Arturo Merzario

Arturo Merzario


Arturo made his name in the late sixties with works Fiat Abarths in both GT and European mountain-climb events. If one race in particular advanced his career prospects, then it was the Mugello GP in 1969, which he won after a superb drive in the Abarth 2-litre, beating the likes of Vaccarella and de Adamich. This brought an invitation to join the Ferrari sports car team for 1970 and the start of a three-year association with the Scuderia. His best season was probably 1972, Merzario making a sparkling Grand Prix debut at Brands Hatch, winning the Spa 1000 Km with Redman, the Targa Florio with Munari and the Rand 9 Hours with Regazzoni in the 312P. In addition, racing for Abarth, he was crowned European 2-litre champion. The following season saw Ferrari in something of a trough, but Merzario knuckled down to a hit-and-miss season of Formula 1 while team leader Ickx just gave up. His feisty spirit appealed to Frank Williams, who signed him for 1974. The season began with a third place in the Medici GP at Brasilia, but once the serious business began success was elusive. The pair ploughed on into the 1975 season but Merzario's fortunes in Formula 1 could hardly have been worse. By mid-season he had quit Williams to concentrate on his commitments with the Alfa sports car team, taking their T33 to wins at Dijon, Monza, Enna and the Nurburgring. After a brief liaison with Copersucar at Monza, Arturo lined up a works March drive for 1976, but the strain of running a four-car team showed and the Italian, unhappy with his lot, grabbed the chance to join Wolf-Williams in mid-season following the sudden departure of Ickx. With no other options open to him, Merzario entered his own March in 1977 before the money ran out due to a lack of results. He had a good one-off drive for Shadow in Austria, but this was overlooked due to Alan Jones' splendid win in the sister car. While his Grand Prix career had been heading for the rocks for some time, Arturo managed to salvage his reputation somewhat by continuing his sports car success with Alfa Romeo, and in 1977 he won championship rounds at Dijon, Enna, Estoril and Paul Ricard in Autodelta's last fling. The following year Merzario took the brave and ultimately completely foolhardy step of fielding his own F1 chassis. Two versions of this appalling device were built during the next two seasons but the cars rarely looked capable of qualifying. Very much the poorer but seemingly no wiser, the little Italian persisted with his folly in 1980, making an equally fruitless attempt to mix it with the constructors in Formula 2 with his Merzario M1-BMW, which was just as embarrassing as his Grand Prix 'contender'. Arturo returned to the tracks once more in the nineties, winning the inaugural Maserati Bi-turbo Cup race at Imola in 1995, and after driving in the Porsche Supercup the jaunty Italian was a competitive force in various sports car races at both national and international level.

(c) 'Who is Who' by Steve Small, 2000

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