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Gianfranco Brancatelli

18th January 1950 (Age 70)
Turin, Piedmont
Most recent race (in database):

Formula 1 history does not look kindly on Gianfranco Brancatelli. He may be a mere blip on Grand Prix racing’s radar but he did drive two of the worst F1 cars of all time. However, he was a fine and successful sports car and touring car driver.

Early racing career

Brancatelli started racing in Italian Formula Abarth in 1973 and won the title at the second attempt. Formula 3 followed in 1975 and he was within a point of winning the national championship in his rookie season. He transferred to the 1976 European F3 Championship with an Everest-backed works March 763-Toyota – winning twice as he finished third overall.

He also made his Formula 2 debut at Mugello that year with Minardi and drove the team’s Ralt RT1-Ferrari throughout 1977. As so often, Ferrari engines in a customer chassis sounded fast but the reality was very different. Brancatelli was fourth at Rouen but that was his only top-six finish. A second season yielded even less despite abandoning Minardi to drive Bob Salisbury’s March 782-BMW mid-season.

Formula 1 with Kauhsen and Merzario

Sports car driver Willi Kauhsen launched an ill-conceived F1 team in 1979 with Brancatelli as its driver. Their debut (appropriately on April 1) was in a British F1 race at Zolder where Brancatelli qualified the shoddy Kauhsen-Ford in eighth position and retired after two laps. Undeterred, they entered the Spanish and Belgian GPs but were never close to qualifying. Nothing if not resilient, the Italian then tried to qualify the almost as slow Merzario A2-Ford at Monaco but failed in pre-qualifying. That was the end of Brancatelli’s short and undistinguished F1 career.

A star in the European Touring Car Championship

Instead, he enjoyed success in the European Touring Car Championship, most notably with Rudi Eggenberger’s team. His BMW 635 CSi won a couple of races in 1984 before the team switched to a Volvo 240 turbo for the following season. Brancatelli was partnered by Thomas Lindström that year and they won six times to clinch the 1985 ETCC title.

He moved to the rival Tom Walkinshaw Racing squad in 1986 for both the ETCC and World Sportscar Championship – inheriting victory at Anderstorp in the former when the winning Volvo was disqualified. Brancatelli then finished second in the Daytona 24 Hours with Brun Motorsport’s Porsche 962 and scored his final two ETCC victories with Johnny Cecotto and a CiBiEmme BMW M3 during 1987.

Italian Touring Car Champion in 1988 with a Jolly Club Alfa Romeo 75 turbo and winner of the 1989 Spa 24 Hours (driving TWR’s Ford Sierra RS500), his subsequent success suggests a talent masked by abject F1 machinery.

Second in the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours with Sauber-Mercedes, he was leading for Nissan a year later when he collided with Aguri Suzuki’s Toyota in the early evening. That 1990 campaign included fourth place finishes at Donington Park and México City. Brancatelli’s career wound down in Malaysian touring cars and Italian superbikes before he finally retired in 1999.

Championship seasons