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Elio De Angelis


Shadow-Cosworth DN9


Monte Carlo


1979 Monaco GP (practice)


In a possibly career-destroying move Elio De Angelis - a karting boy wonder and supposedly snotty-nosed rich kid in only his third racing season - chose to step up to F1 in the most difficult of ways, signing with the ailing Shadow team of Don Nichols.

After having wrestled the 1977 Italian F3 title from Piercarlo Ghinzani's hands at his first attempt, in the process winning his third motor race, and controversially taking the 1978 Monaco F3 GP by storm, the Jarno Trulli of the late seventies was in for a character-building experience. In the spring of 1979, when the GP circus arrived at Monte, things did not look good. Both Elio and co-debuting team mate Jan Lammers had made a complete waste of their considerable talent in the first few events. Although De Angelis did finish 7th on his debut and repeated the feat at Long Beach it was mainly because of the attrition rate rather than the car taking him there. After that he wasted a good opportunity at Kyalami when he qualified 15th but crashed out of the race, an act copied by his Dutch team mate. Lammers still had not qualified inside the top twenty and wouldn't for the rest of the season, although he would become the slightly quicker Shadow driver towards the end of 1979. Of the rest of the season nothing much is said other than that the Shadows weren't the worst cars around. Apart from Lammers being bumped from the grid by his team mate at Monza, both cars duly qualified allround albeit by being taken at the scruff of their necks.

On one occasion Nichols' outfit struck out completely: at Monaco, where it had been decided that having 24 rather than 20 cars start the race would pose a grave danger to safety. Although the Piano Man and Dutchboy ended up in their customary qualifying positions (21st and 23rd), for Monaco it just wasn't enough. As Monaco grids always look decidedly funny it hardly came as a surprise that De Angelis was pushed out of the race by two usually pole-winning Renaults badly suffering from turbo lag and first-time visitor Nelson Piquet who had already shown good qualifying form elsewhere.

In the end, Elio had two things saving his F1 career from becoming a one-season fluke. The first reason was generally outpacing Lammers, as the Dutch youngster - reigning European F3 Champion no less - was regarded as the better prospect at the beginning of the season. The second was Elio's remarkable fourth-place finish in the final GP at a soaking Watkins Glen.

This last-gasp success couldn't have come more timely as it attracted the attention of Colin Chapman, who was looking for a capable - and well-funded - understudy to Lotus team leader Mario Andretti. The team had just lost its Martini backing after its revolutionary Lotus 80 had proved a huge disaster. It was the Lotus way - revolution was the norm at Hethel and it could go either way. With the 49, 72 and 79 Chapman had hit the jackpot, but the 56B, 76 and 80 had left him empty-handed, theory undone by physical reality.

Thus the Man with the Flying Cap, now freshly equipped with Essex money, decided to waver principle and put in a "banker" design: the 81. With two races into the 1980 season this looked to be a wise decision. De Angelis had put the car 5th on the grid on its debut - outpacing Andretti - and scored a fine second in its second race in Brazil, where Elio was again faster than the 1978 World Champion. But soon after, the progress of the 81 faltered and Mario and Elio became distinct midfield runners, the team having to wait until the US GP for more points. Once more De Angelis shone at the Glen, repeating his 1979 result and finishing 8 points up on outgoing team leader Andretti, who scored his single point of the season in the States.

With Mario joining Alfa Chapman had no qualms in promoting Elio to the No.11 car as he had definitely proven his pace in what was effectively a make-or-break season. De Angelis was to occupy the No.11 seat for five straight seasons, at first enduring more revolutionary design disaster when the double-chassis Lotus 88 was protested by the rest of the grid (successfully - it never raced). This was followed by a couple of up-and-down years with the conventional 88 derivative, the Lotus 87, and the JPS-liveried 91, which only once grew above its usual midfield form in a freak race in Austria.

Then suddenly De Angelis got in the midst of things after Chapman's successor Peter Warr had secured a supply of Renault engines and the services of Gérard Ducarouge. The team was plagued by unreliability in its first season with the turbo V6 but in 1984 De Angelis found himself in the enviable position of being Best of the Rest to the McLarens - neatly outperforming future World Champion Mansell - while in the following season he only trailed team mate Ayrton Senna five points in the championship table, having led the title chase early on.

One thing, however, he had never shown: that he could truly be a genuine title contender. Sure enough, he had come much further than his first few races for Shadow had spelled out but having grown into a topline driver the Italian showed a distinct Boutsen-like lack of mediterrenean temperament. In fact, though often emotional outside the cockpit, the Roman was one of the coolest - and just like Thierry, one of the nicest - drivers around, a sure points finisher who would never disappoint his team manager, helping the team build towards a sizeable points tally at the end of the season. His finest hour, keeping Rosberg at bay by 0.125sec in the 1982 Austrian thriller to score the final Lotus victory the company founder was to witness, was much like Boutsen's win over Ayrton Senna at the 1988 Hungarian GP - unnerved by circumstance, getting on with the job, using every bit of their smooth, natural style to the full.

It is probably telling that De Angelis' other win was handed to him on an FIA silver plate, Elio inheriting the 1985 San Marino GP on Sunday evening after Prost's disqualification. As it was De Angelis had been 38 seconds down on the underweight McLaren but again Best of the Rest, followed by… Boutsen.

Very likely it was this lack of killer instinct that allowed the aforementioned Senna to work his political ways and ultimately have Peter Warr pick the innocent Johnny Dumfries as a team mate for 1986, Derek Warwick also regarded too much of a danger to Senna's position. De Angelis found a berth at the Olivetti and Armani-backed all-Italian effort by Brabham, replacing Williams-bound Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian's lack of results over the past two seasons could gave fair warning but the promise of a revolutionary Gordon Murray design was perhaps too attractive. As with Colin Chapman, the work of Brabham's design wizard could go either way.

On this occasion, it went bad. Horrifyingly bad.

Reader's Why by John Cross

Born on 26 March 1958, Elio was one of the youngest drivers (only 20 years of age) to get a full-time Formula 1 drive. Coming from a wealthy family, he cut his teeth on karts, becoming Italian champion before blasting straight into Formula 3. Amazingly, he won his third ever F3 race before going on to pip Piercarlo Ghinzani to the 1977 Italian title, and was 7th in the European F3 championship. In 1978 Elio raced in Formula 2 with little success apart from 3rd at Misano, but took time out to win the F3 race at Monaco.

Family backing bought him a drive with Shadow in 1979 and he finished 7th on his debut in Argentina. Here at Monaco (only 12 months after his F3 victory) was the only race he failed to qualify for, along with team mate Jan Lammers. He would gain his first points with a fine 4th at the final round at Watkins Glen. He then joined Lotus for the 1980 season and he would stay with them for six seasons. He finished 2nd in his second Lotus drive in Brazil ending up with 13 points. He was more consistent the following year with 14 points and finally scored his first GP win in Austria (by 0.05 seconds from Rosberg's Williams!) ending up with 23 points.

A change to Renault engines scuppered the 1983 season, but 1984 was much better, Elio ending up 3rd in the championship with 35 points despite not winning a round (his best was 2nd at Detroit). A second win was picked up at Imola in 1985 and Elio led the title race briefly before falling back to fifth by the end of the season with 33 points, one place behind team-mate Ayrton Senna.

Elio moved to Brabham for 1986 and had 4 races before a horrendous crash during testing at 180mph at Paul Ricard after suspected component failure. He died hours later in hospital.

On paper, the race was dominated by the Ferrari 312T4s of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve. They started 1-2 on the grid from Depailler's Ligier-Ford and Lauda's Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Jody led from start to finish. But it was not so simple. Gilles was out-dragged by Niki at the start, but he overtook Niki going into Ste Devote at the end of the second lap. Jody had already opened a 3 second lead, but Gilles quickly pulled this back and were soon running in formation. Alan Jones in his Williams-Ford caught them on lap 33 (after gaining 7 seconds in as many laps) but clipped the barrier at Tabac 10 laps later and retired. Gilles retired on lap 54 with transmission problems, probably the result of a hurried engine change after the morning warm-up. Then Gianclaudio "Clay" Regazzoni, despite having lost 2nd gear at Tabac on lap 59, took up the gauntlet. With a dozen laps to go, the gap was 12.2, then 10.6, 8.4, 8.1, 7.7, 7.0, 6.8, 5.8... Would this be another Rindt-Brabham last lap?

With 4 laps to go the gap was exactly 5 seconds, then 3.5, then 1.6. On the final lap, Clay ducks right plunging down to Mirabeau, pulling almost alongside, but Jody chops across and the race is won. Only 4 cars completed the race distance, with Carlos Reutemann 3rd in the Lotus 79-Ford and John Watson 4th in the McLaren M28-Ford. This was Jody's 2nd successive win and he would go on to win a 3rd at Monza and win the World Championship, six years after his debut season.

The highlight of the year, though, was the arrival of Gilles Villeneuve as one of the pacemakers. He also won 3 races, but sadly would not make World Champion although son Jacques would achieve that many years later.

This was the 50th anniversary of the first Monaco Grand Prix (won by Englishman "W. Williams" in a Bugatti T35B) and there was a 10 lap historic race on Sunday morning which included Neil Corner driving the Mercedes W154 which won the 1937 Grand Prix. A year later, René Dreyfus would return to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his great victory there in another Bugatti T35B.

American entrepeneur Don Nicholls founded his Advanced Vehicle Systems company to build and race an extraordinary small-wheeled CanAm sports car known as the Shadow in 1970. He subsequently turned his attention to Formula 1 having won major sponsorship from the huge Universal Oil Products (UOP) company, in part to publicise their lead-free fuel products. Former March team manager Alan Rees was interested, as were former BRM driver Jackie Oliver and chief chassis engineer Tony Southgate.

They would form the nucleus of Nicholls' British-based AVS Shadow company which would build Cosworth/Hewland F1 cars for 1973. It was Tony's first non-V12 F1 car and he misjudged the destructive vibration of the Cosworth V8, the first chassis literally shaking itself apart! Their best seasons were 1975-1977. In 1975, Southgate's elegant DN5 was driven by Jean-Pierre Jarier and brilliant Welshman Tom Pryce. Jarier qualified on pole for the first two Grand Prix at Argentina and Brazil, then at the Brands Hatch Race of Champions Tom qualified on pole and won their first F1 victory. Pryce and Jarier qualified 2-3 at Monaco, and Pryce took pole at Silverstone for the British GP, but both he and Jarier crashed when leading. Shadow were unlucky to end up with 8 points and 6th in the constructor's table. Unfortunately, UOP withdrew their sponsorship for 1976 and Southgate left to join Lotus. Tom managed 3-4-4 in the Brazilian, British and Dutch GPs and they ended up 8th in the constructor's cup.

1977 saw tragedy at Kyalami where Tom was killed in a stupid accident after Zorzi's car stopped beside the main straight with a smoking tail. A teenage marshal ran across the track carrying a heavy fire extinguisher just as Pryce arrived flat out - he struck and killed the marshal and lost his own life when the extinguisher hit him in the face. Alan Jones replaced Tom and Southgate rejoined the team in mid-summer. Jones scored their maiden GP victory at Austria in Southgate's DN8-4A, and they ended up 7th in the constructor's with a very respectable 23 points.

Over the winter, however, team principals Rees, Oliver, Southgate and Wass left the team to form Arrows. The DN9 Southgate wing-car was completed for 1978 by John Baldwin, but without Southgate Regazzoni and Stuck had a terrible season. 1979 saw them struggle on with updated DN9s driven by young hopefuls de Angelis and Lammers. De Angelis qualified for all the races except here at Monaco, and scored the team's only points with 4th at the final GP at Watkins Glen.

The final chapter came in 1980 when two cars were tried, the DN11 and DN12, but both were flops - only Lees mananged to qualify for a race, at Kyalami where he was classified 13th. Just before the Belgian GP, Teddy Yip, already an Ensign shareholder, bought Shadow in partnership with enthusiasts Jack Kallay and John Cooper (no relation to the John Cooper). Nicholls disappeared into the shadows whence he came. When both Lees and Kennedy failed to qualify for the French GP on 29 June 1980, the team returned sadly to England and quietly closed down.

Yip would use its nucleus as the basis of his Theodore team for 1981, when Lees would race DN12/2 for the first and last time at Kyalami - where he crashed again to end his own serious F1 aspirations.