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Italy's Maserati privateer



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Lorenzo Bandini


Scuderia Centro Sud BRM P57




1963 British GP


Of the many private teams gracing the F1 grids over the years the Scuderia Centro Sud is probably only surpassed by Rob Walker's famous team in its faithfulness to the Grand Prix scene. Since its foundation in the mid-fifties it stayed true to Formula One until 1965, only missing a beat in 1962, when even in the most forgiving Centro Sud terms its equipment had become too outdated to compete realistically against the big guns.

The Scuderia Centro Sud was the hobby project of Guglielmo Dei, a Maserati dealer for Central and Southern Italy - hence the name Centro Sud. While Rob Walker surely was F1's ultimate privateer in terms of success, Dei's Centro Sud outfit has to be the epitomy of the private entrant, always fielding ageing cars with a blind faith in the good will of the Gods (maybe the ones in his surname!), hoping for a miracle drop-out of all the works entries and being there to pick up the pieces. But the miracle of course never happened and Dei's second-hand Maseratis, Coopers, BRMs etc. invariably trundled round at - or at least near - the back of the field. Signor Mimmo's best result in more than a decade of trying: a 3rd by Masten Gregory at the 1957 Monaco GP when Dei was still fielding Maserati 250Fs.

Still, amongst his recruits are some very fine names. Villoresi, Schell, Bonnier, Herrmann, Trintignant, Gregory, Tony Maggs, Baghetti, even Indy winner Troy Ruttman, just to name a few, and Lorenzo Bandini, who stayed on for a full two seasons (1961 and 1963), a rare occurance in the usually fluid driver line-up at Centro Sud. This shortlist may look nice at first sight but closer observation tells us that the big names Dei managed to lure into his cars were in fact the trusty backups to the real champions and past their prime by the time they decided it was no disgrace to jump in one of Mimmo's cars.

Complementing these washed-up stars on the Centro Sud driving squad were a host of drivers of a suspicious pedigree, like the signori Natili, Bassi, Brambilla (Tino), Thiele, De Tomaso or Bussinello, doing their rent-a-driver avant la lettre bit in the team's second car.

In 1963, when F1 domination had once and for all shifted from Italy to Britain, there were somewhat higher hopes for the Minardi-like Scuderia. This was after it had acquired a BRM P57, along with two works mechanics and a garage near the BRM premises. Indeed, this P57 was the reigning World Champion's spare car who was to soldier on with it well into the 1963 season. For the first time in Centro Sud history Maserati would not be involved, but the team had to wait until the BRM factory had no need for the spare car anymore after its P261 successor was finally launched.

Lorenzo Bandini, temporarily put aside by Ferrari in favour of Willy Mairesse, was signed on as its driver. Bandini, one of Dei's favourites, had already been a Centro Sud regular in 1961, driving a three-year old Cooper-Maserati T51 without any significant success. Although overshadowed by the mercurial success of his friend Giancarlo Baghetti in the FISA Ferrari, Bandini shone in sportscars in 1961, winning at Pescara, and was invited to join the Prancing Horse for its title defense. But after a triumphant year in their all-conquering sharknosed 156s the Italians were in disarray in 1962, when the New Wave of British Motorsport Giants - BRM and Lotus - steamrollered the reigning Champions

So at the end of the season Bandini discovered he was in an Ivan Capelli-like situation and returned into the Centro Sud fold while continuing in Ferrari's much more successful sportscar team. After the team finally took delivery of its first P57 Bandini was entered at Rheims, before turning up at Silverstone in the red-painted BRM. There he took a fine 7th on the grid and scoring the team's only points with 5th at the end. A magnificent front-row spot at the next race at the Nürburgring made Enzo notice him once again, especially since Mairesse crashed out on the second lap on his return to the Ferrari cockpit after an almost career-ending shunt at Spa. By Monza, Lorenzo was back behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Thereafter, instead of staking his own claim, Bandini became that trusty backup driver himself, supporting John Surtees to the Englishman's world title in 1964. That was also the year of Bandini's only win: this came at the bumpy airfield track of Zeltweg, winning a race of attrition. Ironically, the man who had outshone Bandini in the battle for Most Promising Young Italian Driver honours when he beat Lorenzo to the coveted FISA Ferrari seat in 1961, had to face the ignomy of replacing Bandini at a Centro Sud squad now steeply on the decline.

After gambling on the wrong Horse in 1963, ruining his prospects with a disastrous move to the rebel Automobili Turismo Sport team, Giancarlo Baghetti's F1 career was at a dead end. Baghetti even went on for a second year with Dei's backmarker team, in the now truly ancient P57, before committing himself to sportscars and only consigning himself to F1 for his home GP over the next three years. Stepping down to Italian F3 was then a remarkably humble move for a man who had started out his F1 career by winning his first three races, including his World Championship debut - a feat only Jacques Villeneuve nearly pulled off in recent history.

Bandini stayed on at Ferrari until an accident at his favourite event, the Monaco GP, took his life.

Reader's Why by Eugene Zhmarin

Lorenzo Bandini was born in 1935 and being a teenager, he dreamed of nothing but racing. After the first experience with small saloon cars he bought in 1958 a Volpini Formula Junior. He became a popular driver winning Liberty GP in Cuba and the Pescara GP in 1960. These successes led to the debut in 1961 World Championship in Scuderia Centro Sud Cooper-Maserati. In 1962 Bandini was invited to join the Ferrari team, but it was a difficult season for Scuderia. Willy Mairesse took Lorenzo's place at Ferrari in 1963 and Bandini had to join his old team Scuderia Centro Sud to drive their red BRM P57. Mairesse's accident at the 1963 German GP put an end to his F1 driver career. Bandini was again with Ferrari. In 1964 he was number two driver to John Surtees, but managed to win the Austrian GP at Zeltweg. In the final race of the season Bandini let "Big John" through to finish second and to become the first World Champion on two and four wheels. Then the Ferrari team again struggled to reach the level of the British teams. After John Surtees left Ferrari in 1966 Bandini became a team leader. Unfortunately, it was a short period. During 1967 Monaco GP Lorenzo Bandini, trying to catch Denny Hulme's Brabham, hit the chicane exit, rolling the Ferrari, which burst into flames. After three days in hospital poor Bandini died.