancias’ chances against the vast field of 26 Ferraris entered for the event, and they certainly did not expect him to be breathing down the neck of eventual winner Luigi Villoresi in a much more powerful works 4101-cc V12 Ferrari Tipo 340 Vignale. But, like many bolts out of the blue, Bracco/Maglioli and their Lancia made jaws drop, hundreds of thousands of spectators cheered themselves hoarse, and radio listeners’ ears tingled as their 1750-cc sedan that had, admittedly, been more than breathed on by the great Vittorio Jano, climbed its way up the field and held station two minutes from Villoresi’s exhaust pipes toward the end. As was often the case, the closing stages on the Padana plain—with its long, long straights—made all the difference to a high-powered car, and Villoresi eventually won the race with a 20-minute lead over Bracco. What a Jack and the Giant Killer affair it had been!
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