"Gigione" or "Il Leone di Romagna" rarely drove outside Italy or its dependencies, but he briefly rivalled Tazio Nuvolari and Achille Varzi as the country’s finest.
Early wins on two wheels and four
Luigi Arcangeli started on motorcycles in 1922 in a two wheeled career that culminated with victory in the all-important Nations Grand Prix at Monza in 1927. He dabbled with cars during those years – winning his class at Garda 1924 but it was 1928 before Arcangeli made the switch permanent.
Tragic Grand Prix debut
That year, Arcangeli joined Emilio Materassi’s private Talbot team. He beat Nuvolari in his second race at Cremona when slower than his rival but suffering fewer punctures. He was running third in the Italian Grand Prix before tragedy struck. Materassi crashed into the crowd killing himself and 22 others so Arcangeli withdrew as a mark of respect. The team still continued in 1929 and he won the 1500cc qualifying heat for the Monza GP before retiring from the final.
Now armed with a works Maserati, Arcangeli led the 1930 Mille Miglia before crashing when his brakes failed and edged Louis Chiron by less than a second to win the Premio Reale di Roma. He then beat both Nuvolari and Varzi in their heat for the Monza GP and led the final until an inspired Varzi surprised him on the last lap.
National success in Scuderia Ferrari’s Alfa Romeo 1750GS earned Arcangeli a place in the works Alfa Romeo team for the 1931 Italian GP. That was in the brand-new but ill-handling 12-cylinder Tipo-A and Arcangeli lost control at the Curva del Vialone (now replaced by the Ascari chicane) during practice. He suffered fatal head injuries after being thrown out of the car and against a tree.
His mother had said, "he’s a fine lad, but crazy about racing". He was a popular and outgoing man, often accompanied by beautiful women, but like so many was taken before his time.