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The youngest of six brothers, Ernesto Maserati was twice Italian Champion racing driver. The sons of an engine driver based near to Bologna, Carlo (the eldest) raced motorcycles at the turn of the century before switching to cars. He died in 1910 and Mario gave up a career in the motor industry to become an artist. But the other four – Alfieri, Ettore, Bindo and Ernesto – created a legend.
Bindo and Alfieri both worked for Isotta-Franschini and the latter was also a fine racing driver. He set up a car repair workshop in Pontevecchio with the younger Ettore before World War One – also designing and selling Maserati spark plugs at the time. War soon intervened and the 16-year-old Ernesto was left managing the company. Their spark plugs were used in aircraft during the conflict and in cars soon afterwards.
They manufactured cars for others in Pontevecchio but when Diatto encountered financial problems in 1926, the brothers renamed its GP project and the Maserati brand was launched. Ernesto, who had embarked on his own racing career in 1924, drove a straight-eight Maserati in the 1926 Italian GP.
Driving a Maserati 26R, he was 1927 Italian Champion and finished sixth in the following year’s Italian GP. Third in the 1930 Monza GP, he regained the national title and drove a Maserati V4 during the following year’s GP season with victory at Rome a highlight.
Alfieri, the leader of this fraternity, died in 1932 after an operation but the marque would live on and score World Championship success a quarter of a century later. The brothers sold out to the Orsi family in 1937 and left to form OSCA 10 years later, having respected the terms of that sale. Ernesto Maserati retired in 1968 and died seven years later.