For the good of Alfa Romeo
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W April 1999 issue
- Beppe Gabbiani - F2 success, F1 disaster, by Mattijs Diepraam/Frank de Jong
- Miguel Angel Guerra - In the wars at Osella, by Mattijs Diepraam
1981 Spanish GP (practice)
In the world of motor racing you would be granted a knighthood in the order of Bernie for coming up with a more serving and faithful driver than Giorgio Francia. The Fiat conglomerate's official development driver for decades, Francia has always set aside his own goals in the sport for the good of Alfa Romeo or Lancia, and seldom he was fairly rewarded with a race drive to match his skills.
In fact, he was never given a chance by the most notorious of Fiat companies. His main activities concentrating on sportscars and touring cars, Francia never really focused on F1. Looking at the figures his entire GP career consists of two DNQs, his first attempt an abortive qualifying attempt in the 1977 Italian GP in a third Brabham - courtesy of Lancia sponsor Martini, and Alfa of course.
Disaster number two saw its culmination in practice for the 1981 Spanish GP but this story has a longer string of events preceding this single non-qualification. Originally, Francia had been intended to drive the second Osella for a full 1981 season, finally getting the F1 break he needed, but then things got in the way. At the start of the season, Osella had begun with Beppe Gabbiani and Miguel Angel Guerra on its driving force, the Argentinian seen here failing to qualify on his debut. When he finally qualified, his GP career came to a very premature end after colliding with Eliseo Salazar on lap 3. With a broken ankle and wrist, Guerra was out, Enzo Osella asking Giorgio Francia to step in.
Still a touring car driver at heart, Giorgio's entry was rejected by FISA, however, with no results in the proper feeder categories to show for. Thus, Piercarlo Ghinzani was called in for his first of many associations with the Bergamo team while Osella went on to sort out Francia's license trouble. After two races, Francia was cleared and set out on his proper GP debut at Jarama.
Or nearly so.
On Saturday morning the bell tolled for the poor Italian as Gabbiani crashed out severely. With no spare car around, Francia had to relinquish his car. The favour was never returned, as Jean-Pierre Jarier took the wheel of the No.32 Osella from Silverstone on.
Since his F1 debacle Francia became a regular in Italian touring cars all through the eighties, the 75 Turbo years the hightime of his career. Or would that be the surprise call-up by Giorgio Pianta to drive a monster 155 in the German Touring Car Championship? Even at age 45, he was a force to be reckoned with when Alfa Romeo picked Giorgio for a race drive in one of its DTM muscle cars. In Alfa's two DTM seasons Francia drove as strongly as ever, taking wins and podium places galore. Again it he did it all in a serving role, covering the back of Alfa's main man Nicola Larini. After Alfa Corse pulled out of the DTM - effectively killing it off - Francia returned to his testing duties, developing the Super Touring derivative of the 155 before calling it quits.