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The debonair Giovanni "Johnny" Lurani dedicated his life to the sport as amateur racing driver, team owner, administrator and journalist. An Anglophile and fluent in four languages, he was a cornerstone of the racing scene for 40 years.
Education and early racing career
Lurani first raced a Salmson in 1925 while studying an engineering degree in Milan. 1927 was spent driving a Derby before he raced a series of 1500cc Alfa Romeo sports cars from the following season.
That was normally in hillclimbs but he drove an Alfa Romeo 6C-1500 in the 1931 Italian Grand Prix – finishing sixth in his only such race. Lurani won his class on the 1933 Mille Miglia with the works MG Magnette he shared with George Eyston. He excelled on the hills with 1500cc Maserati but his exploits were interrupted while serving his country in the Abyssinian War.
Lurani returned from that North African conflict and formed Scuderia Ambrosiana with Franco Cortese in 1937, initially running Maserati voiturettes. Luigi Villoresi’s Maserati 4CLT/48 won the 1948 British GP for the team and Cortese’s Frazer Nash scored a notable triumph in the 1951 Targa Florio.
As a driver himself, Lurani finished second in the 1937 Targa Florio but his single-seater career was ended a year later by a broken hip while testing a Maserati 4CM at Crystal Palace. Sports car success followed after World War II with Lurani winning his class on the Mille Miglia in 1948 and 1952 and in the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Lurani’s major contribution at the time was as an administrator however – a guiding force as the sport re-emerged in his homeland after the war and a delegate to the FIA. He was instrumental in the introduction of both GT racing and Formula Junior.
Lurani was also successful in setting over 30 speed records during two decades from 1935. He also wrote about his passion. He was The Motor’s correspondent during the 1930s and established Auto Italiana after the war – editing that magazine until 1961.
He continued to be active in historic racing in later years before his death in 1995.