Luigi Chinetti

Luigi Chinetti

17/7/1901 - 17/8/1994

Founder of the North American Racing Team, Chinetti won the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1932, 1934 and 1949. He also won the Spa 24 Hour race twice and the Carrera Panamericana. He raced at every Le Mans from 1932 to 1953.

Born in Milan, Chinetti went to work for his father, who was a gunsmith, in his workshops in 1915 when he was just 14. He showed great mechanical ability and joined Alfa Romeo as a mechanic three years later in 1917, eventually ending up in the competition department where he first met Enzo Ferrari.

In 1925 he went to Paris to help Antonio Ascari race at Montlèry and, with fascism on the rise in his homeland, decided to stay there. He worked as a salesman for Alfa Romeo, with considerable success, and started racing, competing in the Paris 6 Hour race at Montlèry.

He first came to prominence on the International stage when he won Le Mans at his first attempt in 1932 driving an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM with Raymond Sommer. Second the following year with P. Varent in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 behind Raymond Sommer and Tazio Nuvolari, he went on to win the Spa 24 hour race with Louis Chiron, also in an Alfa Romeo 8C.

In 1934 he won Le Mans for a second time in an Alfa Romeo 8C entered by Chinetti himself, sharing the driving with Philippe Etancelin.

Chinetti had an eye for recognising new talent and helped Guy Moll to get a works Ferrari drive. He became involved with the Schell's, ending up as team manager for Ecurie Bleue.

In July 1939 he made his only Grand Prix appearance, driving an Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 3.0L, entered by Christian Kautz, to 8th place in the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux. In August he was due to race one of Lucy O'Rilley Schell's Delahayes in the Swiss Grand Prix in Berne by was listed as DNA.

Chinetti went, as manager, with Dreyfus to USA for the 1940 Indy 500 with two Ecurie Bleue Maserati Grand Prix cars and with war spreading through Europe, he remained in USA working under fellow Italian, Alfred Momo. He became a US citizen in 1946.

At the end of the year he traveled to Modena by way of France to meet with Enzo Ferrari and, with his French and American connections, offered to be the agent for Ferrari in the USA. It was to be a very successful arangement, selling the first 166 Barchetta to Tommy Lee in 1948.

On the 26th of June 1949 he won Le Mans for a third time in a red Ferrari 166 Barchetta with an average speed of 132.42 kph. Sharing the driving with Peter Mitchell-Thomson, Lord Selsdon, Chinetti drove most of the 24 hours. Two weeks later, driving the same car with Jean Lucas, he won the Spa 24 Hour race for the second time.

In 1951 he was the co-driver to Piero Taruffi in the winning Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe (0171EL) in the Carrera Panamericana.

After Chinetti ended his career as driver in 1958 he formed the North American Racing team with backing from wealthy racers George Arents and Jan de Vroom. The team won Le Mans in 1965 and was also involved in F1 representing Ferrari in a few races. Chinetti's talent for regognising promissing new drivers continued and he helped among others Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, Dan Gurney and the Rodriguez brothers.

Retired to Greenwich, Connecticut, Luigi Chinetti died in 1994 at the age of 93.

historicracing.com

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